Page last updated at 19:16 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 20:16 UK

Witness anonymity bill is passed

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

Emergency legislation to allow witnesses in sensitive criminal trials to give evidence anonymously has cleared Parliament.

The measure was rushed through both houses in "double quick time" before the summer recess begins next week.

It is intended as a stop-gap, after a Law Lords ruling last month questioned the use of anonymous witnesses.

The ruling led to the collapse of a 6m murder trial at the Old Bailey, which is to be retried next year.

'Very productive'

The Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament after MPs agreed with amendments made in the Lords, and will now go for Royal Assent.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw thanked politicians from all parties and officials for securing its speedy progress.

He told MPs: "It was important that we got this bill through as quickly as possible.

"It is the duty of the opposition to oppose, but they have done so in a very productive way, recognising the imperative of getting this through."

In their ruling in June, the Law Lords argued it was a fundamental principle of English law that the accused should be able to see his accusers and challenge them.

The Crown Prosecution Service has identified about 580 current cases involving anonymous evidence - in many cases to prevent intimidation of witnesses - which could be threatened by this.

The Criminal Evidence Bill is set to be replaced by a new Law Reform, Witnesses and Victims Bill in the next parliamentary session.

Critics of the emergency legislation say it could lead to more widespread use of anonymous witnesses. Its measures apply to both defence and prosecution witnesses.

Straw unveils witness legislation
03 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
'Emergency' witness law unveiled
26 Jun 08 |  UK Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific