When the Frank Beck trial was over, Janner was welcomed back to the House of Commons. He had a standing ovation earlier in the day (see above) and following is the adjournment debate later that day, which some will no doubt wish were not on the record.
I think it is probably useful to have that record on this blog from Hansard 
Many who spoke in defence of the child abuser, should of course have been defending the innocent children raped by this man. Their constituencies around Leicester filled with childrens homes where sexual abuse was routine. 
Interesting contributions from Greville Janner himself, Keith Vaz, David Ashby, Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark, Mr. Michael Latham, Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo, Sir John Farr, Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody, Mr. Simon Burns, Mr. Merlyn Rees, Mr. Patrick Cormack, Mr. Alex Carlile, Mr. Ivan Lawrence, Mr. Roland Boyes, Mr. John Marshall, Mr. Derek Foster.
Thankfully the Solicitor-General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, resisted the calls for attempts at change, and he is maybe the only one who comes out of this with any credit.
HANSARD 3 December 1991 → Commons Sitting → Orders of the Day
Contempt of Court
HC Deb 03 December 1991 vol 200 cc223-42 223 § Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Nicholas Baker.] 8.58 pm
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I rise to raise the subject of the operation of the law on contempt of court.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House would have wished to be in the Chamber and perhaps to speak in the debate, but, because the Government’s business has been dealt with with more rapidity than they would have expected, they will be disappointed.
I am aware that a former colleague and writer on a national paper would have
wished me to use my words with great care, but during the past few weeks Leicestershire
has experienced the most horrific trial. I do not wish to deal with that trial, but
something happened in the course of it which has astounded people and made them want to look again at the way in which we conduct ourselves and our trials in court.
In the course of that trial, one of the defendants, the major defendant, an
evil man, chose to use the name of an honoured colleague in the House entirely for his own
ends. He was determined, I think, to try to blackmail the—I almost put it in quotation
I think that the defendant felt that, by naming persons who were in public
life and putting them forward as people from whom children had to be defended—this was a child abuse case —he might frighten the authorities into not prosecuting or not pursuing
the prosecution with the vigour that one might have expected. The defendant was wrong
about that. He should have known that in Britain we conduct our prosecutions independently and fairly.
The defendant could not achieve his objective, but he sought to do so during
the course of the trial, and anything said in the course of a trial is not subject to the
laws of slander or libel when it is reported in newspapers. It was spread throughout the
newspapers the length and breadth of the country, on the radio and on television.
The problem is that a person in that position has no way of defending his good
name. If that person were immediately to issue a statement, which is the very least that
one would expect could be done, he or she would be in contempt of court. The jury has to
decide the case, and if anyone issued a statement denying that a witness or person is
telling the truth, that would be a contempt of court. It would be interfering with the
course of justice. It could be said that it would be trying to influence the jury to
disbelieve the person who made the statement. So that person is in a hopeless and helpless
When such events happen so close to home, it strikes most hon. Members that
this is an unjust and unfair procedure. There cannot be any justice in a person being
pilloried, taken from pillar to post, by the press, when people are looking at him
askance. The hon. Member concerned has not even been able to deny the allegations. He has not even been able to say that they are untrue. It affects himself and his family, and it
must be a living hell.
Because that has happened to an hon. Member does not mean that it will not
happen and has not happened to others who are not in the House. That is a danger into
which any one of us could fall, and there is no way that one could stop it happening.
I recognise that, during any trial, it is absolutely necessary that the
defendant and witnesses should be free to give evidence—because
if constraints were placed on them in that regard, it could not be a fair trial. Mr. Beck
was certainly given a fair trial—and a run for his money.
Having said that, there ought to be a way of excluding gratuitous evidence
affecting those who cannot protect themselves from newspaper, television, and radio
coverage of a trial—such as is done in the case of rape victims.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
§ Mr. Ashby
In most cases, I hope. I thought that, these days, such protection was given
almost without exception. In blackmail cases—the trial to which I referred earlier was a
form of blackmail—the judge directs that the name of the blackmailer’s victim should not
be disclosed in open court, but instead it is written down and presented to the court in
That is a case in which the judge has a discretion—but I am not sure that the
judge would always want to have that discretion. In any event, the identity of an
individual who has no opportunity to defend himself should not be disclosed by the media.
That would not affect the trial. Witnesses would be permitted to say what they wanted
without fear or favour, but the innocent person would be protected.
It would require only a small clause in the next Criminal Justice Bill to
provide that protection. Such a provision would be well in keeping with the most excellent
policy of this Government of protecting the innocent. which has extended to withholding
the identity of rape victims, and of children giving evidence in child abuse cases. We
have a good history of improving the processes in our courts, of ensuring that injustices
do not occur.
Needless to say, there must be justice for the defendant, and for the public,
in terms of the defendant being properly prosecuted—but there must be justice also for
innocent people who find themselves caught up in a trial and unable to control what is
said about them. That would be well in keeping with everything that we have said over the
years. Such an improvement should take place in our criminal justice system.
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General and my
right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office will consider that it is time that
their respective Departments started devising such a provision, so that it will be ready
for the next Criminal Justice Bill and that further dreadful injustices will not be
I refer to the Member of Parliament for Leicester, West —as has my hon. Friend
the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham)—as my hon. and learned Friend. There have been times when we were adversaries, and we fought tooth and nail in this very Chamber when I first entered Parliament—but outside it, we are friends. In this Chamber, and on this matter, I call him my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). I say that he and his family should not have been subjected to the ordeal that they were, and that we should strive to ensure decency in the courts in future.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Many hon. Members have a great regard for our hon. and learned colleague, the
Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), with the accent on “honourable”. Many of us are
not lawyers—happily, or unhappily for our pockets—so will my hon. Friend confirm that any wretched creature, such as this awful man who lampooned and libelled our good colleague, can say whatever they like 225 about any of us, yet if
we defend ourselves we are in contempt of court? If that is so, I am sure that the House
and the other place will want to sweep it to one side straight away. It is a calumny that
none of us should have to put up with.
§ Mr. Ashby
I thought that I had made it clear. Joe Bloggs, who may never have visited
Cornwall, could go to Bodmin court and make what statements he wished about someone. It would increase the sentence, but when someone is facing a life sentence, or five life
sentences, it does not make much difference.
I wish to draw my remarks to a close, so that other hon. Members may speak in
this important debate.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr.
Ashby) for his friendship, for his kindness and especially for his courtesy in arranging
this important debate. In the House, the enemy is sometimes behind one, but on this
occasion it does not exist, and I am immensely grateful.
The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West eloquently explained the laws
on contempt and how they rightly protect those who are on trial. Wrongly, that law too
often leaves those who are not on trial, but whose good names are unjustifiably savaged in
court, totally unprotected. That is wrong.
Anyone involved in a trial can make any allegations they wish about anyone
else—provided that the judge cannot disallow them as irrelevant—however harmful,
horrendous and vile the lies may be. Those whose representations are attacked are
forbidden even to deny the allegations. To do so would be a criminal offence—contempt of
As the House knows, Frank Beck of Leicester was convicted of a series of
filthy and most serious crimes and received what must be a near record sentence—five life
terms and a total of 24 years’ imprisonment. He called Paul Winston as a witness. Long
ago, when Winston was a deprived youngster living in a Leicestershire children’s home, my family and I tried, unsuccessfully, to help him. Soon after, he was placed in a home run
by Beck. After 15 years of Beck’s influence—including a period when Winston lodged in
Beck’s private home—and after I had refused to provide Beck with references and shortly
before Beck’s trial was due to begin, they combined to make disgraceful, contemptible and
totally untrue allegations of criminal conduct against me.
Their motive was made blazingly clear by a letter that I received only
yesterday from a former cellmate of Beck’s. I do not know the man, but he took it on
himself to communicate with me. He writes that Beck told him that he—Beck —was going to frame me. According to Beck, that would take the light off him. To that end, Beck had
enlisted the help of Winston. The former cellmate also wrote that the police knew that he
was willing to give evidence to that effect if the Crown thought it necessary to call him.
In the event, it did not, but the allegations against me were precisely as the prosecution
alleged in Beck’s trial —an attempted diversion from the reality of Beck’s guilt. Both
verdict and sentence showed—happily—that the attempt failed totally.
However, is it not horrendous that Beck and Winston were able to make such
terrible and lying accusations against me in court and that the media could, and with
honourable exceptions did, report these falsehoods, all under the cloak of absolute
privilege? I had effectively no legal rights in the matter, and I was not allowed even to
nail the lies. No wonder many people were mystified by my uncharacteristic silence —it was imposed by the cruel operation of the rules on contempt.
Happily, I am a fairly tough character. I have been able to ride out the agony
on this ordeal in good heart. But it has not been easy. As a Member of Parliament, I am
now well placed to fight back. That would not have applied to any of our constituents or
to any other citizens placed by law in this impossible and unjust situation.
The injustice was both apparent and real. It imposed a special burden on my
wife, on my children, on my mother and my sister and on all my family. I pay my loving
tribute to them for their staunch and cheerful support during our shared ordeal. I also
thank the many hundreds of people who have so kindly written, spoken to or telephoned us
to express their affectionate encouragement. Several of them were themselves victims of
Frank Beck. I salute their courage and send them my profound sympathy. We ourselves have received nothing but kindness, confidence and concern. We are very grateful. We are deeply blessed with our friends, not least those on both sides of the House and our friends in Leicester, West.
Surely there should now be a swift review of these injustices in our law and
its practice. Surely it must be wrong for people who have no part in a trial to be open to
venomous, preposterous attacks, with no remedy, no recompense and, above all, no right of
reply. Surely others should not be forced to suffer as we have done. If such a review does
lead to a just and useful alteration in the operation of the law of contempt, we shall not
have suffered in vain.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)
It is a privilege to follow the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West
(Mr. Janner), who has given distinguished service to the city and county of Leicester and
Leicestershire for more than 21 years in this House. He has made it clear—yesterday and
today—that there is absolutely no truth in the horrible allegations that were made against
him in the Beck trial. The House, of course, immediately and unreservedly accepts that
statement from him. It extends to him its affection and sympathy in the abominable ordeal which he, his beloved wife Myra and all his family have endured for so long.
The hon. and learned Gentleman’s many friends in Leicestershire, of which I am
very proud to count myself one, and indeed anyone in Leicestershire who knew anything
about the matter, never believed any of the repulsive muck for one moment. However, it
grieved us greatly that he had to endure it, and that there was no way in which he could
clear his name and answer the vile accusations without prejudicing the trial of Beck.
There must be a better system than that. Any public figure—indeed, any private
figure—could find himself or herself trapped for months in the same nightmare as the hon. and learned Gentleman.
The House has a proud record of friendship and of closing ranks, irrespective
of party allegiance, around 227 those of its Members
who are unjustly attacked or threatened. I hope that that day has now dawned for the hon.
and learned Member for Leicester, West after the long night of despair, but we should now, as a matter of urgency, examine the existing procedures to ensure that such a horrible event, without any redress for those who have been so long and so unjustly traduced, can never happen again.
§ Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)
I first met my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr.
Janner) when, at his invitation, I came to the House with his son to see how Parliament
operated. I would not have believed that a few years later I would have been selected as
the prospective parliamentary candidate for Leicester, East, and would be his neighbour.
I am delighted to be here today to give my hon. and learned Friend my full
support. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) cannot be here
today because of his parliamentary duties in Northern Ireland, but he joins me in
believing my hon. and learned Friend to be the victim of a cowardly and wicked attack by
people who simply did not care what damage they did to him or to anyone else. I too wish
to extend my good wishes to my hon. and learned Friend’s wife and family, and to all his
friends, who I know have stood by him during these terrible months. They have shared that terrible burden.
