The Crown Prosecution Service: Gatekeeper of the Criminal Justice System - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 400-406)


10 MARCH 2009

  Q400  Mr Tyrie: There may be others. Are you calling up further documents that, therefore, are requiring you to take an inordinate amount of time over this? Why is it that, nearly six months later, we still have not had a response?

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The first thing to say is that I reviewed these documents and, as I indicated in the letter that the committee has before you, I have invited the DPP to assist me in that regard. What is of absolute critical importance is the review of those documents is comprehensive and accurate. It is important to get the right decision, as opposed to a decision which is precipitous, and I will ensure, and am trying to ensure, that a decision will be made as quickly as is possible, but I am sure this committee would not wish to be putting improper pressure on either me or the DPP to come to a precipitous and ill-founded conclusion.

  Q401  Chairman: Come come, you are in the position that it is your job, as you have often pointed out, to resist any pressure you regard as improper.

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Exactly.

  Q402  Chairman: And I am sure you can resist any that might come from us.

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes, I am just reminding this committee that there is a line which we all have to follow.

  Q403  Chairman: It is in the nature of things that colleagues might from time to time not realise that they are putting improper pressure on you in your Cabinet position, and, therefore, you have to be in the position of saying, "No, this is where you cannot cross the line."

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am telling you, Chairman, that no improper pressure has come on me from anywhere else.

  Q404  Chairman: Else? This committee asking you simply to explain when your work might be completed is putting improper pressure on you?

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No, I am just suggesting that I have given a very full and frank answer that this matter has been referred to me. I am looking at it, I am looking at it as speedily as is proper and I will, as I have made absolutely clear, report to Parliament as soon as it is complete, and I can assure you that I absolutely understand the need for expedition. I also absolutely understand the need for accuracy and the importance, whichever way this goes, of making sure that decision is the right one, and that is the criteria that I will use. It will be as speedy as possible.

  Q405  Mr Heath: I certainly do not want to apply any undue pressure in terms of time; the Attorney General can take as long as she likes provided she is assessing this requirement—the word that she used earlier—and the criteria, which she has just used, in away we understand. I am still at a loss to know whether the test that she is applying to this material is an evidential test and, if so, where the threshold is, or whether it is a public interest test, and that is a very simple question.

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is a public interest test in as much—. Actually, I need to be really clear. The first thing to determine is whether there is any information contained in the documents that I have which would require investigation. If there is to be an investigation, of course, the prosecutorial process in relation to it would then take place later, and at that later stage, if we went through all that, then there would be a public interest test. So I must not conflate those two, and it is easy to jump to the end without going through the process, but the first process is: is there anything at the moment disclosed in those papers which would require investigation?

  Q406  Chairman: Thank you very much. It was helpful to get some clarification on these issues and we are very grateful to you.

  Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Thank you very much.

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