Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Morris of Aberavon Lord Morris of Aberavon Labour 9:00 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. All he wants to do in the amendment, as I understand it, is to go back to the pre-2003 position. Because of judgments of the European Court, the Home Secretary is not able to take such a decision, but successive Home Secretaries have not been willing to give this kind of decision to the Parole Board, as envisaged in the noble and learned Lord's amendment.

I believe that the present position is untenable. The noble and learned Lord referred to the case of Vinter, in which it was decided-by a majority of four to three, a tiny majority-that this was not an inhumane process. I do not always have the greatest confidence in this court, which is not a very happy court to be in. When I appeared before it as an attorney, you had half an hour. Your opponent had half an hour in which to reply. You might have had a few minutes to say a few more words but the court would file out having heard the argument and not have any exchange whatever with counsel or carry the matter any further. A few months later you would have a decision.

As I understand it, this matter will undoubtedly go to an appeal. It will be considered by a court of five and the Government may lose. In all probability, it may then go, if leave is given, to the Grand Chamber and the Government may lose. With these tiny votes and these tiny majorities, one cannot be sure what will happen in this court. The Government will be in a very difficult position and will undoubtedly have to take action.

Without any further words, I believe that the present position is not compassionate, is not human and is not in the interests of justice, whatever that may mean. Surely to leave an individual in this kind of limbo, which he was not left in previous to 2003, is not a practice that would commend itself to the civilised world. I therefore support the amendment.