asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will amend the law so as to allow judges in the Court of Appeal considering cases referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission to the Court of the Appeal for review as unsafe convictions to have the discretion to lift reporting restrictions on names of accusers as in the Crown Court. [HL204]
The question of whether reporting restrictions should be lifted by the Court of Appeal, in cases where a complainant has anonymity, is not limited to cases in which the Criminal Cases Review Commission refers a case to the court as a possible miscarriage of justice. It could, in principle, arise in any appeal against conviction for a sexual offence.
We are considering the relevant Court of Appeal judgment further and will make our views known in due course on whether the law requires amendment.
In 2002, the Government commissioned an independent evaluation report into the impact of Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. The final report was published in January 2006 and the findings and recommendations were sent to the senior judiciary and the Judicial Studies Board (the report can be found at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs06/rdsolr2006.pdf). The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, which is chaired by the Lord Chief Justice, has made new rules requiring applications to introduce evidence about a complainant's sexual behaviour to be in writing in advance of the trial. These rules came into force on 6 November 2006.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the application for compensation from the criminal injuries compensation scheme in the case of the accuser in the Warren Blackwell case was applied for as a victim of sexual assault or rape; and on what basis compensation was paid. [HL252]
Claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) are confidential as between applicants and the CICA. Ministers are specifically precluded by law (the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995) from involvement in individual cases.
Under the law, the CICA is exclusively responsible for the day-to-day administration of the scheme, for interpreting the scheme rules and for all decisions on individual cases.
The maximum sentence for the offence of rape is life imprisonment. Guidelines suggest a starting point of a five-year determinate sentence if the victim is an adult and there are no aggravating features. Martin Walsh was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of six years, equivalent to a 12-year determinate sentence. As Mr Walsh has been sentenced to life, he will be released after six years only if the independent Parole Board considers that is safe.
The Government are consulting on proposals to reform the way that minimum terms for those sentenced to life imprisonment are calculated. The consultation suggests options for making this process clearer to the public so as to deal with the misperception that all offenders will be released at the end of the minimum custodial term set by the judge. Many offenders sentenced to indeterminate sentences in practice spend significantly longer in prison than the minimum term specified.
We have already announced that we want judges to have more discretion so that they no longer have to reduce the sentence they impose by up to one-third for an early guilty plea, regardless of the circumstances. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is currently reviewing its guilty plea discount guideline.