Conclusion and recommendations
57. In respect of the Criminal Justice Bill, we draw
the following matters to the attention of each House.
- In relation to clause 6 of the Bill, removing
the duty to make a record of everything in the possession of a
person arrested at a police station or brought to a police station
after being arrested elsewhere, we consider that the proposed
amendment of section 54 of PACE would engage P1/1, and that adverse
consequences would flow from the repeal of the duty to record
property. We recommend as a minimum safeguard that, if section
54 is amended as proposed in the Bill, Code C should at least
require that a record be kept of any property taken from a detainee
by the police (paragraph 10 above).
- In relation to the provisions about admissibility
of evidence of bad character, we are concerned that the very wide
definition of that evidence could have an adverse effect on the
right to a fair hearing, and we recommend that it should be limited
to evidence of previous convictions (paragraph
- In relation to the same provisions, we do
not consider that irrelevant evidence should ever be admissible,
and we consider that the matter can be reliably clarified only
by amending clause 84 to ensure that the message is clear on the
face of the Bill (paragraph 18 above).
- We consider that clause 84, on rules governing
the ability of a defendant to adduce evidence of bad character
of a co-defendant as compared with the ability of the prosecution
to do so against a defendant, does not sufficiently avoid a risk
of inequality of arms contrary to the requirements of ECHR Article
6 (paragraph 21 above).
- In relation to provisions extending the admissibility
of hearsay evidence, we accept that the Government could legitimately
argue before the courts that the provisions would not necessarily
be incompatible in all cases with the right to a fair hearing
and the right to have witnesses examined, under ECHR Article 6.1
and 3(c) but we draw the attention of each House to the very narrow
range of circumstances in which it might, in our view, be proper
to convict a person on the basis of substantially unsupported
hearsay evidence (paragraph 30 above).
- We consider that refusing, under clauses 143
and 144, to give a copy of pre-sentencing reports to a child defendant
aged under 14 would be likely to lead to a violation of the child's
right to a fair hearing under ECHR Article 6 unless the court
is required to ensure that the child has independent legal representation,
at public expense if necessary, whenever the reports are being
withheld from the child, regardless of the views of the child's
parents. We recommend that clauses 143 and 144 should be amended
to make it clear to courts that they have a duty to make sure
that the child (paragraph 35 above).
- For the reasons given above in paragraphs
5 and 36 to 56, we consider that other provisions of the Bill
(including those relating to double jeopardy and the limitation
of the right to trial by jury) would not be likely to give rise
to a violation of Convention rights, although we recognize that
the proposals are highly controversial in terms of policy.