Clause 36 - Information for Director

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 5 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 6:00, 5 Chwefror 2002

It is appropriate to discuss disclosure in the light of the Bill. There is wide concern, especially among the legal profession in Northern Ireland, that a duty of disclosure will be placed on the police and the DPP to give information to the defence. A submission from the Law Society and comments by the Criminal Bar Association showed that those organisations were anxious that the duty should appear in the Bill. If it were to be included, it would be in the clause.

The review and the Government's response to it both kick the issue off to a law commission. Paragraph 4.143 of the review is about disclosure, and concludes that

''we believe that the present disclosure provisions should be reviewed and suggest in Chapter 14 that this might be one of the matters for consideration by a Law Commission.''

The subject is clearly of concern to the profession, and it has obviously been difficult to phrase a requirement on disclosure that could appear in the Bill satisfactorily. I have not been able to do so—I have not had sufficient time or resources—or I would have tabled an amendment on the subject. However, it is appropriate to flag up the issue in this clause stand part debate, and to ask the Government whether they actively considered a formula to meet the disclosure requirement sought by the legal profession.

There may be reasons for the Government to continue to resist such a formula, even after a law commission has considered it. However, it is appropriate to ask them where they stand on disclosure, as they seem to have taken a rather neutral position. The review found it difficult and kicked it off to a law commission. When matters are kicked off to commissions of any variety—law, royal or anything else—the ball disappears into extremely long grass. Frequently, it never returns to visibility. What is the Government's thinking on disclosure?