Justice Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 1472-i

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Justice Committee

on Wednesday 7 September 2011

Members present:

Sir Alan Beith (Chair)

Mr Robert Buckland

Jeremy Corbyn

Chris Evans

Ben Gummer

Elfyn Llwyd

Yasmin Qureshi

Elizabeth Truss


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mr Dominic Grieve QC MP, Attorney-General, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Mr Attorney, good morning and welcome. We have to declare interests.

Mr Llwyd: I have prosecuted in the past on behalf of both the CPS and other bodies and have done publicly funded legal aid work.

Mr Buckland: I have prosecuted in the past for the Crown Prosecution Service and was a member of the Attorney-General’s Unified List, which I think was abolished a few months ago. I am a recorder of the Crown court.

Q2 Chair: This is the first time we have had you with us, so we welcome you very much. Our predecessor Committee reported on the role of the Attorney-General in Government. I was Chairman of it. One of the things we considered was attendance at Cabinet meetings and the merits of ensuring that the Attorney-General was seen as not primarily a politician but someone who attended Cabinet only when they needed the advice of the Attorney-General. Gordon Brown took the view that he wanted Baroness Scotland in Cabinet, and that on a personal basis he wanted her to continue to attend. What is the position in your case?

Mr Grieve: The position is that we have reverted to the practice which existed pre-1997. Certainly it is the practice which Paddy Mayhew commended to me, I remember personally before I got the job, and that is that I attend on a needs basis. I will attend for two reasons: first, because there is an item on the agenda where my view may well be solicited in the course of the meeting. The second is where the item on the agenda is of a nature where, because I may be providing regular advice, it is helpful for me to understand what the political background to the issues is and the views being expressed by colleagues. Although I may not formally be asked to say anything during the course of the meeting, it is helpful for me to understand exactly what the challenges are which are being faced by colleagues.

How that pans out in practice is difficult to say precisely. Attendance at Cabinet is covered by a degree of confidentiality. As to how often I go, it is variable. There may be periods when I am not going very much and there may be periods when I am attending one week after another because of the nature of the item. I have made the point, as I say, of trying to go back to the practice of not just turning up as a regular attendee, even if there is nothing on the agenda which is of interest to me.

Q3 Chair: Having taken up the role, following significant changes in it, and with the protocol with the DPP, what have you noticed and how does it seem to you that the role is evolving?

Mr Grieve: I would like to think that the system is working well. Others will obviously express their own opinion. Clearly I have my role as legal adviser to the Government. We have touched on that. So far as the superintendence of the Crown Prosecution Service is concerned, there is a protocol. The protocol is not tablets of stone. It clearly identifies certain problem areas and in many ways it reflects practices which existed before the protocol was drawn up. For example, if there was a question about the possible prosecution of a Member of Parliament, I can assure you that back in the 1980s when Sir Patrick Mayhew was Attorney-General he would not have had any personal involvement in such a decision being made. The protocol simply records on paper the obvious fact that the Attorney would not be involved in such a decision.

I find the relationship with the Director, and indeed with the Director of the Serious Fraud Office, an easy one. We meet for regular routine business meetings. We communicate by telephone or by holding meetings if we think there is something which arises where he wants to brief me and keep me informed about what is going on. I am there to protect them from political interference. I am there to ensure that I can answer on their behalf in Parliament, which means I do have to understand what is going on, because otherwise I won’t be able to do that. I am also there sometimes to give them, if I can put it properly, a political heads-up when I see a problem emerging which may involve them so that I can communicate to them that I can see that this is going to be a controversial issue when it comes before the House of Commons and we need to think about how it can properly be handled to explain where the CPS has conducted its responsibilities.

I find it a perfectly workable arrangement. I am perfectly aware of the previous reports which were done before the election and the suggestions that the role should be changed, but I have always been of the view that the Attorney is more lawyer than politician. I think that is where we are probably squarely put. Having spent 14 years turning myself from a lawyer into a politician, I have been busy turning myself back again. The fact that we do have our toes in the political water is in fact helpful to the CPS and indeed the other prosecuting authorities in their work.

Q4 Chair: That raises the question of how much the interpretation of the protocol and the other features of the new arrangements depends on personality. You took as your model-and I was not surprised when you did-Lord Mayhew. One can think of other Attorneys-General who were perhaps more politician than lawyer, or had become so. Is it going to be down to personality whether we get what the Committee was really looking for, which may have been achieved to some extent in a different way?

Mr Grieve: Obviously it is down to personality-any Attorney-General who is appointed is going to have his own view as to how he should do his work-but it is more than personality: it is also tradition. If there is a tradition that the Attorney fulfils his office in a particular way, then the likelihood is that that is going to be transmitted down the generations. Of course you learn not only from the things that have worked but also probably from other people’s mistakes. I can see that there is probably quite a lot that we can learn from over the recent past, where one may have seen things which are unwise for Attorneys to get involved in.

To give another example, under my predecessors the Attorney-General acquired some lead roles in policy making. Sometimes it was a reflection of the fact that perhaps these were issues which were not being taken particularly seriously elsewhere. For example, Lord Goldsmith took quite a lead in developing responses to fraud. That took him into the question of whether we should have juries in fraud trials, which is quite a controversial area.

My immediate predecessors had a very great interest in women’s issues. Indeed, when I arrived in the office, there was a full-time member of staff dedicated to policy matters concerning women’s issues, particularly women in the criminal justice system in one form or another. I took the view, quite apart from the fact that we were going to have to make savings of 25% over four years and were streamlining the office, that it was not a particularly sensible use of very limited departmental resources in a small department for us to continue to have a lead role in that area. It was not a question of my not being interested in the subject, but it struck me as being a little bit odd, quite apart from anything else, that your policy civil servant cannot readily work with other people in similar areas. The Home Secretary is now doing that. We have come back to what I hope is a focused role: superintendence, statutory functions, and delivering sound legal advice to colleagues within Government.

Q5 Chair: I will just take one example of a policy area where a new policy seems to have been announced around us. It is about television in the courts. As a prosecutor, you obviously have a legitimate interest in safeguarding the work of prosecutors in this respect. Have you any concerns about the way it might develop? Are you fully signed up to it?

Mr Grieve: My understanding is that the suggestion at the moment that has been floated is, first, that there might be cameras in the Court of Appeal, and secondly the judge’s sentencing remarks might be filmed, although I have to say that if you open the newspapers the impression that one gets is that we are going to be filming people in the dock as they are being sentenced. It is not my understanding that that has been the proposal at all. Clearly, all this needs very careful discussion. The filming of a criminal trial raises difficult issues, as I am sure those on the Committee who are lawyers will appreciate. I have to say my personal judgment is that it is impossible and undesirable.

The question as to whether sentencing remarks should be filmed is, in a sense in terms of the validity of the trial process, completely neutral. I don’t think it interferes. The issue then arises, "Is this going to help public understanding or might it contribute to the whole thing being turned into a piece of theatre?", which might also be undesirable. Clearly, filming people actually being sentenced is likely to be undesirable, because it would probably encourage theatricals. For those reasons there must be a big question mark over it. But the drive to provide more information to the public, who after all can turn up in court to watch sentencing or indeed a trial take place, seems to be a very valuable thing to be happening. I hope that I will provide such input as I need to-as will, indeed, I am sure, the Director of Public Prosecutions-if we think something is going to cause problems and jeopardise the trial process itself. The proposals that have been floated at the moment, while they raise some ethical and practical difficulties, don’t seem to me to touch on that at all.

Q6 Elizabeth Truss: In your role as Attorney-General, what part have you taken in the reform of the CPS and the cost savings that are currently taking place within that area?

Mr Grieve: Let me explain what we did. We have before the Crown Prosecution Service a pretty challenging set of targets. Along with the rest of the Government, we have to make substantial savings. The savings are 25% over a four-year period. It is similar to that of the MoJ; it is rather less than that of the Home Office. In order to address that, the first thing I do in my role of superintendence is to discuss with the DPP whether he thinks that this can feasibly be done without affecting front-line efficiency. It was the Director’s view that the target, although very challenging, was achievable in view of the various things which the Crown Prosecution Service was going to be putting in place to try and streamline its operations and working also with other parts of the criminal justice system.

Back in the autumn of last year, the Solicitor-General, the DPP and I set up a whole series of seminars, partly for our own education. We sat down with the leading members of the Crown Prosecution Service, including the Chief Executive, the DPP and others, and we talked through everything that we were going to try and do. Indeed, you have heard from the DPP yourselves, in the course of your own deliberations.

We identified what we thought the key issues were. At the end of that process I was satisfied that, although it is a challenging target, the CPS has in place the confidence that it thinks it can deliver these savings while maintaining its core quality standards and making its operations more efficient, particularly by using IT; getting rid of paper; co-operating with the Ministry of Justice to try and streamline prosecutions and keep more prosecutions in the magistrates court rather than going to the Crown court, because there is a huge differential in cost between all of those; and by generally trying to make sure that its operations are better and of course cutting its central office functions by a very substantial amount while trying to emphasise that more money remains at the front line. As you know, there has also been a shift from the number of CPS areas reducing their size and people moving around more to do the work. I could give you a long list, and we can produce that for you.

My involvement was to try to satisfy myself that I can honestly stand up in Parliament when I am asked the question and say, "The Director has assured me that he believes these targets can be met and that our service won’t be jeopardised." Of course, I monitor how it is progressing and talk to the DPP about how he thinks it is going.

Q7 Elizabeth Truss: What is your view of the quality of advocacy currently being provided by the CPS and how that compares with the quality of defence advocacy on the whole? How would you view the equality of arms, given that reforms are currently being made to the legal aid budget as well?

Mr Grieve: The quality of advocacy in the CPS, on their own reviews and also on the work of the Inspectorate, is variable. There are examples of very good practice and lawyers within the CPS who are capable of doing high-quality advocacy work. It is also right to say that the problem with the CPS has never been its more specialist work: it has always been the volume work it has to do. There are examples, and I pick them up anecdotally talking to judges or sometimes members of the Bar or solicitors who point out that advocacy can sometimes be poorer than it should be.

I am satisfied that the DPP has in place a very good system for improving advocacy standards. Of course, linked to that is the fact that one of the priorities I set myself when I was appointed was trying to put on a stable footing the relationship between using in-house advocates and getting in outside advocates. When we were elected in May 2010, the general feeling in the legal profession was that the CPS was on a drive toward taking all its advocacy in-house, which would have had very considerable consequences for the future of the independent Bar and the development of a group of lawyers capable of doing prosecution work. The DPP was quite clear in its mind that this was not the CPS’s aim; it would never be the case that all advocacy would be in-house and therefore there was a recognition that the outside Bar has to have the ability to do work at different levels to acquire the skills necessary to work for the CPS. I am glad to say that we have put that on a firm footing with the new panels that we have created. There was a lot of discussion with the Bar and also the Law Society, but I think we have that on a firm footing and the future is going to be a mixture of in-house and out-of-house advocacy. Obviously the routine work is much better handled in-house. If you are doing pleas in the Crown court on a Friday, it can be handled by a competent in-house advocate. A lot of the trial work will still go out to the Bar, although some will also be done in-house.

Q8 Elizabeth Truss: In your discussions with the DPP have you discussed what goes on in other countries and what the costs are of prosecuting in other countries? Have you benchmarked it? Do you think there are perhaps better ways to organise the structure of the CPS?

Mr Grieve: It is a difficult area in which to make comparisons. First, we are a common law jurisdiction. You would have to go and look at other common law jurisdictions. Some common law jurisdictions are extremely split up, like Australia for example, where you have the provincial structure. Others are very small, like New Zealand, where I was in July. I had an opportunity of seeing some of the challenges in New Zealand and was amused to note they were not dissimilar to the ones we face here.

The CPS was set up with a very clear purpose in the 1980s. That was to professionalise prosecutions; to ensure that the suggestion that there was excessive police interference in prosecutorial decisions or the conduct of cases in magistrates courts was removed; to create an independent prosecutorial system, which had important issues concerning human rights; and to deliver an effective and efficient system. It has evolved. The mere fact that we have changed from the previous system to the new areas, enlarged the areas and required much more flexibility in the working of staff, for example, shows an evolutionary process. If somebody can show me examples abroad which might be helpful or useful, then I am sure the DPP will look at them and I will, but I have not seen immediate comparables to help us along the way.

Q9 Elizabeth Truss: I am just interested in whether or not the CPS has looked at the budgets of prosecuting services overseas to benchmark whether or not ours is high or low. On my previous question, you have talked about the quality of prosecution, but I am interested in how it compares to the overall quality of defence. It is not just looking at it in itself, but in comparison to defence.

Mr Grieve: That last part of the question is a very difficult one for me to answer. I have prosecuted and I have defended. There are members of this Committee who have prosecuted and have defended. There are very good prosecutors and there are the poorer prosecutors, in-house and out-of-house. There are good defence counsel and bad defence counsel. If you are asking me whether I think there is some systemic problem in that the prosecutors that we have are in some way inferior to the defence counsel running rings around them in our courts, then the answer to that is an emphatic no. I don’t believe that. Indeed, the conviction rates that we are securing strongly suggest, on an increasing graph, that the prosecutors are doing their job properly.

As for cost, ultimately the prosecutors are a demand-driven organisation. Unit cost is an extremely difficult thing to factor in. I made the point earlier that if you get somebody, arrest them, take them to the magistrates court, get them to plead at the earliest opportunity and prosecute them, then the cost to the CPS will be about 90 quid. If you take them into the Crown court to do exactly the same thing, it is probably around £750. This is why the jewel in the crown about cutting cost within the criminal justice system, both for the MoJ but also for the CPS, who are in many ways caught by the shirt tails of the criminal justice system, is our ability to try and maximise efficiency; to encourage early guilty pleas; to get people to plead guilty in the magistrates court; to consider whether the maximum sentences that can be imposed in the magistrates court can be raised; and to look at whether we can streamline committal proceedings and get rid of them altogether, because all these are extra tiers of cost. If we can do that, we will be more efficient.

I am probably talking too much, but I will just take a couple of examples. The recent riots have been very educational in highlighting how we can try and be more efficient. Processes which normally took adjournments of two weeks took adjournments of 15 minutes. Not surprisingly, the unit cost starts to come down. Some of the things we have done in the last 15 years have added immeasurably to cost.

Let me give you another example. We decided in 2003 that we were going to allow bad character evidence to be generally admissible. It has added colossally to cost, because in fact it forces the CPS to carry through a process of giving a notice which will delay the hearing of the case. I have to say that at the time I rather highlighted whether this was a good idea. Some people may still think it is a good idea in principle, but I promise you it has added to cost and time within the system.

Q10 Elizabeth Truss: Given that the Government plans to introduce Police Commissioners at a local level, how is that going to fit with a national CPS given that there might be different priorities in different parts of the country? How is the CPS going to ensure local as well as national accountability?

Mr Grieve: The area Crown prosecutors, and where necessary their deputies, will have a responsibility to work closely with the new Police and Crime Commissioners to understand their areas of concern and to try to ensure the very close working between the CPS and the police which we want at a national level. What is quite clear is that, in order to maintain the independence of the prosecution service, we can’t have the Police and Crime Commissioners telling the CPS what to do. There is a big difference between telling people what to do and the obvious common-sense fact that there has to be very close working. I know that the DPP is absolutely committed to achieving this. As the Police and Crime Commissioners come in, it will be the responsibility of the area chief Crown prosecutors to ensure that they maintain those links. Indeed, some thought is also being given as to how we can look at the role of the area chief Crown prosecutors. I must choose my words with care. It is not that I think they should be publicly answerable, but they should be able to respond locally to questions and to requests that might be made of them. That in no sense would place them under the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Q11 Elizabeth Truss: But you are suggesting that they ought to be more visible, essentially.

Mr Grieve: I am saying it is an option. If we want to achieve a close working relationship, then a part of the role of those prosecutors is going to be responsive and able to respond and get around while still doing their core work, to understand what concerns might be that are being expressed about how the local criminal justice system is being operated, which includes the CPS as a part of it.

Q12 Mr Llwyd: Good morning, Mr Attorney. I am interested that Erskine May says it will occasionally be appropriate for Attorneys-General to publish their legal opinions to Cabinet. This of course was brought into stark relief during the tenure of Lord Goldsmith. Do you have a view on that?

Mr Grieve: In one sense, the question as to whether my advice is published is very much a matter for others and not for me. I am the chief legal adviser to Government, and I am covered by two things. One is legal professional privilege. So, like any lawyer, I am not going to publish the advice I give to somebody unless I am told to do so, and it is probably for them to publish it and not for me. Secondly, there is a Law Officers’ convention which is that, in order to help the smooth running of Government, it is desirable that getting the Attorney’s advice should not be public knowledge, because it might highlight where the problem areas are and make it difficult for Government to operate. Therefore, the convention is that the Government does not normally disclose whether the Attorney’s advice has been sought or not. But you are right: there are exceptions. We have just had a recent exception with Libya. Although the advice was not published, a synopsis of the Government’s position was set out.

It seems to me that the system we have is a reasonable one. If we were to depart from it, then you would have to decide where you stop, apart from one or two examples we have at the moment with which I have no difficulty. It is in a way a matter for others rather than for me, but I do think that if you cannot get free access to your lawyers, then, each time you do it and somebody knows that you have done it, the danger is that you stop going to your lawyers for advice or we go to sofa politics where the advice is being requested in an armchair at No. 10 Downing Street and not on paper, and that is a very bad idea.

Q13 Mr Llwyd: With regard to the recent riots, what discussions have you had or did you have with the CPS regarding prosecution policy? How did you safeguard the independence of prosecutors during this time?

Mr Grieve: As to policy, I cast my mind back to the events. I was away on holiday when the riots started, and I came back. I had a couple of meetings and conversations with the Director of Public Prosecutions, mainly about resources, logistics, the operation of night courts and maintaining the throughputs of the Crown Prosecution Service so that we could make sure that these cases were processed properly and that the system did not collapse. We helped to iron out perhaps the occasional glitch in relationships with other parts of the criminal justice system. There were occasional glitches, but they were ironed out. I have to say I am rather proud of what was achieved.

As for policy or criteria for prosecution, no, I did not discuss that with the DPP. They were not areas for me to raise with him. The DPP had to bring the cases before the court. He had to decide possibly in some cases not to prosecute under the usual public interest tests. That was all left to the Crown prosecutors. There was no general direction given by me, nor would it have been proper for me to do so. In fairness, I don’t think I had to protect the DPP or the CPS from anybody else. None of my colleagues took me to one side and said, "We demand that the CPS get really tough." Quite apart from anything else, I am not sure what that means, because ultimately it is the judiciary who pass the sentences and not the Crown Prosecution Service. I am sure that if the Director had felt at any time that he was coming under improper pressure he would have told me, and he certainly did not.

Q14 Mr Llwyd: How did the guidance on lifting reporting restrictions on children and young persons come about?

Mr Grieve: It is difficult to cast my mind back to it. My feeling is that the issue first arose on the first Tuesday of the riots. It was the day I returned-the Wednesday. Parliament was recalled on the Thursday, just to give you the sequence. My recollection is that it arose in two ways. First, it arose from press comment. You may recollect that there were two issues which arose on anonymity. One was the question of publishing people’s photographs in newspapers to identify them and help them be arrested. Various rather silly comments came out that their human rights precluded this being done, which was pretty effectively scotched within the police at a very early stage. The second one was the lifting of anonymity for young people who were coming through the criminal justice process. The anonymity which is normally afforded to children and young people is not an absolute rule. There are clear and established criteria of circumstances in which it can be lifted, including public disorder as one area. I think this arose round about the Wednesday.

There was-and I checked this, because you kindly indicated you were raising this with me before I came in-a meeting in the Cabinet Office briefing room, COBRA, on the Friday morning, the day after the debate in Parliament, that was attended by the Solicitor-General. At that meeting the issue was floated as to what the anonymity rules were, which is exactly what I would expect at a COBRA meeting. As a result of that, the Solicitor-General passed that information back to our own staff on our return. There was some contact made with the CPS over the weekend. My understanding is that the CPS had already concluded of its own accord that reminding prosecutors of the guidance in order to help courts in this area would be helpful. The guidance was ready on the Monday morning.

I want to emphasise this. I have heard it suggested that other parts of the Government demanded that this be done. It is simply not the case. There was no suggestion, and indeed I would have been the first person to get extremely exercised if that suggestion had been made. It was not. When you have a COBRA meeting, you have action points which go up on a screen in real time. It is all very exciting if you are sitting in this room. If somebody says, "Is there an issue over anonymity?", and the Solicitor-General says, "We are looking into this," somebody will put on the list, "The issue of anonymity is being considered." It does not mean that somebody has been given a direction to do it. It is simply recording the work that is taking place within the different agencies in order to try and meet the challenges that we are facing.

Q15 Mr Llwyd: In The Telegraph on 2 September the DPP, Keir Starmer, was quoted as saying in respect of these offences emanating from the riots, "We should not treat them as a separate category to be dealt with differently." He went on to say, "We need to keep our feet on the ground. With disorder cases we should adopt the same approach." He also said that he expected a number of appeals against sentence. Do you have any view on that?

Mr Grieve: First, sentencing is for the judges and the courts. It is not for me and it is not for the DPP. The issue as to how, in general terms, rioters should be dealt with, is a legitimate subject of public comment for politicians and indeed everybody else. I keep on reminding colleagues that it is, but the particular cases are not.

It is right that there is not some special category of offence. People who commit offences during riots are not in some sort of special pariah category. Equally it is right to say that, when people commit an offence in the course of a riot, there are usually likely to be substantial aggravating features to their behaviour, although sometimes there may also be some mitigating features. There is a difference, I think. Somebody who goes into a shop on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, tries to steal a dress off a rack and conceal it down their trousers and walk out of the building is committing the same or similar offence but in rather different circumstances from somebody who, watching other people first smash a window, trash a shop and wreck a business, decides to go in and help themselves to the same items. I would suggest that there are serious aggravating features in the latter case.

The fact that the sentences that may be imposed by the courts may appear to be harsher than those that might be for the same value of item does not mean to say that the courts have got it wrong. But if in individual cases the courts have got it wrong, then of course that is what the appeal process is for.

Q16 Chair: Do you think deterring people from taking part in riots has a relevance which does not apply in your other example of the shoplifting case, where people tend not to be conscious of what the penalty might be if they do get caught?

Mr Grieve: I think that is right. Speaking in general public policy terms, with riots taking place and an impression conveyed by one or two young people saying, certainly listening to television, "Oh well, it doesn’t really matter because nothing will happen to us if we’re caught," it was rather important to get a message out that these were very serious offences and their consequences are very serious. An ordinary shoplifting offence does not destroy a local community. When people participate in a catalogue of offending behaviour that has the capacity to wreck an area’s economy and put local people in fear, it is not very difficult to see that these are serious matters.

As I say, sentencing is for the courts. If individual cases have been wrongly dealt with, which in human affairs often happens normally from time to time, the appeal process is there to rectify it. Coming back to the original question, the DPP’s comments seem to me to be perfectly sensible ones. I do not find myself in disagreement with them, but nor do I see those comments as being in some way an indication that the sentences were too harsh. I don’t think that at all, and that is not what he said.

Q17 Mr Llwyd: I am not saying he is not entitled to his opinion. As you said earlier, he is entitled to make those comments.

I have one final question. It may be a bit early, but has there been an estimate of the additional costs the CPS has been put to during this flurry of prosecutions? Will the CPS be provided with additional resources to meet that, if necessary?

Mr Grieve: The best figure I have at the moment is £5 million, and rising, obviously, because we are not through the process. The view of the CPS and the DPP at present is that that is manageable within the overall efficiencies, although clearly it doesn’t make life easier, because every penny counts. If there were a circumstance where it was going to start putting great pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service, the Director would doubtless come and see me and talk to me about it. At the moment that has not arisen.

Chair: Jeremy Corbyn has a supplementary point on this.

Q18 Jeremy Corbyn: Very briefly on this, some of the sentences that have been handed out are extraordinarily tough and long, particularly the very large number of custodial sentences to quite often naïve young people who were brought in and who didn’t create the disturbance in the first place. Do you have any concerns about this, and will you be reviewing this at the end of this process, because of the way in which it creates a cohort of people who have been brought together by the riot, rather than dividing them apart and giving lighter sentences to the naïve youngsters instead of treating everybody in the same way?

Mr Grieve: That is straying a bit outside my job description. As I said earlier, it is for the courts to sentence. Of course it is also for politicians like yourself, and indeed others, to take a view if they think that the courts are applying sentences in a way which is too harsh. It is a matter of opinion. The courts have clear guidelines. There is a Sentencing Council. The parameters are laid down. Indeed, modern sentencers have to explain their decision in terms of where it fits within the sentencing guidelines when they do it and also explain why they are being harsher or less harsh than the guidelines might suggest.

If it were to turn out, I suppose, at the end of this process, that the Court of Appeal were to conclude that many of the sentences passed were excessive, then one might wish to review at that point whether there are procedural changes that one should be bringing in as to why that happened. But I have to say that we are rather a long way from that at the moment. I have not seen any evidence of that being the case. I have seen evidence of one or two cases being reduced on appeal. It is a bit early to say. It is my role in policy terms if there were a policy discussion, but it is not my role as Attorney-General superintending the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS do not recommend sentences to judges. That is an absolutely central point. They can sometimes indicate brackets if a judge needs guidance, but it is certainly not our role to tell the judges what sentences they should pass.

Q19 Mr Buckland: Mr Attorney, can we move on to the issue of contempt of court? It has been very much in the news this year with various proceedings, most notably the ones relating to the case in Bristol, which I understand are still ongoing. I understand that permission has been given for an appeal to the Supreme Court in that particular case. I do not want to delve into the rights and wrongs of that particular case, but you may recall that there was a debate on a Private Member’s Bill-the Anonymity (Arrested Persons) Bill in February-in which the Minister, Crispin Blunt, who was answering for the Government, committed the Government to a review of the law of contempt of court. Could you help the Committee as to the progress of that review and the likely timetable for its conclusion?

Mr Grieve: The progress of the review is at least in part dependent on the development of the case law. As you will be aware, the anxiety being expressed in Parliament in that debate was that the contempt procedures and laws which we had were now insufficient to provide protection, particularly to defendants between arrest and charge, and that therefore something else was needed. Of course, in the Bill that was presented to Parliament there was a suggestion that there should be blanket anonymity between arrest and charge.

It is right to say that one of the things which I had to consider very carefully when I got this post was how we were going to deal with contempt of court in future, how we were going to try to-perhaps I can put it in this way-gently rein in some of the excesses which seemed to me to be occurring and to do it, hopefully, in a way which was as consensual and by persuasion as possible and not necessarily require me to go running around prosecuting those who might commit it.

This has been quite a busy year. We have had three contempt of court cases which have had quite a high profile. There has been the case of a Mrs Fraill, a juror who committed contempt, which was prosecuted by the Solicitor-General. There has been the case of online contempt by two newspapers, which was a first, where during the course of his trial they published the photograph of a defendant brandishing a handgun. Of course there has been the Jefferies case, which I did personally in the High Court. As you rightly pointed out, the Jefferies case is of particular importance in terms of laying down the benchmarks of what may or may not be permissible under the Contempt of Court Act. It included a review of all the recent case law, including a number of cases which were heavily relied on by the press to argue that in fact in the period between arrest and charge they could publish almost anything they liked. That may be appealed. If it is appealed, I cannot conclude my review until that appeal is over.

The review is an informal one. It is a question of me talking to people more than anything else and getting their views about how we should best proceed. It is possible that, if the law as it has developed in the course of the last 12 months is sustained, some of the problems we were worried about in the early part of the year may start to go away, in which case it may not be necessary to consider any major reform to the law of contempt at all. It may be that at the end of the process I will have to come to Parliament and highlight that there are remaining issues which Parliament, as an issue of public policy, really ought to be considering as to what it wants to do. There is a very delicate balance between freedom of expression and protecting defendants who are at their most vulnerable in terms of public vilification between the time of arrest and the time they are tried. While there is an absolute clear entitlement to the public to be kept informed, that does have to be tempered by protecting defendants’ rights, particularly because of our presumption of innocence.

Q20 Mr Buckland: Developing on from that, it really does have a relevance to some of the material that we know newspapers obtained via, frankly, illegitimate means. For example, in the Bristol case the police did not formally disclose that information. It is still unclear as to precisely how that information was disclosed. I wonder whether the ambit of the review would consider what all members of the Committee would regard as a misuse of information and a misuse of power, if you like.

Mr Grieve: Here we are coming on to a very slightly different area. Clearly, if a police officer is handing over information about an accused or about an arrest that is taking place the following morning, and "Please turn up with your cameras because we will be hauling him out of his front door at 6.30 am," or providing information to the press, then those are currently criminal offences. We do not need new laws to deal with that; we need to enforce it. Of course, without wishing to avoid major areas of current controversy, one aspect of the phone hacking scandal which Lord Justice Leveson is looking into is the question as to alleged payments that may have been made historically to police officers to obtain information. That may well be a better area for us to look at that. These are currently criminal offences.

My focus is on the issue about whether the laws of contempt we have are currently adequate in the light of the way in which a lot of lawyers working for the press had come to interpret the Contempt of Court Act, which was in their view, as I said, to give them immense latitude as to what could be published to an extent that I considered went well beyond the bounds of propriety.

Q21 Mr Buckland: The Joint Committee on Privacy and Super-Injunctions will begin its work this week. It will report by the end of February. That was set up, as you will recall, in particular response to the issue of super-injunctions and the question as to how they are obtained, how they are to be enforced, the role of Parliament, privilege and so many different issues arising as a result of their operation. Again there is the question of contempt of court when the subject matter of those injunctions is then brought into the public domain, either via the internet or indeed by the processes of Parliament. What are you hoping the Committee will be able to focus on in the context of contempt of court? Will you be able to help the Committee should you be invited to give information?

Mr Grieve: I would certainly be happy to help the Committee. Although it is a role which is somewhat different from the role over contempt of court under the Contempt of Court Act or indeed the Children and Young Persons Act in criminal proceedings, I do have a potential role, in that if somebody breaches a civil injunction or super-injunction-whatever you may wish to call it-while there is a private right of the person who obtained the injunction to seek an order for committal at court, it is also possible for me to intervene in the public interest if I consider that it is necessary to do so to uphold the orders of courts more generally. At present that has not arisen in the course of my tenure of the office, but it is certainly a power I have and might have to consider exercising in some circumstances. In so far as the Committee would be helped by my coming along and talking to them about that in general terms, of course I would be very happy to do so.

Chair: Mr Evans has a supplementary point on this.

Q22 Chris Evans: I apologise, Chair, for my lateness. I got caught out with the timings of the meetings this morning. I am also on the Draft Defamation Bill Committee. One observation I have made is the growth of the internet and the difficulty of imposing defamation laws in terms of the internet. I would be very interested in your views, if I am allowed to say it, on the Ryan Giggs case, where you have said that people who tweet this will be held in contempt of court. How do you envisage upholding that? If somebody has been in contempt of court and that has been re-tweeted by millions of people around the world, how do you envisage upholding the contempt of court in that area?

Mr Grieve: The point I was trying to make was that tweeters do not enjoy some special exemption from the law. Of course, if 80 million people around the world are all tweeting something, that is going to present a bit of a challenge for the person who feels the injunction is being breached. It was a gentle warning that I was putting out. People should not assume that, just because they are one of 80 million, it may not end up that they are the person who gets fingered, taken in front of the court and suddenly finds to their horror that they are about to be committed to prison for contempt.

It is a point which has also been made by the Lord Chief Justice, who said that the laws are there and super-injunctions should be observed. Throughout history, there is a big difference between breaching a super-injunction or an injunction by publishing something in a paper in the old-fashioned sense and tittle-tattle around the dinner table. I don’t think anybody has ever assumed that by having injunctions you are going to suppress all discussion of a subject completely. It might in an ideal world, but the judges don’t have that sort of power and nor do I think they particularly aspire to it. They are trying to ensure that there can be a fair trial process of the issues, protect the rights of individuals whose privacy might have been invaded until the final determination of the case and enable justice to be done. That often requires preventing widespread publication of something, because then the damage is done which the person has brought the action to prevent.

I was making the point that I do not think there are classes. Clearly, there are different challenges in different media, but a tweeter is no different from somebody who, 100 years ago, would have gone and stood up in the marketplace with a banner saying exactly the same thing. They must therefore expect that they might well end up being treated in the same way. There was a slight atmosphere abroad that we could now all behave with impunity. I just wanted to point out that the impunity did not exist.

Q23 Jeremy Corbyn: I take you to the question of universal jurisdiction. The previous Government and this Government have both said they wish to remove the opportunity for a private citizen to initiate an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity or war crimes. I would be grateful if you could clarify the provisions relating to the arrest and prosecution of individuals suspected of international crimes such as war crimes, and in particular the case that the Attorney-General has to give consent to the prosecutions while the Director of Public Prosecutions can consent to the arrests. What exactly is the situation in respect of this at the present time?

Mr Grieve: First of all, let us go back to where we were before the changes-or rather, the proposals-to understand where we are. The previous system was that an individual could go down to a magistrates court-

Q24 Jeremy Corbyn: Sorry, it is a specific magistrates court, it is Westminster, is it not?

Mr Grieve: I think it is Westminster magistrates court, yes. I would have to check whether it is possible to do it anywhere else, but I think it is Westminster magistrates court. You can lay a complaint and ask for an arrest warrant to be issued. All the magistrate has to be satisfied of is that there appears to be a basis to the case and the person is in the jurisdiction so that you can get it issued. As you know, there have been a couple of examples of that having happened and warrants for arrest having been issued.

If a warrant for arrest is issued in those circumstances, the police are supposed to execute it and the person is then taken directly before the magistrates. There is no period of inquiry or interview at a police station. The individual is merely transferred from the arrest to the magistrates as quickly as possible and detained in custody over a weekend if it is a Saturday and the court does not sit until the Monday, at which point the criminal process starts. At that point the consent to the bringing of a prosecution falls to me as Attorney-General under the law. I have to decide whether the evidence is there, and I have to decide where the public interest lies if there is a public interest issue that may arise.

The criticism of the system that we had was that it appeared to allow for the possibility of frivolous applications being made to magistrates to issue warrants. I say "frivolous", and I pick my words advisedly. It can be frivolous in the sense that there may be no basis to the case. The other thing is that all cases have to be based on evidence. If Genghis Khan were to turn up at Heathrow airport tomorrow because he had suddenly been resurrected, the problem would be not that we have a pretty good idea that Genghis Khan was not a very nice individual in terms of the way he dealt with cities around the Middle East, but it might be quite difficult to get the evidence on which to prosecute him when most of the victims-well, the victims would certainly be dead, but the witnesses would not be around either. There does have to be some evaluation as to whether a prosecution can properly be brought.

That was the subject of the anxiety, and various suggestions were put forward. One was that the individual right to apply for a warrant should be withdrawn. It is something which makes me slightly uncomfortable, because it has always been rather an important part of our criminal justice system that individuals can go and lay complaints in magistrates courts, not just in international jurisdiction cases but in any case. You can complain that your neighbour has burgled you. I once threatened to do that-I should say it was not a very near neighbour-when I thought the police were failing to take action over a case. It was many years ago but it is a private right and a rather important one.

The other was that I should be given the task of determining whether a warrant should be issued. I did not think that was a very good idea either. However objective I would obviously wish to be, the suggestion of sudden political involvement or convenience might be raised. We came to the conclusion that the best way of dealing with this was to ask the DPP to act as the sieve or filter for doing this. The DPP has indicated that he will issue guidelines. Above all, what he will seek to do is to encourage people who believe that there is a justified claim under this universal jurisdiction against an individual to come and talk to his office beforehand rather than ringing up and saying, "You’ve got five minutes in which to organise the issuing of a warrant before a plane takes off." I think that will be an effective system.

The Director has already given evidence about this, so I will not repeat what he has said. He has indicated that as part of the exercise he might consider talking to me about public interest issues at that stage. That is the case, but it is still his decision at that point and not mine. We are going to have a system where, at the end of the day, you have two checks: one by the DPP at the time of the issue of the warrant and one by me, because that is the role that has been given to the Attorney-General as to whether the prosecution should proceed.

Q25 Jeremy Corbyn: Two things follow from that. Does the DPP act on reasonable suspicion or does he require full prosecutorial evidence? Secondly, in the statements to the House, Ministers of both the last Government and this Government have stated that in deciding whether an arrest warrant could or could not be issued they had to take account of foreign policy considerations, which seems to me to undermine the whole principle of international law. If somebody has bombed civilians or tortured individuals, irrespective of whether it is deemed to be in Britain’s wider interest or not to do so, do you not have concerns with those kinds of statements that have been made?

Mr Grieve: Can I deal with the first point first? The DPP set out very clearly in the evidence which he gave to the Standing Committee on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill how he would apply the criteria and the code test to any request that was made to him. The best thing I can suggest is that you go and look at that rather than my trying to repeat it in shorthand, because he went into it in considerable detail.

The public interest has always been a difficult issue. Of course, there is a clear public interest in bringing people who have committed serious wrongdoing, particularly torture, genocide and the like, war crimes, to trial and to punish them for their wrongdoing. It is a very important public interest, and one which the Government, as did predecessor Governments, takes extremely seriously. It is also right that you do not have to look too far back in history for examples where people have had to make some difficult decisions about reconciling that aspect of the public interest with others. For example, you will recall that when Leila Khaled hijacked a British plane and was overpowered, brought to Heathrow and detained at Heathrow police station, as I seem to recollect, an eventual decision was taken by the then Attorney-General not to proceed against her for hijacking, kidnap and all the other things that might have been raised against her, because it was part of a package deal for saving the lives of large numbers of British hostages who were held at Dawson’s Field, I think it was called, in Jordan, at the time of Black September. That is exactly the sort of problem which I am afraid lands on the lap of Attorneys-General.

We are talking hypotheticals. In the ordinary course, there is a very strong public interest in prosecuting people who are alleged to have committed these appalling crimes. Clearly, circumstances may arise of a similar kind or where, for example, somebody happens to be in this country for a critical peace conference which looks likely to bring to an end a major war in an area of the world which would be entirely wrecked if he were to be arrested because he is one of the key players. All those things would have to be factored in. This is one of the difficulties which simply land on the lap of Attorneys-General. It is our job to try and determine that. We do it by talking to the relevant people within Government, to our colleagues, obviously to the DPP, and to anybody else who we think might be able to inform the decisions that we have to make.

Q26 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you not think your job and the DPP’s job has been made more difficult by restricting the right to apply for an arrest warrant to the DPP rather than the ancient right, which you earlier referred to, of an individual citizen to go to a magistrates court and make the application? The international arrest warrant question is not just going down to Highbury Corner magistrates court, in my case; it has to be Westminster. It has to be a senior justice person who deals with it. Don’t you think you have actually made life more difficult by this process?

Mr Grieve: No, I don’t think we have. I can only give you my best opinion on this. Clearly, we can keep the matter under review, but knowing the professionalism and the independence which the Director of Public Prosecutions brings to bear on his responsibilities, and his freedom from any suggestion or taint of political interference, and advice not just to him but to his predecessors and I am sure to his successors, it seems to me that he is the best person to carry out that check moment of considering whether the issue of a warrant is justified. As I have said, what I know the Director is very keen to do is to build relationships with NGOs and individuals who believe that there are people who, if they came to this country, ought to be arrested so that these decisions can be taken with a little bit more forward thinking.

The other thing to bear in mind is that, for reasons which I gave to you earlier, in procedural terms it is always going to be better if a warrant comes from the police application, so that the person, once arrested, can be taken, their luggage can be seized and searched, property searched, and if necessary they can be interviewed before they are taken before a court. Otherwise you are starting a criminal justice process often on a rather precipitate basis. I would hope that there should be some co-operation. As the DPP is entirely independent, as is the CPS, he, I know, has indicated an open door to approaches being made to him in these difficult areas.

Chair: Ms Qureshi has a supplementary point.

Q27 Yasmin Qureshi: It is in relation to the arrest warrant. I think you are aware of the fact, as Jeremy has just said, that an individual can go to get an arrest warrant in relation to somebody suspected of committing international war crimes. You have to go to Westminster magistrates court. Before it used to be Bow Street magistrates court, but that has closed down, so now it is Westminster. A chief district judge for London is the person who has to make that decision. The evidence is presented to the judge, and those warrants used to be issued. In the last 10 years, of about 10 or 11 applications, only one was successfully granted, which suggests that this was not a frivolous approach. It also suggests that those checks and balances within the system are already in existence. When a senior district judge-

Chair: Is this a question?

Yasmin Qureshi: The question is the change in the law. It seems a bit strange that you can go and get an arrest warrant for someone who has committed a minor offence, and yet in our civilised society where we go to war with other countries because of human rights issues we do not seem to want to arrest people or allow the individual to take out a summons against those people. It is a real contradiction. You can take one out for theft but you can’t-

Chair: The question is a bit long. Parliament has passed the legislation. The Attorney has been quite rightly questioned on how he is going to apply and operate it.

Mr Grieve: I do not think I can reopen the fact that Parliament has determined that we should have this legislation.

Chair: But you have given us some very helpful clarification.

Mr Grieve: I hope I can give some clarification. I do want to emphasise that this is not some dastardly plot-certainly not as far as I am concerned-by Government to try to avoid having to meet its international obligations. It has always been the case that these are difficult cases. They are likely to prove to be difficult to prosecute because of the places where the alleged offences have taken place. It may be that in some cases the evidence is crystal clear, but, in the examples that we have had over the last 12 years which I have seen, the chances of a successful prosecution in reality of individuals against whom allegations were being made appear to be entirely speculative and most improbable. That is something which we cannot just ignore.

Q28 Ben Gummer: I have a miscellany of questions for you. I hope to rattle through them quickly. First, you touched on how your Department is dealing with women in the justice system. Could you comment quickly on what you are doing to continue work on the conclusions of the Corston review, where you are working with the Home Secretary and Minister for Women in helping women in the criminal justice system?

Mr Grieve: Yes. The Solicitor-General regularly attends a working party which is run by the Home Secretary, which covers a large number of women’s issues and violence against women. So far as the Corston report is concerned, we are aware of it. The Crown Prosecution Service has a commitment to consider its implications in the way that it operates. It is worth bearing in mind that the Corston report, which is really about women within the prison system and the criminal justice system generally, is principally an issue which is going to be of concern to the Ministry of Justice. Prosecutors prosecute and of course there may sometimes be interesting issues about public interest and also about the particular circumstances relating to women who may be alleged to have committed offences in circumstances where they have either been victimised or have suffered domestic violence, for example. That is a matter for prosecutorial discretion. I am pretty satisfied from everything I have seen that the CPS is fully committed to the agenda and to working with others, even though the lead lies elsewhere.

Q29 Ben Gummer: On the issue of domestic violence, as you know, the Government has slightly changed the definition of domestic violence in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Last night, far too late now, in the Public Bill Committee we were discussing that and the Minister was describing how a finding of fact would be made when an allegation of domestic violence was made. I wondered how the CPS was engaged with the MoJ about trying to identify those cases which have not proceeded or been put forward for criminal prosecution, but which in the finding of fact might be appropriate for them, and what the CPS might do in those instances.

Chair: These are presumably cases which have been issued in which someone is claiming domestic violence has existed but that has not been prosecuted by the CPS.

Ben Gummer: Exactly. The Chairman says it far better than I. In that classic grey area, you are then presented now with facts which might not otherwise have been brought into the open.

Mr Grieve: Yes. This raises some very complex issues of discretion. We have been through all this. We have also had it in a number of other settings, like forced marriages, for example. Should you be using a civil weapon or should you be using a criminal sanction? Will the introduction of criminal sanctions mean that people will be more reluctant to come forward, because although they wish the domestic violence to stop, they do not wish necessarily to see their partner prosecuted? These have always been very awkward issues. As you know, one of the problems with domestic violence is that you may initiate a prosecution when a complaint is made and find that, two weeks later, even though you may well fear that the underlying violence is likely to recur, the person has withdrawn the complaint because they wish to remain with the person who has committed the violence against them.

I do not wish to duck this, but it may be that this is better directed towards the DPP, and indeed, if you want to do an inquiry, towards those specialist prosecutors who deal with this area. This is a matter of considerable sensitivity. It has never been the case in this country that we seek to prosecute every criminal offence that has been committed. If we were to do so, a very large number of people would be being wafted through the criminal justice system. In the domestic context, some sensitivity is required in making some fine judgments about whether something that may have been brought to the notice of a court in civil proceedings should therefore warrant some criminal sanction. That would probably be a mistake, but if there is a sense by this Committee or anyone else that there is a lack of proactivity in prosecuting cases of serious domestic violence, I would like that to be brought to my attention. I am not aware of it.

Q30 Ben Gummer: To continue with the theme of riots, many people in the police service have professed their alarm that within the space of a year they are being criticised for their handling of the G20 riots and now for not getting out the rubber bullets and the water cannon. You were intimately involved in the Tomlinson case. Could you comment first on what lessons were learned from the Tomlinson case? Secondly, as a result of the recent riots, is there going to be a reformulation of advice to the police about what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour on their part?

Mr Grieve: We need to be a little careful on the Tomlinson case, because it is still a live matter in terms of a pending prosecution. Just casting my mind back to when I made a statement to Parliament about the initial decision that no proceedings could be brought, that was a matter that was entirely based on the evidential considerations and the evaluation made by the CPS at the time. That was the only reason. There was no other reason. The problem was that the CPS perceived at the time that there was insufficient evidence on which any prosecution could be brought. Since then, the position has changed, and that is why we are now in a different situation. I do not think I should be commenting beyond that. We must wait to see whether the allegations that have been made are proven or not.

That was the first part of your question. You raised something else in the second part of your question.

Q31 Ben Gummer: It was merely on the fact that the police feel themselves to be in a difficult situation.

Mr Grieve: There are clearly going to be lessons to be learned from the way in which the most recent riots were handled. I do not think I am in a position, because I am not responsible for the police, to comment one way or another about what police officers feel. I have no doubt it is true that people blow hot and cold at them all the time, saying they are either doing too much or doing too little. That is the lot of the police. I am sure there are lessons that can be learned from the present riots. Indeed, I have had opportunities since to have at least some informal conversations with others where we have mapped out that we need to do some thinking about this.

What is the best way of dealing with the sort of disorder we saw on our streets? For example, is it that you try to contain it and then arrest people afterwards, which of course leaves the serious fact that within the area that is being contained people can do almost anything they like; or should one be more proactive in arresting and stopping the behaviour, although that of necessity may often require the use of force, and force is a very unpredictable thing in terms of its consequences? You were able for yourselves to see the comments and I had letters from my constituents telling me that live rounds and ammunition should be issued and the Army brought in. I do not think that is a view that commends itself to me, but there were some very widespread and different views expressed about this.

What is clear is that, if I can help that discussion as Attorney-General in terms of looking at the legal parameters, then I will help to inform that debate. I think there may be some things that need to be looked at. The truth is that you are entitled to use reasonable force to stop people who are committing offences from committing those offences, to arrest them and to bring them to justice.

Q32 Ben Gummer: Finally, on your general role is as guardian of the rule of law within Government: I am aware that you cannot comment specifically on the allegations in the last week about the role of the secret services in Libya, but are you confident that across all Departments there is an understanding of the way the Government should work within the rule of law? Are you confident that you are able to transmit that with the force that you would wish?

Mr Grieve: Yes, I am. If you look at the first page of the Ministerial Code, the second paragraph emphasises the absolute requirement of the Civil Service and Ministers to observe the rule of law and our international and domestic legal obligations. Everything I have seen of the way Government operates is that strenuous efforts are made to ensure that exactly that happens. All I can say to best help you is that it is pretty apparent if you look at the way in which Libya has been handled-and indeed, the Government has made quite clear-that the actions that were taken were done with detailed consideration of the parameters laid down by the two relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions. That was the framework within which decisions had to be taken. I hope that history will judge us well and kindly for having sought to do just that.

Q33 Ben Gummer: But if in previous moments torture and rendition were undertaken at the behest of or with the knowledge of Ministers, what would be the repercussions of that?

Mr Grieve: We have to be a little bit careful about hypothetical questions. Torture at the behest of Ministers is a rather serious matter. Unlawful rendition is a rather serious matter. You have asked me a question about how the current Government is going about its business, and I can only answer from my experience as the Attorney-General since 12 May 2010. What may or may not have happened before is the subject matter of a number of inquiries, including Sir Peter Gibson’s. I really do not think that is a matter on which I can comment. Quite apart from anything else, they are not matters within my knowledge.

I want to emphasise that of course the Ministerial Code sometimes puts up challenges. The other thing one has to remember-I always make this point-is that international law is not well defined. There are principles, and ascertaining what is permissible within those principles can sometimes be done by reference to precedent but is not always an easy thing. What my Department strives very hard to do is to ensure that my colleagues have all the information they need <?oasys [pc10p0] ?>about the legal principles on which to make difficult decisions, and as a result, that both the international and our own domestic rule of law is observed.

Q34 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you have any concerns about the operation of the memoranda of understanding that were reached between the previous Government and various Governments in North Africa and the Middle East?

Mr Grieve: It is worth bearing in mind that those memoranda are subject, of course, to legal scrutiny and challenge. Indeed, memoranda of understanding for deportation or extradition to countries subject to those memoranda can be challenged in court. Where they are being operated, it is because the courts, having scrutinised them, have concluded that in fact the overall package and the chances of human rights violations have been reduced to such a level that the person can properly be extradited.

Chair: Mr Attorney, thank you very much indeed for the clarity of the answers you have given us on what were quite complex questions. We are most grateful.

Prepared 25th April 2012