Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 14:48 UK

Straw unveils witness legislation

Scales of Justice statue at Old Bailey
Emergency legislation is being proposed following a Law Lords' ruling

Emergency legislation to restore trial judges' powers to grant anonymity to witnesses has been unveiled by Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

A Law Lords' ruling on 18 June that defendants needed to know who was testifying against them has already led to one 6m trial being halted.

The legislation will clarify when a witness anonymity order can be granted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The bill will go through all its stages in Parliament on Tuesday next week.

The government hopes the bill will become law before the parliamentary summer recess on 23 July.

'Cases in pipeline'

Commons Leader Harriet Harman said Parliament needed to act quickly to prevent current cases being affected by the ruling.

She told MPs: "The Lord Chancellor has been debating and discussing these issues and giving full briefings to members on all sides of the House.

"The idea is to get as much agreement as possible but with the recognition that we need to do this quickly because of cases in the pipeline."

The legislation will ensure that those convicted on the basis of anonymous evidence cannot have their conviction quashed solely on the grounds that anonymity was granted.

The proposed measures in the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill apply to both defence and prosecution witnesses.

Police have warned that up to 40 trials may be affected by the Lords' ruling.

The Scottish government has said it is "consulting closely" with the Ministry of Justice to see if similar provisions would be required in Scotland.


SEE ALSO
'Emergency' witness law unveiled
26 Jun 08 |  UK Politics

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