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Clause 5 - Duty of Director of

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 25th March 2004.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 4:15 pm, 25th March 2004

As the hon. Member for Basingstoke rightly said, the amendment would give the Director of Public Prosecutions a discretion over whether he should refer a case of suspected police malpractice to the police ombudsman. I should like to make it clear at the outset that the current terms of the clause are no reflection whatever on the professionalism of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Government are obviously quite happy to endorse fully the

independence and impartiality of the director, in whom we have every confidence.

The Government believe that the clause accurately meets the recommendation of the criminal justice review, which was that a duty be placed on the prosecutor to ensure that any allegations of malpractice by the police be fully investigated. I am sure that no hon. Member would dispute the importance of such a provision. It is worth reminding ourselves of the context in which the review made its recommendation. Recommendations were made that the prosecutor and the police should operate effectively together, with the prosecutor being involved in a case early. The clause was therefore drafted to ensure that the discretion lies with the ombudsman, as is right in cases of potential police misconduct.

Although the discretion will lie with the ombudsman, the clause allows for the director to exercise some judgment—he is not simply an automaton or postbox. That would not be the effect of the amendment. It is also worth pointing out that the provision does not in any way impinge on the director's role in prosecutions, for which the decision about whether to prosecute lies with him. That is different from matters relevant to the ombudsman, who will deal with suspicion of police wrongdoing.

Accordingly, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.