Criminal Justice and Courts Bill — Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:21 pm on 30th June 2014.

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Photo of Lord Black of Brentwood Lord Black of Brentwood Conservative 7:21 pm, 30th June 2014

My Lords, I may be about to enter the record books for the shortest ever Second Reading speech. My thunder was well and truly stolen by the Minister in his opening speech. I had intended to talk this afternoon at some length—something that I can now spare noble Lords—about the serious problems arising from Clauses 51 and 52 of the Bill on contempt, which, although crafted with the best of intentions, raised profound implications for freedom of expression and the public’s access to information. Instead—duly declaring my interest as director of the Telegraph Media Group—all I have to do is warmly to welcome the Attorney-General’s decision to drop these clauses from the Bill, following a full and frank consultation with media organisations, including the Newspaper Society, the Media Lawyers Association and the Society of Editors, and to praise him for listening to the arguments made, including those of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

I should add that the whole area of jurors’ potential access to digital archives, which was at the root of those clauses, is of course one that needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness. It seems to me that Clauses 54 to 58 on juror research are a sensible and proportionate way to do that in an online age, as was said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I should add that the media, too, maintain a great deal of vigilance in this area. All mainstream media organisations take the greatest care, when criminal proceedings become active, not to put material on the front pages and their websites, where such material could create a substantial risk of prejudice. That highly effective system, working alongside the new offences created in the Bill, should serve well the interests of justice, which is our primary concern. That comes in at just over one minute.