Derek Spencer – 1986 Speech on the Roskill Report

Below is the text of the speech made by Derek Spencer, the then Conservative MP for Leicester South, in the House of Commons on 13 February 1986.

I wish to make five points. The first concerns committal proceedings. The Psalmist said:

“One day in my courts is better than a thousand.”

However, when I sat through 80 days of committal proceedings at the Lambeth magistrates court, I felt that one day in court was like a thousand.

The way in which contemporary committal proceedings are conducted is, for the most part, entirely futile. They are expensive and I support the Roskill committee and the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure in saying goodbye to all that.

My second point concerns the desirability of investigation and co-ordination. Without doubt it is desirable. In the Richmond Rendezvous case part of the inquiry was conducted by officers of the Customs and Excise who dealt with the value added tax aspects of the case. The remainder of the case was dealt with by officers from the Inland Revenue who dealt with PAYE and schedule D. There were two investigating officers, two sets of solicitors and two sets of instructions. Each party ​ arranged themselves on opposite sides of my table and glowered at each other with professional jealousy. It is time to end all that.

My third point relates to the abolition of jury trial. In a sentence I would say to the Government, “Forget about abolishing jury trial and forget it straight away.”

My fourth point concerns the conduct of the trial. This is where the most speedy action can be taken. There is much that the judges can do by displaying an aggressive attitude during pre-trial reviews. Severance in appropriate cases works wonders. I am convinced that we must compel disclosure by the defence of their defence. We have abolished trial by combat, but perpetuate trial by ambush. There is nothing to justify the prolongation of the right to silence into the trial. That is consistent neither with common sense nor morality.

My fifth point relates to extradition. Many of the problems of fraud concern extradition. Mr. Pepperel, in the London and County bank case, was extradited from West Germany, and Mr. Caplan so used the judicial process in America that the energetic efforts of the Director of Public Prosecutions were not able to bring him back to this country. That is regrettable, but unfortunately it happened.

Although the report raises many points of law, the most important point is a political point that requires action, and we ignore that at our peril.