Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill [H.L.]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 20th January 2000.

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Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour 4:15 pm, 20th January 2000

I have many friends in professions such as social work, and others who defend black defendants. I have tried to gather as many sources of information as I can. I bow to the expertise of the noble Lord in this matter. I do not know in how many criminal cases the noble Lord has defended black people in recent times; no doubt he will tell the Committee when he speaks.

More fundamentally, if there is a lack of trust in the magistrates' courts among black people--that may be so--we should change those courts. The Government are now beginning to recruit more black magistrates, and that is the way to tackle the problem. Earlier today the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said that those who were against the Bill were totally illiberal. I shall make a totally liberal point. I am not a Hampstead liberal; I live in Streatham. I should like consideration to be given to the law on soft drugs. Many in the black community believe that it is designed to penalise them and their culture and if it was removed their faith in the criminal justice system would be increased. So that appears to me to be the strongest case for the Bill, but it does not seem to me to be strong enough to carry the day because the savings under this Bill are enormous. They would be forgone if the amendment were passed. Any governing party responsibly looking at delays in the justice system--the party opposite did so when in government, and we are doing so in government--would be bound to introduce a measure of this kind.