Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 30th October 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers) 4:15 pm, 30th October 2003

My Lords, I profess to being extremely disappointed by what both noble Lords have said. Let me deal with the points raised. First, there is the principle that there should be a prosecution right of appeal—and we are here concerned with the principle that there should be a prosecution right of appeal against rulings which bring the case to a stop, whether it is because the ruling of the judge actually is that the case must stop, or because the effect of the ruling is that the prosecution cannot continue.

I set out some examples as an annex to a letter that I sent to noble Lords, which was placed in the Library of the House, and to which I drew attention in Committee. It included, for example, the case where a man and a young woman were found with their clothes around their ankles. When asked whether or not the woman had consented to sex, the man said: "I don't know. I didn't ask her". There was bruising to both of them. At the end of the prosecution case the judge said that he was not going to allow the case to go to the jury. That is extraordinary. The matter never therefore went to the jury to determine whether or not they were satisfied of evidence of rape.

We dealt with a recent case involving serious offences of money laundering concerned with drug-taking, where the amount at stake was around £10 million. On day 66, the trial judge stayed the case against the defendants in the trial and nine other defendants in allied trials because of a failure of disclosure by the prosecution. He said in terms that there was no deliberate intention to mislead the court and that a mistake had taken place. He also said that, although the document had not been disclosed when it should have been, it had now been disclosed, that the position was not irretrievable and had been retrieved. None the less, the judge took the view that it was right to bring the case to a complete stop.

The Government believe that in such cases it is only right, in the interests of the public and victims in society, that that sort of ruling should be capable of being tested before another court. If the trial judge was right, so be it; if the Court of Appeal takes the view that he was wrong, the case should not have been brought to an end. I am therefore very disappointed by the proposition suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that the Government should simply abandon the possibility of having prosecution rights of appeal. The Government will not accept it.