Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 30th October 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour 6:45 pm, 30th October 2003

My Lords, this set of amendments stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen. I am happy to be in such esteemed company. The noble Lord—who will of course in turn speak—and I believe that this is a matter of principle. Removing the rule against double jeopardy is of such consequence that we feel strongly that it should be marked and not just go by on the nod.

Your Lordships have already heard a full debate that has roamed beyond the issue of retrospection. I do not intend to rehearse those arguments, but I am concerned that the House should be aware that there are difficulties surrounding what will constitute new evidence. Reading the Bill, it seems clear that "new and compelling" evidence will basically be any old evidence—evidence that was available but which, because of poor prosecution or investigation, the police failed to procure until the second time round. We submit that that is the wrong way to conduct a justice system.

I am concerned that that will create insecurity—as has already been said so beautifully by the right reverend Prelate, and that we are creating a life sentence for acquitted people. That is what is so wrong in principle. We should ask what kind of society we intend to create. I submit that the provision will create a society with real uncertainty for people. We are undoing the glue that makes this country the place in which we all choose to live. I regret that our liberties are being so readily ceded by this Government. That is a source of sadness and profound regret to me. I beg to move.