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Jermaine Baker

Volume 633: debated on Thursday 21 December 2017

2. What the timetable is for the Director of Public Prosecutions to complete her review of the charging decision in relation to the fatal shooting of Jermaine Baker; and if he will make a statement. (903064)

The Crown Prosecution Service is very conscious that the family of Jermaine Baker is waiting to hear the outcome of the review of the charging decision in relation to his death. Senior counsel has been instructed to advise on the case and the CPS anticipate that a final decision will be reached early in the new year.

I am very grateful to the Attorney General for that answer. He will understand that in a democracy there is nothing more serious than death as a result of police contact. This case has caused tremendous concern across my constituency and beyond in the wider black community. It is a very important decision and a number of lawyers up and down the country think, following the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s address, that this matter should come before a jury. I want it to be clear that the decision will be looked at very closely indeed by the wider country.

I understand what the right hon. Gentleman says. May I take this opportunity to pay tribute to him for his advocacy on behalf of the family? He will understand, however, that the decision was taken initially at the highest levels of the Crown Prosecution Service. Because of that, and because of the victims’ right to review process, it is right that external counsel is brought in to advise. That is taking the decision extremely seriously. That will mean, as he has already discovered, that the decision takes a little longer, but I think it is right that full attention is paid to that decision and he will hear about it in due course.

The charging process requires full and wholly objective analysis of all material held. I am sure the Attorney General will agree that the same applies to disclosure if charges are brought. Recent high-profile cases, together with the joint inspection report of the criminal justice agencies, have highlighted what the Attorney has called appalling failures in disclosure by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The Criminal Law Solicitors Association, in a review of its members, found the same. Given its significance, will the Attorney General ensure that the review he is carrying out, as announced by the Prime Minister, looks not just at the working practices but at the professional culture and the independence and objectivity of the Crown Prosecution Service in these matters? I add in parenthesis that I note it was an independently instructed member of the Bar, Mr Jerry Hayes, who was responsible for highlighting the clear failure of the Crown Prosecution Service and the police in this case.

It would be of great benefit to the House if there were placed in the Library without delay a copy of the just-delivered lecture by the hon. Gentleman.

Picking up on my hon. Friend’s last point first, he is right to highlight that all that went wrong in this case, and there was a great deal, highlighted what is good about the criminal justice system as well as what went wrong. We owe a debt of gratitude to those involved in the system, in whatever capacity, who exercise their judgment in such cases. That applies, of course, to this particular counsel.

On my hon. Friend’s wider point, he knows, because I have said it before, that my view is that these were indeed appalling failures of the criminal justice system. We need urgently to understand what went wrong in these particular cases, but we also, as he says, need to look more broadly at the question of disclosure, which has been an issue for some time. It relates to what people know they should be doing and how much information they are prepared to take account of, but it also relates to the challenges we face from a very large amount of electronic material and a very large number of cases. The systems need to be fit for purpose and the review I am undertaking will seek to ensure that they are.