Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 3rd March 2008.

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Photo of Lord Elystan-Morgan Lord Elystan-Morgan Crossbench 3:45 pm, 3rd March 2008

That may very well be so, but the noble Lord would accept that it does not really matter whether it is thousands of pounds or millions of pounds—the cost, the price and the value of justice are entirely different.

The principle of compensation in our law has always been on the basis of restitutio in integrum—restitution in full. A person should be compensated in full by the perpetrator of the unlawful act. In this case, the Government are not responsible for an unlawful act but for an act that is flawed in law, which is not a casuistic distinction. Authority with all its powers, sovereignty and resources has made a mistake. Therefore the moral obligation is exactly the same as where a deliberate tort is committed. If a person was badly injured, was owed a couple of million pounds of compensation and was able to sue the perpetrator of that act—assume that he was worth powder and shot—there would be no cap on that. Why should there be in this situation? The argument put forward by the Minister about documentation and the two-year period cannot stand for a moment. If any situation on this earth is well documented—and those documents will be there for examination in tens and probably hundreds of years—this is such a situation. There will be a full transcript of what happened at the court hearing; there will be a full transcript of exactly what happened at the Court of Appeal hearing. All the necessary documents will be there. Therefore, I cannot imagine why there should be an argument to reduce the period to two years. It is purely a cheese-paring economy that is not worthy of the Government. I have great sympathy with the Minister who has had to seek to justify this situation, but I still congratulate him on having, to some extent, ameliorated what would otherwise have been an extremely unworthy situation.