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Police Conduct (Complaints)

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

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asked the Attorney-General if, in the light of the recent Lannon case, he will now make available to interested parties the reports submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions by the police following complaints about police conduct.

Since the judge in the Lannon case ruled that the family had a right to see the police investigating officer's report in order to pursue a civil action, on what grounds, in equity, can the Attorney-General deny sight of such reports to other families, whether or not they decide to go for the elaborate and expensive procedure of instituting a civil action?

In the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the only claim for privilege was for profess- sional legal privilege. In other cases it may be necessary for the Director to consider whether he is to make a claim for privilege upon the class or contents grounds. The reasons for that were given in detail by the Director when he gave evidence before the Select Committee on Home Affairs on 14 February. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the full account. In summary—the reports are confidential—they contain views and opinions of the police officer making the report; the credibility of the witnesses is discussed together with, in some cases, their previous convictions. Details are also given about the suspected police officer which, if the Director decided not to proceed, could lead to a form of public trial without the safeguards of a trial in court. Those are strong public aspect reasons why it should not be a matter of course that section 49 reports should be published.

Is the Attorney-General aware of reports that the team under Commander Cass, which investigated the circumstances of the death of Blair Peach, was anxious—

Order. I wish to help the hon. and learned Gentleman and the House. Hon. Members will be aware that both the Blair Peach and the Kelly case are sub judice at the moment. No one in the House would want to seek to influence in any way the decisions of the coroner's court. It could have a serious effect on people later.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend had a chance to see a replay of the BBC television plays called "Law and Order"? If he has, can he think of any drama series that is more likely to undermine confidence in the police?

I have seen part of the series. I agree with my hon. Friend that it shows not only the police but lawyers and others concerned in the administration of justice in a very unfavourable light when that light is the exception to the rule rather than common form.