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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, with respect to the noble and learned Lord, I understood him to be saying that there was a complaint made against the general practitioner, a charge was brought and the defendant was held in custody for a week. This was presumably imposed by a court, which must mean there was a charge. If a charge had been imposed, then all that can be reported is that which was referred to in court and that which would not prejudice a fair trial. I am not sure what particular part of the process the noble and learned Lord is complaining aboutit is all post-charge as I understand the noble and learned Lord's case.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I cannot be categoric on that because I am anxious that the person concerned at least has anonymity in this Chamber. However, there is nothing to stop the public being aware of what has happened. The wife herself could have complained.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, in addition to the guidance issued by ACPO, the Attorney-General, speaking at an event earlier this year, acknowledged the existence of the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice and said that he had issued further guidance to editors.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. The editor of one of our tabloid newspapers recently gave evidence before the Home Office Select Committee and said that her newspaper had paid money to police officers for information. It is well known that there are leaks from the police, particularly when the people involved have
Whatever the guidance is from the police and the Press Complaints Commission or from the Attorney-General, none of it works. There needs to be pre-charging anonymity. Once a charge is made, it should go to the traditional position. Perhaps the Minister might consider anonymity before a charge is made. This is because of the terrible impact on lives as has been described.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, what the noble Baroness describes is a practice between the police and the press not just in relation to sex offences but in relation to all investigations. It is made absolutely clear by the Association of Chief Police Officers and by my right honourable friend the Attorney-General that this should not happen. This is not the Bill in which to introduce any provision to cover this sort of matter. It is a matter for consideration in another context and in relation to another Bill.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. Since we are dealing with this Bill and sexual offences in particular, what policy objection could there be to adopting the approach of the noble baroness, Lady Kennedy, and giving statutory safeguards for the pre-trial stage but not for the trial stage? Given that the Government's position is "it is happening in practice already"or should be happening according to guidelines although that is not what always happenswhat possible objection would there be to an amendment that dealt only with pre-trial in the context of this Bill?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, first, I do not want to single out a particular sort of offence. Secondly, the question of pre-charge anonymity has not been canvassed with the wide range of people who should be canvassed before any such change is made. For those reasons I respectfully submit it is not remotely appropriate to deal with it in this Bill.
With the greatest of respect, there is no analogy to be drawn with the fact that people who are complainants in sexual offences have anonymity and the fact that in relation to the pre-charge position relating to sexual offences there must be a special rule.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, again the right course is for me to send noble Lords a copy of the guidance issued by ACPO. I think it is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth implies, a matter for guidance
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord referred to the guidance issued last November. Soon after that a well-known entertainer, Matthew Kelly, was dragged through the papers in an unfortunate way. He was dragged from his pantomime performance and it was in the press within five minutes. This was on the back of the guidance being issued. I happen to know this because his wife is involved in charitable affairs in my diocese. I know the impact on him and his family. Unless the guidance the Association of Chief Police Officers has issued is given some teeth, it is not worth the paper it is written on.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, this is not an appropriate issue to be dealt with simply in relation to sex offences. I respectfully submit that it is an issue to be dealt with by reference to guidance and not by the creation of what would be a special offence, which is what is being proposed here.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, this is not the procedure the Government are following in relation to Clause 73 in this Bill. That clause introduces a new offence of violating a corpse without, as far as I can see, tackling the many other ways people can violate the corpse or memory of somebody. Indeed, it is an offence for which the noble Lord could produce no actual instances. In this Bill, the Government are introducing something which is special to sexual offences and which does not relate to the wider and more common instances of similar offencesindeed, the question of the lady who was covered in bacon is in the news again today.
The Government are already dealing with an offence which is a general one but introducing it in this Bill as a specific offence just because this Bill is limited to sexual offences, in this case involving a corpse. If the Government are doing it in Clause 73, they can do it elsewhere.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, sexual penetration of a corpse should be appropriately dealt with in the Sexual Offences Bill. What people are talking about here is the practice in relation to pre-charge publicity and where information for pre-charge publicity comes to the press. That is a much bigger topic than simply in relation to sex offences.
The amendment as tabled deals only with the post-charge position. We believe it wrong that anonymity should be given to defendants in relation to that. In relation to the pre-charge position, the amendment raises issues much wider than the Sex Offences Bill which we respectfully submit are better dealt with by guidance.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, my noble and learned friend has done nothing to encourage me to withdraw my amendment. For 12 years this anonymity was enjoyed. I have heard nothing to suggest that during those 12 years there were occasions when it worked to the disadvantage of justice. I have not limited my request to pre-trial because pre-trial is only part of the issue.
If there had been a ray of generosity, which one sometimes associates with my noble and learned friend, and he was prepared to give way on that, I would reluctantly have withdrawn my amendment. But as I cannot achieve even that, I am forced to ask for that which I have tabled. It may perhaps be a novel occasion for him, but I ask to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.