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Demonstrations in Central London

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:21 pm on 2nd May 2000.

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Photo of Lord Mishcon Lord Mishcon Labour 4:21 pm, 2nd May 2000

My Lords, this matter has not only brought shame upon the perpetrators of this horrible behaviour, but also the fact that we have in our midst, calling themselves subjects of this country, people who can behave in this dreadful way, is a slur upon the nation.

Perhaps we can look a little more closely at the question raised in regard to the courts and the way in which they deal with these matters. Obviously, we cannot dictate what the courts should award those who are found guilty by way of punishment, but what the public may recognise as being a slight improvement is this. Knowing that violence was to be perpetrated, and knowing that for some considerable time, should not courts be pre-convened to deal with those matters, so far as they can, consistent with our systems of justice? In other words, why do we not set up courts whereby, instead of after a long delay when all these matters have been investigated and then for the very first time the perpetrators of the violence come before the courts, at the outset the people whom the police had seen behave in this violent way could be dealt with immediately. The courts would then decide what cases ought to be adjourned in order for a defence to be properly put. And, again, I hope that they would consider it proper to treat this as an emergency and allow short periods of time consistent with justice when there is a question of remand. The courts could decide immediately, in very bad cases, whether or not to remand in custody.

What is troubling in this matter is that we will go away after this discussion; Parliament will have dealt with it in both Houses and we will hear about cases brought before the courts in three, four or six weeks' time. Is that good enough?