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Jury Cases (Newspaper Reports)

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to prevent the publication of newspaper reports of cases committed for trial by jury until after the jury's verdict has been given.

No, Sir. I have no reason to think that in cases in which a fair trial seems likely to be prejudiced by newspaper reports the powers of the courts to punish for contempt are insufficient.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British juries always desire to be impartial, but that their impartiality can be greatly strained by having read the committal proceedings, which generally contain only the prosecution case and often contain evidence which is inadmissible at the trial? In those circumstances, will he remember, bearing in mind the small area from which juries often have to be chosen, that it is a matter which sometimes causes injustice by imposing such a strain on the jury?

No, Sir. I should have thought that the directions of the judge and the proceedings of the trial would bring home to the jury their responsibility for judging on the evidence. I do not like the idea of introducing at any stage unnecessary secrecy into criminal procedure.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the public can eventually get the whole of the evidence, but that they must wait for it until after the conviction or acquittal, if this suggestion is accepted?

I am quite certain that if a case was not committed for trial as a result of proceedings which took place in secret, there might be insinuations which would be very harmful to the tradition of British justice.