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Volume 974: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1979

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4.10 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to clarify the law governing the conduct of jurors and former jurors outside the courtroom; and for connected purposes.

I remind the House that there is a case in which the New Statesman is involved concerning this subject. It is sub judice, and I know that the hon. Gentleman will seek to avoid it.

I know that many right hon. and hon. Members want to move on to the next business and make their speeches in that debate. Indeed, I count myself among them. Therefore, I shall confine my remarks to a minute or two.

The Bill has all-party support. It is designed to make disclosure of what happens in the jury room an offence, with certain exceptions as to public policy, and to make disclosure for financial reward a more serious offence than simple disclosure.

The jury is one of the great democratic institutions of our legal system. The House has a duty to take action to preserve the integrity of juries and not leave it to the courts.

As to the exceptions, I want simply to read one passage from Professor Glanville Williams's book "The Proof of Guilt":
"If such disclosures become a public evil they must be dealt with by Parliament, not by the judges inventing a new offence. … It is at least to be hoped that, if any action is taken to forbid disclosure of the jury's deliberations, exemption will be given for disclosure made on public grounds, or for the purpose of genuine enquiry into the jury system. The matter raises important problems of policy which cannot be settled by a simple prohibition of disclosure."
I do not want to say anything else, except to repeat that the Bill has widespread support.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Christopher Price, Mr. Arthur Davidson, Mr. Ivan Lawrence, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. David Mellor, Mr. Robin F. Cook and Miss Jo Richardson.


Mr. Christopher Price accordingly presented a Bill to clarify the law governing the conduct of jurors and former jurors outside the courtroom; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 30 November and to be printed [Bill 82].