Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 27th November 2018.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee 2:36 pm, 27th November 2018

I very much respect the point that the right hon. and learned Lady is making, but I must say to her frankly that I am not convinced that this Bill is the appropriate vehicle for dealing with that issue, although it is a real one, simply because the Bill is very tightly drawn in scope and relates to function. What she wishes to do—I understand why she may wish to do it—would have significant impacts on the operation of the law of evidence, which is a consideration that deserves to be looked at on its own. We probably have a shared view as to what we might want to achieve, but I am not sure that this Bill would be the right one to achieve it.

We do need to look very carefully at the whole approach to the way that previous sexual conduct is dealt with in rape and other sexual offence cases, but we also have to bear in mind—I say this as somebody who prosecuted and defended in these cases—that we should not assume that these issues will never be relevant to the key issue in the case. A balance has to be struck, and very often that is a decision that can only be taken by the trial judge in the light of the submissions made by the parties. I would not want us to restrict the ability of the trial judge to make that decision, because they are best placed to do that. However, the right hon. and learned Lady’s point about failure to follow the procedures and make proper application in advance, and enforcement of those procedures by the judiciary, is an important one that we certainly ought to take forward.