|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Lyell: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord who has just regaled us with what I regard as an excellent speech--I am grateful to him for that--may care to wind his memory back 15 years when he carried out two other duties that he has not mentioned to your Lordships. First of all, from the Opposition Bench, when he "fine-toothcombed"--if I may put it that way--my efforts, together with my noble friend Lord Mansfield, to put through your Lordships' House the 1980 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill. The noble and learned Lord made one or two comments at the outset of his remarks which were fairly complimentary towards this particular measure; but 17 years ago the noble and learned Lord was on this side of the House and giving me instruction,
If I take the noble and learned Lord back 15 years, he may remember the 1980 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill on which his excellent and kind colleague Lord Ross of Marnock gave me and my noble friend Lord Mansfield a fairly harsh time--making the current Front Bench Opposite appear mere tabby cats--over the problem of attempting to calm the alcoholic hooligans at Scotland's football grounds. I was looking at this debate just yesterday, and there is column after column after column from Lord Ross of Marnock on how we would be acting oppressively and would remove the rights of individuals. The noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, attempted to calm the flow from Lord Ross. But--surprise, surprise!--over the years when I have attended football games in Scotland--I am sure the noble Lords, Lord Ewing and Lord Carmichael, have attended football matches and the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, told me he attended such a game at the weekend--policemen and the police authorities have said that the 1980 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act has achieved exactly what it was intended to achieve with minimal disturbance.
I am going back 15 years but I am delighted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, will be able to give us the benefit of his advice and his practical experience over the remaining stages of the Bill. It seems to me that this Bill is in the nature of a consolidating Bill and tries to encapsulate several reports and thoughts of the Law Commission and the legal fraternity in Scotland. I have three points to which I hope my noble and learned friend can respond either tonight or later in writing.
My first point concerns Clause 16 and forensic scientists. I was interested to note in subsection (4) that a forensic scientist is authorised to do certain things and, in subsection (4) (b) (i), "is a constable". I am interested to note that it appears that members of the police force are sufficiently qualified in this rather complicated science to be forensic scientists for the purpose of major criminal investigations. I hope my noble and learned friend can give me some advice as regards the qualifications that are required under Clause 16(4) (b) (i). To what level do these individuals require to be qualified, and where do they carry out their work? How many individuals are we thinking of--a handful, 50 or even 100?
Secondly, I studied Clause 20 which concerns video recordings. At first sight I thought this was dealing with video recordings of suspects being questioned; but on closer examination, I found that my fears were virtually allayed although I hope my noble and learned friend will give me clarification that the evidence which is available on the video recordings is adequate for the purposes of proof in the criminal courts.
Thirdly, Clause 26 concerns what we call the right to silence. I am afraid that I have not been able to understand the entire output of the 1975 Act; but I understand that that Act of 1975--let alone Clause 26--follows on from what I believe was known as the
Finally, I congratulate my noble and learned friend and the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, who is not in his place, who are all practitioners of what I believe to be the best legal system in the world. I believe that this Bill, with any imperfections that we or Members in another place will attempt to iron out, will make a useful step in the progress of that legal system. I have had experience of the office of my noble and learned friend, and it is ready to give Members of your Lordships' House or of another place the opportunity to have a simple Bill--I believe the sinister words here are, "if government time allows"--with government support but the work has to be done by Back-Benchers. I believe the law can be tidied up. My time is up as regards this Bill and I look forward to hearing what my noble and learned friend has to say.
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, this Bill is highly technical. I have listened to the speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, and my noble friend Lord Macaulay of Bragar, and of the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey. I am not sure whether there is another title for a High Court judge other than noble and learned. As a layman, I am sure the House will realise the difficulty I experience in trying to reply to a debate such as this. However, I am sure that we will have an interesting Committee stage in which my education as regards the law will progress further.
There are one or two points in the Bill I wish to deal with. My only connection with some of the matters we are discussing is that I was for a number of years the honorary chairman of SACRO in Scotland. I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will have received briefs from SACRO, as I have, and will have considered a suitable response. One of the matters that has been referred to in a number of the contributions to this debate is that of resources. It is said that the costs will be roughly balanced. I wonder whether we can look forward to a time when resources will cover the costs of the courts, and of the prosecution--almost certainly the costs of the
Some of the points that I should like to raise have already been mentioned. However, I have been involved in the issues in my earlier role with SACRO. One of those questions is the handling of miscarriages of justice, a matter which was dealt with very well by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey. The disturbing feature of the issue of miscarriages of justice is that the stage has almost been reached when people believe there has been a miscarriage of justice; there has been so much publicity of cases in England that if someone puts up a reasonable case, the general public--and sometimes the press and media--believe that there may be something in it. Therefore, there must be a clear examination to debunk any supposed miscarriage of justice. That must be transparent. That is an important point for the future and for the sake of justice in Scotland.
SACRO was also concerned about bail. None of the issues relating to bail was raised during the consultation process. Some of the measures appear to have been brought in almost as a "get tough" policy towards offenders, an afterthought in response to a perception that those on bail do not take the conditions of bail seriously. While I was involved with SACRO, Lothian Region in partnership with SACRO, introduced a pilot project, with funding from the Scottish Office, offering bail information, supervision and accommodation to those on bail. That worked rather well. The project was aimed at reducing the number of remands into custody. It demonstrates that that approach is effective. So far as I know, the project is continuing. In the view of those involved with the scheme it would be preferable to increase the funding for such projects rather than to encourage more remands into custody when that has already proved to have disastrous consequences for young people, and particularly the vulnerable young people. No one would doubt that there is a group of young people for whom custody for a period and in certain conditions may be appropriate; but in the case of many young people it would almost certainly be better to have well supervised bail, which of course involves some cost.
Breaching bail is already deemed an offence in Scotland in its own right. That is harsher than the situation in England. Clause 2 represents a further harshening which is not in keeping with the present practice of extending bail on a presumption of innocence.
Catching the eye of the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, perhaps I may respond to his comments about football. I should like to correct him. I believe that the measure that he mentioned resulted from the report of the late Frank McElhone. It was a very progressive move. As a regular football supporter, I deplore the amount of drink which is consumed outside the ground. It is quite appalling. I was going to say that it is almost like this noble House on a busy night, such as during the Maastricht debate. People stand outside the doors before going in. The situation is very bad in places like Maryhill Road, Parkhead and Ibrox when there is a big football match. The amount of drinking is excessive. But there is none in the ground. That is very important, quite apart from the fact that there are no cans or bottles to throw. In addition, perhaps by the time people go into the ground some of the effect of the drink has worn off. However, there is still far too much drinking in Scotland. I do not know whether the noble Lord would like to intervene at this point, but I felt that I had to put the record straight in case the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, had put the wrong slant on the matter.
In SACRO we also introduced mediation schemes under which the accused discusses with the victim the consequences of his actions. In the case of violence, particularly violence on the spur of the moment, it may be possible to make the person who had committed an offence rethink and have some contrition if he faces the person who was the victim of his violence. I do not believe that anyone is beyond some form of redemption and I believe that the scheme may be of some help.
There is another debate here this evening on a rather different subject--the United Kingdom motor coach industry. It could hardly be further from the very serious subject that we are discussing now. With those words and the promise of a very good Committee stage, I should like to hear the reply of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page