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Manslaughter

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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40.

asked the Attorney-General whether, in a case in which a coroner's jury has returned a verdict of manslaughter and magistrates have subsequently been satisfied by the evidence so as to commit a defendant for trial on that charge, he will instruct the Director of Public Prosecutions to cause a full explanation for offering no evidence to be given at the trial.

In any trial in which counsel instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions proposes to offer no evidence, it is the practice to explain to the court why such a course of action is justified, and the court has full opportunity to probe the matter further. I am not aware of any case in which this practice has not been followed.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that a young constituent of mine named Adam Grier died in hospital last year and that two tribunals subsequently decided that it was a case of manslaughter? Yet, at the trial, prosecuting counsel—against whom I make no criticism—bypassing the function of judge and jury, said that he offered no evidence. Does the Attorney-General know that the judge in that case said that the cause of death remained a mystery? In those circumstances, does he not feel that the public requires a fuller explanation of the reasons why no evidence is offered in a case of that kind, where there is so much public mistrust and disquiet—if only to avoid the charge of a cover-up?

I know the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers and I have looked into it very carefully. I have read the opinion of counsel and also the proceedings before the learned judge. It was a case which depended very much on highly technical medical factors, and counsel gave what seemed to me to be a very clear opinion. They certainly put the matter carefully before the learned judge. The learned judge had the opportunity, which he took, to probe the matter and was, as I read the transcript, satisfied with the evidence