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Drug Smuggling

Volume 86: debated on Monday 11 November 1985

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63.

asked the Attorney-General what criteria the Director of Public Prosecutions uses in determining whether to initiate prosecutions relating to alleged drug smuggling offences; and if he will make a statement.

The Director of Public Prosecutions takes the decision whether to prosecute in relation to drug offences on the basis of the general criteria for prosecution issued by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in February 1983, a copy of which is in the Library of the House of Commons. No special considerations apply, although the director regards any such offence as one of gravity.

Will the Solicitor-General tell us to what extent the criteria have been applied to the allegations in the Daily Mail of 24 August, which alleged that a high-ranking member of the Government was involved in cocaine smuggling? Can the Solicitor-General confirm or deny those allegations and put them to rest?

The Daily Mail was invited by the police to make available any evidence that might substantiate the story to which the hon. Gentleman refers. It was unable to do so. Neither I nor the director are aware of any evidence whatever that would substantiate the story.

Is the Solicitor-General aware that many hon. Members of this House, and certainly many members of the public, are very disturbed at the workings of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions? Frequently, good and proper evidence is put forward, but charges are abandoned, and lesser charges are brought. That disturbs the public, it disturbs people such as myself, and it certainly disturbs observers at the trials. Will the Solicitor-General, when he next talks to the DPP, ask him either to get his house in order or to resign?

I shall talk to the Director of Public Prosecutions at a quarter to four this afternoon, but I shall not put to him the suggestion that my hon. Friend has just made. My hon. Friend's question was rather long on generalities but singularly short on particulars. If he has any particular case in mind, I shall look at it very carefully.

May I ask the Solicitor-General a sensible supplementary question? In relation to drug offences, what is the procedure for deciding whether the Director of Public Prosecutions or the solicitor for Customs and Excise takes the decision whether to prosecute?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the director has power to call in any case that appears to be of considerable difficulty or gravity, just as any prosecuting authority has the power to refer such a case to the director. That will apply in the category of cases to which the hon. Gentleman refers. There may be cases in which drugs are involved, where statutory requirements oblige the director to take the decision himself, but the general position is as I have described it.