New Clause 4 — Status of Director and Lord Chancellor

Part of Devolved Administrations (Armed Forces Covenant Reports) – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 2nd November 2011.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:45 pm, 2nd November 2011

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. I will say a few words in a minute about the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which is important in this regard. Clause 12 will run a coach and horses through it.

I do not believe that clause 12 is well thought through. What is worse, it undermines one of the core principles of our justice system: fair and equal access to justice for all citizens. I therefore cannot support it.

The Law Society’s head of legal aid, Richard Miller has said:

“This is not only an assault on the rights of citizens, it is also a logistical nightmare to operate in practice.”

He has said that substantial hidden costs undoubtedly will follow and that it will be “simply unworkable”. Max Hill, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said that the Government were meddling with a “fundamental right”:

“To contemplate some sort of qualitative testing to decide when and if a member of the public should receive legal representation and advice…is deeply alarming.”

As I said, I will not speak at length, but I will say a word about miscarriages of justice. We know of a spate of miscarriages of justice that occurred in the ’70s and ’80s, and there was an official inquiry into several of them. The Birmingham Six were jailed for life in 1975 for pub bombings. The convictions were overturned in 1991 after evidence emerged of the police’s fabrication of confessions and suppression of evidence. The Guildford Four were convicted of a bombing in the same year. The conviction was secured on confessions that were obtained through coercion, violence and threats by the police. They were acquitted in 1989.