Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 30th October 2003.

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Photo of Viscount Colville of Culross Viscount Colville of Culross Crossbench 5:45 pm, 30th October 2003

My Lords, I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, can help the House on the question of Article 7 of the European convention. It is not just about retrospective legislation creating offences that did not exist at the time when the action took place. It also deals, under the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg court, with foreseeability and clarity of legislation for everyone to understand. I can very well see that it would be perfectly proper under that provision to introduce this sort of subsection as a prospective matter. Everyone would then know that it would be perfectly possible to reopen the matter and, if new scientific evidence or something like that turned up, they would again be at risk.

What I think is very difficult is that, because of all the rules that we have about autrefois acquit, no one could possibly have anticipated that, whatever evidence turned up, they would be retried for the same offence. Such a provision has now been put in. It is not just the retrospectivity; it is the foreseeability and the clarity of the law, which is all part of Article 7. I do not understand how this can possibly conform with the European convention.