My hon. and learned Friend is a distinguished Member for Leicester, West. His
family in intertwined with the history of the city of Leicester. Before he was elected in
1970, his father was the Member for Leicester, West. The people of his constituency do not
believe the lies. They are with him now, and they will be with him in the future, because
they know of his unstinting service to anyone who approaches him, for whatever cause. He
has vindicated himself, and all of us, in what he has said tonight.
I remember a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood
(Ms. Short), who is another brave Member of the House who has suffered at the hands of a
certain newspaper. I worked in the corridor where she had her office, and we Miss her in
the west cloisters—especially her use of our fax machine. I recall that, just before her
speech, my hon. Friend went through an agonising time wondering whether she should come before the House to tell it what she felt. Courageously, she did so—and struck a blow for every one of us in the House.
My hon. and learned Friend, too, is a brave man in what he has done, said and
endured over the past weeks and months. Every one of us should be grateful to him,
because, as the hon. Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) and for Leicestershire,
North-West (Mr. Ashby) said, what has happened to my hon. and learned Friend could happen to any one of us, so we should all be aware of it.
During the course of that terrible ordeal, I suggested to the Lord Chancellor
that there should be a change in the law to provide for the protection of the innocent.
The Lord Chancellor said that he would consider the idea. The Solicitor-General is here
today, and I make him an offer. I came 18th in the ballot for private Members’ Bills. I
know that that is not very high —and there are other subjects that I wish to raise.
Nevertheless, I would happily introduce a Bill to cover the
point if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would promise it a safe passage through the
We should not wait for another Criminal Justice Bill. There is parliamentary
time, and we should get on with the job. I foresee that many unscrupulous people in this
country would be prepared to do exactly the same thing again. If it is possible to do so,
I will happily give the Solicitor-General my place.
§ Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I join in the comments made so
far. I am drawn 15th in the ballot. I have already tabled a Bill to provide for the
innocent victims of sexual offences. It may be possible, if the Bill receives an unopposed
Second Reading, for an amendment in Committee to address the point. I hope that it may be so.
§ Mr. Vaz
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Is there any improvement on 15th?
The great thing about my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester,
West is that he is a great survivor. Almost alone in some cases, he has taken up great
causes and won them. I listened to one of the greatest speeches that I have ever heard in
the Chamber when my hon. and learned Friend spoke during the passage of the War Crimes
Bill. I was very moved by what he said. He is a survivor, and I am sure that he will
survive this great ordeal. I and colleagues will be with him, and the people of Leicester,
West, whom he and his family have served so well over the past few decades, will also be
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
I support all that has been said about the hon. and learned Member for
Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). I have probably known him as long as any hon. Member of any party has. I knew, admired and respected his father, who was a distinguished Labour
Member, as his son is today.
I support all that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West
(Mr. Ashby) said about the law and about the need for change. I support all that has been
said by Labour lawyers about the law being an ass. It is an ass, and in this case, it has
been very damaging to the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West and to his family.
It is wrong. We have the opportunity and ability to put the law right simply in this
I can probably say with more licence than many others here that this will not
be the first time or the last time that the law in Britain has been an ass and has been
proved to be an ass. We have an opportunity to put it right tonight, and I am pleased to
be associated with the tribute to the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West and to
his family. They must never be subject to such a threat again.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
The price that many hon. Members pay for their service in the House is
frequently high. It is not always appreciated by those who do not closely understand the
enormous pressures that are put not only on Members of Parliament, but on their families.
I have had the honour of knowing my hon. and learned Friend the Member for
Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) for many years. I knew his father and mother before him. I
could almost say that I grew up with my hon. and learned Friend, except
that he is far younger than I am. That means that I know him not only as an extremely
upright, tolerant and charming man, but as a man who is trusted by people in all walks of
life. He is trusted not only in his constituency and in the House, but by anyone in need
of succour and support. Such a person can always go to my hon. and learned Friend and find understanding, tolerance and a real effort to help alleviate whatever difficulty that
I feel especially strongly about the ordeal that my hon. and learned Friend
and his family have suffered because my own family went through a similar ordeal many
years ago. People outside the House who, like myself, are not lawyers find it almost
impossible to understand the byzantine intricacies of what people can and cannot do.
One of the frightening aspects of modern political life is the tremendous
power in the hands of the press. Anyone could have found themselves in my hon. and learned Friend’s position. The terrifying quality of the real and long travail that my hon. and learned Friend and his family have suffered was made 100,000 times worse by the behaviour of certain members of the press. As Members of Parliament we are never allowed to say the odd word of criticism of a free press because it is somehow felt that there is an interrelationship and a need for elected Members to get their views over.
That is true, but it is also true that those who seek to divert attention from
their own open evil know that if they nominate or mention in a court case someone who is
of interest to the press they will automatically receive publicity of a strength, breadth
and constancy that they would not succeed in getting in any other way. Those who purport
to be editors of responsible newspapers, news bulletins and television newscasts have a
task to look carefully at the decisions they take and the manner in which they handle such
It is no accident that it has taken a long time to take this case to court,
and it is no accident that a long time passed before my hon. and learned Friend could make
a statement and clear his name. All those things were aggravated, exploited and made
100,000 times worse by those who behaved as they did for the worst possible
reasons—because they were concerned with the sale of newspapers and not with what they
were doing to an honourable, learned and responsible man.
I hope that the House will seek to protect anyone who finds himself or herself
in that position. I remember what it did to my family when they were named in a case many years ago and were unable to reply. I remember what that cost in personal unhappiness. It is too high a price for anyone who gives a commitment to this House as an elected Member.
My hon. and learned Friend is a man of such stature that I can only pay tribute to him and
give him one promise—that those of us who honour his friendship and look forward to
enjoying his company for many years will not tell all Members of the House of Commons how many letters we have in our personal files signed, “Love, Greville”.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)
I am not a lawyer, so unfortunately I cannot speak with the eloquence of
someone who is familiar with the law, but I can speak as a layman who has been disgusted
in recent weeks by the press coverage and the pillorying of an innocent victim mentioned
in a court case. Justice should be seen to be done in a court case, but where is the
justice in British law when an innocent individual who is not even a party in the case can
be dragged through the court and vilified day after day by someone who remains in the
gutter? There is something inherently wrong when British justice condones that state of
affairs and allows it to happen and to persist.
As hon. Members have mentioned, the hon. and learned Member for Leicester,
West (Mr. Janner) is in a position to try to do something about the grave injustice
inflicted upon him and his family, because he is a Member of this House. As my hon.
Friends have said, there are probably thousands of other people outside who have similarly had their names defamed and their private lives wrongly dragged through the courts and into the newspapers. They are the little people. They do not have the power or the backing to get the justice that they, too, rightly and richly deserve.
Something must be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire,
North-West (Mr. Ashby) mentioned rape and blackmail cases. If it is possible in a British
court for names not to be mentioned in such cases, why on earth cannot something be done to change the law so that innocent bystanders do not have to have their names dragged through the courts? I believe that that protection is long overdue, and this case has highlighted the fact more than many in recent years.
It is a sad fact of life that there are, unfortunately, people who believe
everything they read in the newspapers. I am afraid that by many people in this country
the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West has been found guilty. They do not
understand what reporting on the courts in a newspaper is all about. They see an
accusation in the newspaper and take it as a fact; or it is a case, of “no smoke without
fire”, to use that dreadfully trite expression. We all know that it is not true, but for
far too many people it is true and they believe it.
I hope that two things will come out of this debate. It has provided an
opportunity for the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West for the first time to
state the truth and to clear his name of these despicable accusations, so I hope that the
newspapers which were ready to give as much coverage as they saw fit to the case when it
was going on will tomorrow morning make sure that the hon. and learned Member for
Leicester, West gets just as much coverage so that people are left in no shadow of a doubt
that there was not one scintilla of truth in the ghastly, grubby accusations that that
horrendous man was prepared to make under the cloak of privilege in a court of law.
I should like to say one thing to my right hon. and learned Friend the
Solicitor-General, who is present tonight. I am sure that many other hon. Members would
say the same. Surely there is now an overriding need not only to examine and look again at
this aspect of the law and of our court proceedings, and not just to think about it but
actually to do something. Something should be done quickly, though not in such a hurry
that it fails to solve the problem, so that never again will anyone have to go
231 through the sort of nightmare that the hon. and learned Member for
Leicester, West and his poor, suffering family have had to go through. If something can be
done quickly, it will not make it all worth while, but it will right a great wrong.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
I rise to speak briefly—principally, like so many others, because of my high
regard for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) and his family, whom I know, including his father and mother. But that would not be enough, and I wish to make two further points.
In recent years—since the televising of the House, I suppose—people have asked
me, as they have asked other hon. Members, why the House of Commons behaves so badly, like a bunch of yobs. One tries to explain that it happens on the odd occasion, at Question Time, which is not a great parliamentary occasion, and that is what the media pick up.
What the media, whether television or the press, never pick up is an occasion such as
this, when the House of Commons is at its best in terms of the relationships between
people in all parts of the House.
I wonder to what extent this debate will be reported. If we were all shouting
at one another, the media would be here. What the hon. Member for Leicestershire,
North-West (Mr. Ashby) has done tonight, and what other hon. Members on both sides of the
House have done, although in this respect principally on the Conservative Benches, is to
their credit and to the credit of Parliament.
My second point is this. My hon. and learned. Friend the Member for Leicester,
West has had his name in all the newspapers, and in one newspaper in particular. My right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will be dealing with the question of
contempt. I hope that he will not forget the newspapers, in particular. I wonder how many
of them will fill their pages tomorrow or the day after in the way they have done in the
past few weeks. There is a great deal of talk about freedom of the press. When I think of
what went on in eastern Europe, and in fascist Europe before the war, when I was younger,
I am glad that we have a free press.
§ Ms. Short
We do not have a free press.
§ Mr. Rees
We have a press that is free in one sense: it engages sometimes in the most
scurrilous reporting and colours it up under the heading of a free press. I wonder what
the press will do about this matter in the next few days. With a few exceptions, I suspect
that it will do very little.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
I am delighted to take part briefly in the debate. The hon. and learned Member
for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). whom I am pleased to call my hon. and learned Friend,
and I entered the House on the same day, and we have been friends ever since. We worked together to form the committee for the release of Soviet Jewry, of which he was the first secretary and I the first chairman. We have not always agreed—I think that he was
profoundly wrong on war crimes—but we have always respected and liked each other. I was as appalled as anyone at what happened in recent weeks. It was a terrible ordeal for my hon. and learned Friend and for his family. I endorse everything
that has been said from both sides of the House in support and admiration of him and of
the courage and fortitude that he and his family have displayed.
I should like to address my few brief remarks to something else. I am sure
that my hon. and learned Friend will endorse what I say. It has already been mentioned
that those who serve in the House have an opportunity to put wrongs right. My hon. and
learned Friend was able to apply for an Adjournment debate. When it was not appropriate to have it last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) made the facility available this evening. Had he not done so, another hon. Member would have obliged, and we would have had the chance to debate the matter and to make the points which have been made with such eloquence and fervour on both sides of the House.
What would have happened if the man who had been traduced and vilified had
been a village schoolmaster? What if he had been a vicar, a Methodist minister or a rabbi?
He would not have had this forum. He would not have had the opportunity to command the attention of the media. Although I endorse totally what the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said and have doubts about how much of the debate will be reported, nevertheless, we have this privilege and opportunity, but our constituents do not.
Let us imagine the unspeakable agonies of horror that would have been suffered
by someone in —I will not say a less exalted—a different position who had been similarly
vilified. Perhaps in a moment of desperation he would have written to his local newspaper.
Perhaps he would have gone to his Member of Parliament. As a result, there might have been some minor publicity, but how right my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) was: people would have talked about there being no smoke without fire. Mud would have stuck. A career of public service in a quiet and restricted environment might have been ruined.
There is something wrong with a law that allows that to happen. What we must
do because of this horrific and terrible example—I use those words deliberately—is put the
law right. In the high court of Parliament, we have a unique opportunity to put the law
right. I look forward to a positive and enthusiastic response from my right hon. and
learned Friend the Solicitor-General. Even though I did not draw even 15th in the ballot
and can offer neither blackmail nor whitemail, I hope that there will be a firm commitment
from my right hon. and learned Friend, endorsed by the Opposition parties, that the law
needs to be amended, not to restrict in any way the freedom of those who are innocent
until proved guilty but to prevent the vile calumny which we are discussing from being
If that happens, the sufferings of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for
Leicester, West, of Myra and of his family, whom many of us know and admire, will not have been in vain. This case will produce something that all of us want to produce —a positive improvement in the law. We can expect no more than that, and we can certainly ask for no less.
233 9.44 pm
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I can but echo the tributes that have been paid to my hon. and learned Friend
the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). He is a man of determination and enthusiasm, whose integrity and will power have crossed party lines. I for one value the friendship that he has given me in the eight and a half years that I have been a Member of the House, despite the fact that we are in different parties and disagree on many issues.
Mr. Beck is an evil man. Perhaps more to the point, he is a corrupt man.
Several hon. and hon. and learned Members who are present, some of whom have already
spoken, have, like me, had the opportunity over the years in their professional lives to
meet corrupt and evil people and to examine and sometimes cross-examine them in court. I am sure that those who share my professional experience will agree that those who have
trodden in the mire of corruption all too easily become corrupt to the core. They cease to
recognise the difference between what is good and what is bad and between what is
honourable and what is corrupt.
They turn, like Mr. Beck, easily to more corruption and try to wheedle their
way out of their own previous corruption—and that is what has happened in this case. That
is why my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West was slandered with
dreadful calumny by Mr. Beck. That is why it does not surprise me in the least to hear
from my hon. and learned Friend about the letter that he received yesterday from Mr.
Beck’s erstwhile cellmate. It is common for such evidence to appear, but all too often
only after a great deal of harm has been done.
I believe in jury trial and that, however evil they are, people should be
entitled to present their defence to a jury if they wish to do so. Mr. Beck would have
been extremely well advised to plead guilty. He would have been well advised not to drag
the name of my hon. and learned Friend through the courts and an undiscriminating press.
He would have been well advised not to compel—because he did compel—his own lawyers to regard what he said about my hon. and learned Friend as part of his case. However, he
chose to do so.
I suggest to the Solicitor-General that a clear intellectual distinction can
be drawn between evidence that relates to those who are parties to a trial and those who
are not parties to a trial.
I can see the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) in his place
across the Chamber. I know that he has shared my experience many times of being involved in what we lawyers call “cut-throat” trials. Those are trials in which the one defendant makes accusations against the other, and the other often makes even worse accusations against the one. The distinction between those cases and this is that the lawyer for the other can immediately attack the one—there is somebody there to protect the reputation of each defendant who is in the court—but in a case such as that which has affected my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West, there is no such opportunity to defend oneself. There is not even, as we have heard, any opportunity to make a realistic and meaningful statement in public, not even in the House, for to do so might affect the outcome of the trial.
Within the past few years, we have witnessed a case in which a senior Minister
made a statement during a trial in which the defendants were convicted. In consequence,
those defendants had their convictions quashed on appeal. It was a trial of
the greatest public importance, involving alleged IRA terrorism. It demonstrated clearly
to all Members of Parliament the dangers of making even inadvertent and mild statements
about a trial while it is taking place.
Therefore, I respectfully suggest to the Solicitor-General that a clear and
simple change can be made to the law which would protect those who are not the parties to
a trial—third parties outside a trial. It would in no way inhibit the right of a defendant
to make his defence, however dishonest. It would in no way inhibit his right to instruct
his solicitors, however egregiously. But it would prevent the press from publishing
calumnies which cannot be answered, as in the Beck case, sometimes until weeks or even
months after the allegation is made in the public arena of a court. I hope that we shall
hear the Solicitor-General tell us shortly that such an amendment has the approval and
support of the Government.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
It is most unusual for an Adjournment debate at this hour, at the end of which
there will be no vote, to attract so many Members into the Chamber. Come to think of it,
it is most unusual at any hour for so many hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen in the Chamber to remain seated when I rise to speak. If the debate had started at 10 pm when it was scheduled to start, and if the normal business of the House had continued, many more hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen from both sides of the House would be here tonight.
The reason why so many of us are here is the immense regard which we all have
for the hon. and learned Member, our friend, for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). We have
immense regard for the way in which he conducts himself not only in Leicester but in the
rest of the United Kingdom and on behalf of the United Kingdom abroad. He is a famous
personality. The number of people to whom he is a friend, if not because he has met them
but because they know of the good works that he has done not only in Britain but
throughout the world, must run into many hundreds of thousands.
It is precisely such a person who can be brought lowest by the hateful things
that may be reported about him in a court of law. The matter that has given me most cause
for admiration is the way in which he has conducted himself while the horrible events have
gone on and been reported in the press. That shows an inner strength which must be the
result of his deep religious conviction. We all have reason to regard him, the causes that
he espouses and his beliefs highly.
We must address what can be done to stop this kind of thing happening again.
It is difficult and probably impossible to allow people thus abused to make statements in
the press which can only interfere with the process of justice by which someone is tried.
However mean, miserable and undeserving a defendant is, he is entitled under our system to a fair trial and not to be the subject of attack, however justified, from someone who has no particular connection with the issue in the case, even if the defendant brought it on himself.
It would be almost impossible to ban such remarks in a court of law, but there
is no reason why a judge should not be empowered to say that, in an appropriate case, the
name of the person maligned should not be repeated in the 235
press. There does not have to be a statutory ban—it can be left to the good judgment of
the court. As in so many other matters, the judge should be given the discretion to tell
the press that they may not publicise the name of a person, because to do so would be in
contempt of court.
I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General is giving
urgent consideration to the matter. Will he seriously consider whether that sort of
amendment would be acceptable to everyone? I urge him not merely to consider the matter but, because of the strength of feeling shown here, to take action as soon as possible, so that our hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West and his family will not have suffered in vain.
§ Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)
Before I became a full-time politician, I was assistant director of social
services in a large authority. Wicked episodes were often brought to my attention, but
nothing either then or since has been as evil as the man Beck. In this short speech, I
wish to think for a moment about all the youngsters who were so badly damaged and hurt by
that evil man. He well deserved the sentence he got, but to many of us five life sentences
do not seem quite enough for what he did to our youngsters.
Our hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) was
also caused grave hurt. Having known him in this country and having travelled around
Israel with him, I know that he is tough and resilient. I have a high regard for him, and
I pay him tribute. I think especially of his family. When we come here, we know what we
are up to, but our families, hundreds of miles away, suffer the most. We can rationalise
and fight our way out, but they are often deeply hurt. I am sure that all hon. Members in
the Chamber will be thinking not only of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for
Leicester, West but of his wife and children.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) has asked to be
associated with my unusually brief remarks.
I am happy to count the Janner family as friends. I congratulate them all on
the quiet dignity and courage that they have displayed in recent weeks while vile, vicious
and baseless allegations were made by a proven liar. The fact that such allegations could
be made under the cloak of privilege, and the victim has had no right of redress or to
cross-examine those making them, has been a blot on our system of justice. I hope that
that basic injustice can be tackled. If it can, good will come out of the traumas that our
colleague has suffered and that will be for the good of potential victims. We have been
through a ghastly situation, and I hope that some good can come of it.
§ Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)
I rise to break my Trappist vow of six years to say how honoured and
privileged I have been to attend and take part in this debate. We cannot always say that.
Indeed, as Whips we must sometimes sit through long and tedious debates—[HON. MEMBERS:
“No.”] Many of my hon. Friends will take revenge on me for making that remark, because the Whips hijack hon. Members into taking part in, and thereby lengthening,
long and tedious debates. However, this has been a very special debate.
I wish at the outset to thank the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West
(Mr. Ashby) for initiating the debate. It was a generous gesture on his part. Adjournment
debates are hard won and precious to Back-Bench Members. We thank him sincerely for his generous gesture in allowing this debate to take place.
§ It being Ten o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed,
without Question put.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Mr. Wood.]
§ Mr. Foster
It is a reflection on the unusual nature of relationships in the House that a
member of an opposing party can make such a generous gesture. Again, we thank him deeply.
I have rarely seen the House so unanimous in warmth and affection, and especially in its
understanding of the severe ordeal that one of our colleagues and his family have had to
endure for many months.
A Chief Whip is in a special position to be able to understand the many
strains in the lives of colleagues that are unheard of beyond the bounds of Westminster,
and often unheard of except within very small circles in this place. The strains of being
a Member of Parliament are extremely great from time to time. The strains on families are also great, and their sacrifices are rarely known.
The way in which our hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West
(Mr. Janner) has conducted himself has been a model for all of us to follow, though we
hope and pray that most of us will not have to undergo that sort of ordeal. If we do, we
now have a model and can say that he and his family have been through it and have borne it with great fortitude, resilience and courage—as has been said, only through their deep
religious faith—and that that has been a great lesson to us all. A powerful case has been
made for a change in the law. I am sure that the Solicitor-General will address himself,
as only he can, to those remarks.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition would have liked to be here
this evening because I know well that he has been a tremendous support to my hon. and
learned Friend and his family in many small and touching ways, which I know have been
§ Mr. Janner
§ Mr. Foster
If the Opposition could facilitate a change in the law—it would be widely
welcomed, as is clear from what has been said in the debate tonight—I am sure that my
right hon. and hon. Friends would be willing to do what they could to assist.
§ 10.3 pm
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)
It is absolutely clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire,
North-West (Mr. Ashby) has done the House a service by raising this matter. I associate
myself with the remarks made by hon. Members in all parts of the House about the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), who has been through an ordeal that none of us would wish to share. I associate myself also with the remarks made by the Opposition Chief Whip about the dignity with which the hon. and learned Gentleman has borne himself in adversity.
When the House is unanimous on a subject, it is a moment to think deeply, particularly when profound principles are involved. As on so many occasions when we discuss matters in the House, we are faced with a conflict between principles, each of which is important, and with the question of how properly to resolve such a conflict. This is not the first time that this issue has reached the public domain, or will it be the last time that the House is asked to focus on the rights and duties of citizens in circumstances—from time to time inevitable circumst-ances—when the interests
of one individual or one set of individuals necessarily impinge on and potentially damage
the interests of others.
We have heard speeches not only by my hon. Friend the Member for
Leicestershire, North-West, who initiated the debate, and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West but by the hon. Members for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), for Rutland and
Melton (Mr. Latham), for Harborough (Sir J. Farr), for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), for
Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), my hon. and
learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and the right hon. Members for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and the hon. Members for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes), the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), and the Opposition Chief Whip.
The speeches by and in support of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester,
West raised important questions of principle that govern three important matters: first,
the need for open justice; secondly, the provision of proper opportunities for the defence
in criminal proceedings to deploy the case on which the defence relies; and thirdly, the
issue on which we focused most, the effect of the existence of those rights on third
parties who necessarily can play no part in the proceedings and who consequently have no
immediate opportunity to defend themselves or their reputations.
The principle that justice should, as far as possible, be open is central to
our system of criminal justice. It is a fundamental requirement of any democratic and just
society that the process by which individuals are accused, tried and, where appropriate,
punished should be open, and exposed to public scrutiny and comment at an appropriate
moment, other than in wholly exceptional circumstances—for example, where on grounds of national security the court must receive evidence about matters of security or
intelligence; or where, for purposes of the administration of justice, particular matters
must be dealt with concerning informants. The rule that criminal proceedings are conducted in open court would be hollow unless those proceedings could be freely reported by the
press and television, and the media in general. For that reason, both Houses of Parliament
deliberately built into the Contempt of Court Act 1981 a robust declaration of the right
to report proceedings in open court, subject to one limited exception.
Section 4(1) of the 1981 Act provides: Subject to this section a
person is not guilty of contempt of court under the strict liability rule in respect of a
fair and accurate report of legal proceeding held in public, published contemporaneously
and in good faith. The only exception is where it appears to a court that the
reporting of the proceedings before it might prejudice the 238
administration of justice in other proceedings imminently pending in another court, or
shortly to follow thereafter. Even then, there is no power to prohibit reporting of
proceedings. All that the judge may order is a postponement until the risk to the
administration of justice has passed. The law does not permit the right of the press
freely to report proceedings in open court to be fettered, notwithstanding that such
reporting may be or would be embarrassing, damaging or inconvenient to an individual who has featured in the case. That would be a major inroad into a constitutional safeguard and would expose the courts to the risk of pressure from interested third parties.
§ Mr. Cormack
Are we not dealing with something a little more serious than inconvenience? I
respect what my right hon. and learned Friend is seeking to say, but surely no true
freedom would be properly fettered if there were an inhibition on the publication of
§ The Solicitor-General
We are certainly dealing with matters much more serious than mere
inconvenience. Perhaps I should have reordered my remarks and said “inconvenient,
embarrassing or damaging”—sometimes deeply damaging. To take my hon. Friend’s point, I ask the rhetorical question: is it possible to solve this grave difficulty simply by
suppressing a name or ordering the press not to publish it? [HON. MEMBERS: “Yes.”] I hear a number of my hon. Friends saying yes, but I invite the House to reflect cautiously
before interfering in what seems to be a small particular in the right of the press to
make a fair and accurate report.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes, the press or television.
Let us reflect on the matter for a moment. If one suppresses the name, one
does not suppress the rest of what is reported, so it is reported that someone, or perhaps
more than one person who has been defamed, has done something in the course of the case and it may be that he or she is not known to the public and is of no interest to the
public. So far, I am happy to say that in the case of children —I was about to come to
that exception—and in the case of rape victims, the balance that Parliament has chosen, in
that it has granted exceptions in those cases, has proved to be an effective one. However,
once we start to distort the operation of open justice and the consideration of the
matters, we may very well, through the operation of rumour and all its insidious effects
that are so damaging in libel cases—the only justification that I know for the high
damages granted in such cases—inflict more damage on justice than we realise.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that in cases of blackmail one
refers to Mr. X. Surely in a similar case such as this one, it would be fairer to the
individual involved to refer to him or her as Mr., Mrs.,Miss or Ms. X.
§ The Solicitor-General
I ask my hon. Friend to reflect that, if Mr. X were a Member of the House, or
Mrs. X were a member of the nobility—[HON. MEMBERS: “Lady X.”] If she were a Lady, she would still be referred to as Mrs. X. If the person were a member of the nobility or
someone in whom the press had an interest, rumour would 239
start to circulate, and damage could not be avoided. I have acknowledged the great damage
done to the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West.
§ Mr. Burns
Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?
§ The Solicitor-General
No; otherwise, I shall not finish what I have to say. I apologise for not
giving way, but I am sure that the House will understand.
When one conceals matters, one does not necessarily quieten them. The law does
not permit the right of the press freely to report proceedings in open court to be
fettered, notwithstanding that such reporting would be inconvenient, embarrassing or
damaging to some individual who has featured in the case. That would be a major inroad
into a constitutional safeguard and would expose the courts to the risk of pressure from
interested third parties.
Anyone who has prosecuted in the criminal courts—I see a number of such hon.
Members here —will know that, in case after case, it is necessary to bring in damaging
things about third parties. They may be co-accused who have never been tried and are
entitled to the presumption of innocence, or they may be people against whom the defendant
has a grudge of any nature. Are all those names to be kept from the press? Is it always to
be Mr. X or Mrs. X? I suggest—I put it no higher, and we shall resolve nothing
tonight —that we should think very carefully indeed.
Parliament, which has considered the matter carefully, has decreed that the
only exceptions should be children involved as victims and the victims of rape. The law of
contempt is a doctrine of wide scope which manifests itself in a variety of types of
contempt. Their common feature —if I can capture the interest of hon. Members—is that they
seek to ensure the efficacy and integrity of the judicial process, which is of concern to
us all, so that justice may be administered to all without interference from any quarter.
Proceedings for contempt of court are the means by which obedience to orders
of the court and adherence to undertakings are ensured. Those minded to take reprisals
against witnesses on account of the evidence that they have given can also be punished for
contempt. Those who disrupt proceedings or undermine public confidence in the
administration of justice by scandalising the judiciary are also liable to be dealt with
for contempt of court. The media are also required, when reporting matters which are
relevant to imminent legal proceedings, to ensure that their reports do not give rise to
any substantial risk of prejudice.
§ Ms. Short
The mood of the House has changed since the Solicitor-General started
speaking, and a mood of exasperation is now spreading widely. Has the right hon. and
learned Gentleman anything positive to say to us, or will the rest of his speech simply
seek to justify the status quo and say no to everything that has been put before him
§ The Solicitor-General
It sounds as though the hon. Lady has made up her mind.
§ Ms. Short
I think that we should look at the question.
§ The Solicitor-General
What I am putting before the House are serious considerations about the
balance between the rights of individuals, which may be damaged 240
in the course of a case but where the record can subsequently be put straight, the rights
of those who are before the courts, accused, to deploy their defence, and the rights of
the public at large to scrutinise that process.
I ask the House to be careful when it has one of its own Members in its
charge. We are right to sympathise with the hon. and learned Member for Leicester West.
§ Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)
It is the principle that matters.
§ The Solicitor-General
Exactly. My hon. Friend is entirely right: it is the principle that matters,
and the ultimate principle is that there should be justice and that justice should be seen
to be done.
§ Mr. Franks
There are many lawyers in the House, including myself, and we take a
completely different view. I speak not as a lawyer but as a politician. It is just not
good enough if the House does nothing. I have the greatest sympathy for hon. and learned
Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), but there is a principle involved and it is about
time that my right hon. and learned Friend stopped speaking as a lawyer and started acting
as a politician.
§ The Solicitor-General
I hear what my hon. Friend says. I have had many pleasant discussions with
him, but I must say to him and to the House in all firmness that to ask us to talk about
justice as politicians is to go down a very dangerous road. When we consider justice, we
stand back as politicians and invite independent courts and wholly independent juries to
consider hotly contested matters.
Right hon. and hon. Members are failing to remember in how many criminal
trials it happens, often necessarily, that allegations are made by the prosecution or
defence which are damaging to persons who are not immediately before the court.
§ Mr. Franks
Let us deal with that point.
§ The Solicitor-General
My hon. Friend says that we ought to deal with that point. The suggestion
before the House is that, in such cases, it would be right and proper not to publish the
names of the persons involved. The House has not focused its mind yet on whether any name should be published, or whether only some names should or should not be published.
§ Ms. Short
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will not even consider that point.
§ The Solicitor-General
I ask the hon. Lady to relax for a moment. I am not saying that the country
should not consider the matter. It will undoubtedly be one for public debate, and rightly
so. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West and the ordeal suffered by
the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West will make it a matter, rightly, for public
debate. Nevertheless —
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradfords, South)
§ Mr. Ashby
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I believe that the Solicitor-General does not want to give way.
§ The Solicitor-General
I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West,
who initiated the debate.
§ Mr. Ashby
I appreciate that one must approach the matter with considerable caution, and
that we cannot go at it in a bull-at-a-gate fashion. It is important to hear the arguments
on both sides, and to consider them carefully. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned
Friend for replying to the debate in the way that he is doing. I accept everything that
has been said so far, but is it really necessary for the persons in question to be the
subject of media coverage? I cannot see how it aids justice one iota for that to happen.
§ The Solicitor-General
What is reasonable and what the law should forbid are not necessarily the
same. We have a very wide press in this country, and we count that as one of our freedoms.
However, it embraces a whole spectrum —from a deeply responsible press that is extremely
careful in what it publishes and which tries to balance one thing with another, to an
element that many people regard, perhaps rightly, as frequently scurrilous or simply aimed
at making a profit. I suggest, however, that that is part of a free society. Although it
has disadvantages, it is a great deal better than the kind of society in which there is no
free press, or in which the press is gagged by more and more complex and frequently
I must move on, because there are one or two other points and safeguards that
I want to mention. As I said, safeguards apply in the case of children and of rape
victims, and they seem to have worked well. The judge also has the power, where the
reporting of one case may affect the interests of justice in a subsequent case, to
postpone the reporting of the earlier case.
§ Mr. Burns
Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?
§ The Solicitor-General
I shall not give way to my hon. Friend, as I believe that I have done so once
already and I have only a little time left.
Professional safeguards apply to those who appear for the prosecution and the
defence. The Bar code of conduct requires that those who appear should use their powers as responsibly as the interests of justice may reasonably allow. Paragraph 610 of the Bar
code provides, first: Counsel must not make statements or ask questions which
are merely scandalous or intended or calculated only to vilify insult or annoy either a
witness or some other person; counsel must if possible avoid the naming in open Court of
third parties whose characters would thereby be impugned; counsel must not suggest that a witness or other person is guilty of crime, fraud or misconduct or attribute to another
person the crime or conduct of which his lay client is accused”— [HON.
MEMBERS: “What about this case?”]— unless such allegations go to a matter in
issue (including the credibility of the witness) which is material to his lay client’s
case and which appear to him to be supported by reasonable grounds. I hear hon.
Members saying, “What about this case?” I am on common ground when I remind the House that
this case was immensely serious. If someone is to be tried for matters as serious as those
for which Mr. Beck was 242 tried and to receive the condign
punishment that Mr. Beck received, it is essential that he should have a fair trial and
that he should be given every opportunity to deploy his defence.
Hon. Members are saying, “We all agree, but what about the hon. and learned
Member for Leicester. West?” I must remind the House of another important principle. If I
may say so, I acquit the hon. and learned Gentleman of the misguided approach that some
hon. Members are taking. He has deported himself with great dignity. That is the way in
which we should deport ourselves. He was not on trial. His opportunity to answer
necessarily had to be deferred until the trial was over, and he has now had an opportunity
to be heard. [Interruption.] I hear the point that other people do not have the same
privilege as hon. Members.
The suggestion is not that we should lift the laws of libel, which would be
one other possible step to take, because if we were to do so witnesses would be inhibited
and the opportunity for justice would be damaged.
§ Mr. Lawrence
Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?
§ The Solicitor-General
No, I am sorry, but I must conclude.
The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West is not on trial. He has had an
opportunity to make his point, and I wish to end with one important point. As a result of
a number of miscarriages, we are scrutinising our system of justice. I hope that the House
will never forget that no one is guilty of an offence unless they have been duly tried and
convicted and that everyone is entitled to the same presumption of innocence.
§ Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Tell that to the press.
§ The Solicitor-General
I do tell that to the press.
If I may speak for the Law Officers of the Crown, we are scrupulous in bearing
that vital principle in mind. We are right to be scrupulous to maintain our system of open
justice, to require that people be tried for charges the purport of which is known, and in
courts which are open to the public and to the press and can be fully and fairly reported.
Despite the undoubted hardship, not only to the famous such as the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West and other hon. Members, but to those who are known only to their families—I know from correspondence that many ordinary people suffer hardship because of what is said and done in court cases—I suggest to the House that we interfere with this at our peril, and at peril to our liberties and system of open justice. I commend that principle most sincerely to the House.
§ The motion having been made at Ten o’clock, and the debate having continued for
half an hour,MR SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at half past Ten o’clock.
 1991 Dec 3 HANSARD 3 December 1991 → Commons Sitting → Orders of the Day Contempt of Court HC Deb 03 December 1991 vol 200 cc223-42 223 http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1991/dec/03/contempt-of-court
 2015 April 19 Cathy Fox Frank Beck working document https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/child-abuse-in-leicestershire-working-document-frank-beck/