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The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): My Lords, a full statement was made by the prosecution in court last Friday and the facts of the case are already known. I have placed a copy of that statement in the Libraries of both Houses. The Crown Prosecution Service will be considering carefully the lessons of what has happened. But, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has stated, there is no need for an inquiry. It is important to recognise that this was a unique set of circumstances.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will be well aware that this case has aroused great public concern. Does he not feel that the best way to allay that concern would be to conduct as soon as possible a full and speedy investigation of the facts surrounding the case and to publish a report? Does he agree that many questions are not answered by the statement made by the prosecution and that they need to be answered? They include: when and by whom was the decision to prosecute made; was that decision kept under regular review once it had been taken; were the DPP or the Attorney-General involved in the review process and, if so, when; did the prosecution at any stage try to claim public interest immunity and, if so, for what material; and was the Crown Prosecution Service put under undue pressure by the police to proceed with the prosecution?
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble Lord has asked a large number of questions. I shall deal with those which are most important. First, he asked whether the case was kept under review. The answer is: absolutely. Leading counsel was instructed and in this case, as in any other, the prospects of success were kept under review by counsel and by the CPS. The noble Lord asked about the PII issue. There was never any question in my mind of withholding disclosure of the
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, why did not the police ask the Queen about the detail of the conversation with Burrell? Was my noble and learned friend consulted by the DPP prior to the decision to pull the case?
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, in my belief, neither the prosecution nor the police are to be criticised in any way for not approaching Her Majesty. The fact is that, in a detailed 39-page statement served by Mr Burrell on the police as a response to their questions, no mention was made of any meeting with Her Majesty. Earlier this year, he served a defence case statement, which is supposed to set out his general defence to identify what further things the prosecution should disclose. He gave an account of a meeting but did not indicate that he had told Her Majesty about this matter. So far as concerns my role, I was not asked to advise. I did not give a view as to whether the case should continue. I was kept informed, as I am in relation to high-profile cases, by a brief report provided to me on a monthly basis.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, as the other Lord Carlisle, QC, in this House, perhaps I may thank my namesake for the most welcome and substantial publicity that he has achieved for us both. But, on a serious note, perhaps I may put to the Attorney-General that the simple answer to the theories of conspiracy in this case is for him to accept, as I believe he does, and to state that this was merely a classic example of a case which, under full exposure of cross-examination in the Crown Court, collapsed, and collapsed to the extent that the prosecution felt it improper to continue.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on his new, second, career. I agree with what he said. This was an entirely proper way to proceed. The information having come to light, even though Mr Burrell had not mentioned it himself, it was proper for the prosecution to consider it, take it into account and take the decision as independent prosecutors. Leading counsel did so and it would not be proper to continue with the case.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, if there was no application for public interest immunity under the accepted procedure, what was the prosecutor doing locked together with the judge for a period of time?
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the prosecutor believed that it was right, and so did the judge because she agreed with it, to postpone disclosure in the public interest while further inquiries and a decision were being made as to the future conduct of the action. I believe it is right to describe that technically as a public interest immunity application. I do not believe that it is what most of us would think of as a public interest immunity applicationthat is, an attempt to keep back the evidence but continue with the trial. As I said, there was no question in my mind of keeping back that information and continuing with the trial.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General explain to the House whether there was ever any hard evidence that Mr Burrell had sold or intended to sell or dispose of for gain any of the items in question? If not, why was the prosecution brought?
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, clearly evidence of sale is not necessary in theft cases. Independent lawyers and independent leading counsel considered that there was proper evidence to proceed without evidence that property was ever sold. The principal plank of the case was that Mr Burrell had retained property for four years without apparently telling anyone that he had done so.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Amendments to Standing Order 40 are intended to give effect to our decision on 24th July to meet on Thursdays at 11 a.m. and to take Starred Questions at 3 p.m. Most of the other amendments were proposed by the Procedure Committee in the third and fifth reports. The amendment to Standing Order 47
Moved, That the Standing Orders relating to public business be amended as follows:Standing Order 37 (Short and time-limited debates) In paragraphs (1) and (2), leave out "Short Debate" and insert "balloted debate". Standing Order 40 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) In paragraph (1), at end insert ", except on Thursdays, when business other than Unstarred Questions may be entered before Starred Questions". In paragraph (3), at beginning insert "Subject to paragraph (1),". In paragraph (3), leave out "except Starred Questions". In paragraph (6) leave out "on a draft order laid under section 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 or". In paragraph (7), leave out ", (5) and (6)" and insert "to (6A)". Standing Order 47 (Commitment of bills)
"(1) After second reading, Bills are committed to a committee on a motion in the name of the Lord in charge of the Bill (except that in case of a Bill of Supply or a Bill certified by the Speaker as a Money Bill the House may order that the Bill be not committed.)"
(b) in the case of a draft order proposed to be made under section 1 of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, there has been laid before the House the report thereon of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee; and
(c) in the case of a draft remedial order or remedial order laid under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998, there has been laid before the House the report thereon of the Joint Committee on Human Rights:
In paragraph (1) after "Human Rights Act 1998" insert "and any draft order proposed to be made under section 1 of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, or any subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under that Act".(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)
On Question, Motion agreed to; it was ordered that a message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them with the amendment to Standing Order 51, and that the Standing Orders relating to Public Business be printed as amended. (HL Paper 189)
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