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Commons Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 13th November 2003.

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Photo of Lord Eden of Winton Lord Eden of Winton Conservative 6:00 pm, 13th November 2003

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and support the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner.

I do so because I have met quite a number of people who have been accused falsely of sexual offences. The moment the accusation was made—or before even the accusation became public knowledge—the fact that they had been accused was in the public domain. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, made the point about the police giving such information to the press and to the media, sometimes before even the so-called accused has any knowledge of what is about to overtake him.

I have met men whose lives have been completely ruined as a result of what has taken place, yet when the facts have been impartially examined, or when their case has gone to trial, the accused has been shown to be innocent. We ought not to allow this sort of situation to continue.

I take the point that my noble friend made about the difficulty of retaining anonymity during the course of a trial. However, by notifying the media in this way, I believe that there will be at least some restraint imposed upon the reporting that might take place. I think it is illusory to expect any form of self-regulation in cases of this kind. That will not happen, for the reasons advanced by my noble friend Lady Noakes when she said, in effect, that sex sells copies. It does, and the media will got out of their way to find opportunities to give publicity to such cases. Therefore, I support what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and noble Lords who spoke from the Benches opposite. Like them, if the noble and learned Lord's amendment should not pass, I shall support the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford.