Joint Committee on The Draft Corruption Bill Report

5  Clause 17: Attorney General's consent

136. Clause 17 of the draft Bill provides that prosecutions for the new offences can only proceed with the consent of the Attorney General. The original Law Commission report in 1998 did not include such a requirement. The Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, when agreeing to the waiver of freedom of speech in Parliament to secure the conviction of MPs and peers, did recommend a requirement of Attorney General's consent. Generally, however, the trend has been to reduce the number of offences for which the Attorney's consent is required.[156]

137. We have been told that MPs and peers, among other public figures, are vulnerable to frivolous or vexatious private prosecutions for corruption. These could, if raised during an election or other sensitive time, distort the political process. We therefore accept the need for some filter before prosecutions are launched.

138. Where some consent to prosecution is required for other offences, the decision-maker is usually the Director of Public Prosecutions. This responsibility is normally exercised through delegated powers by Chief Crown Prosecutors. We understand that there is little practical advantage in requiring the consent of the Attorney as opposed to the DPP. Furthermore, involving a member of the Government in the decision to prosecute may be counter to our international obligations.[157] Without doubting the independence of the Attorney General and his predecessors, we accept that the appearance of ministerial involvement in the prosecution decision would best be avoided.

139. Ideally the consent to prosecute would be vested in the Director of Public Prosecutions and exercised either by him personally or in his absence by one nominated deputy. In cases involving MPs it would be open to the DPP to consult the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on the interpretation of the Code of Conduct. We recommend that Clause 17 be replaced by a requirement for the consent to be given by Director of Public Prosecutions or one nominated deputy.

156   Law Commission Report no. 255 (1998) Back

157   Ev126 DCB1 (Corner House) para 4.2, Ev 143 DCB 12 (GRECO)  Back

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