Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 30th October 2003.

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Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers) 7:15 pm, 30th October 2003

My Lords, we do not have a procedure such as that being debated at present. The Court of Appeal will have the important task of deciding whether it is in the interests of justice for the court to make the order. It will have to have regard to whether existing circumstances make a fair trial unlikely, the length of time since the alleged offence was committed, whether it is likely that the new evidence would have been adduced but for a failure of people to act with due diligence, and whether, since then, someone has failed to act with due diligence. We can trust the Court of Appeal to make the right judgment, as we can trust the trial judge to make the right judgment about whether a fair trial will be necessary.

We are well past injury time, so I shall conclude. The fact that someone has committed a murder and then brags about it in a pub is not just a matter of offence. With respect to the noble Earl, it is not the same as someone bragging that he has enjoyed the company of many women. If there is a retrial, the question for a jury, the Court of Appeal and the DPP will be whether there is new and compelling evidence, which they will have to look at as a whole.

I return to the point made by my noble friend Lady Gibson. Public confidence in the justice system is diminished if people are able to walk free where there is compelling new evidence that they have committed serious offences. That is not only because it is not right that they should be able to walk free, but also because they may be walking free to offend again.