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Dominic Grieve: Response to statement on Jon Venables

Mr Speaker, I thank you for granting the question. The Justice Secretary may on reflection conclude that he could probably have earlier explained to the House, the limits to what can be disclosed at the present time because of the risk of prejudicing recall proceedings or a prosecution, which no one wants to do.

Such as explaining the law, the time frame for the parole proceedings and the procedure used, the grounds of recall in summary form.

And a commitment to disclose more information once the relevant parole or prosecution decisions have been taken in redacted form, if that is necessary to avoid revealing Mr Venables identity, could all help to avoid the frenzy of speculation that has inevitably arisen in this case.  

He may agree with me that the fact that he and the Home Secretary have given comments to the media, which appear confusing and inconsistent can only undermine public confidence in the justice system on a matter of acute sensitivity.

Will he please in response at least cover each of these points now?

No-one needs reminding of the appalling circumstances of the murder of James Bulger. It shocked the country.

But the role of ministers is not to ebb and flow with media speculation, which is the impression that is being created.

Can the Justice Secretary now explain what licence conditions were placed on Mr Venables?

Can he make a commitment to report to the House, as soon as practical, on the action the probation service has taken in response to every reported breach of licence by Mr Venables since his release, so the public can be assured he was properly supervised? He will be aware that there is now public disquiet that this has not happened. He doubtless agrees with me that that is most undesirable.

Can the Justice Secretary also re-assure the House that the grounds for not saying more at this stage constitute a practical need to avoid identifying Mr Venables given his new identity and the possible requirements of a trial process rather than the broader, creeping, advance of privacy rights for criminals, which come at the expense of public transparency?

Does he, recognise how important it is for public confidence not only that justice is done, but also that it is seen to be done?

Mr Speaker. In discharging, what are often difficult ministerial responsibilities, the Justice Secretary is entitled to our understanding. But he needs to explain them to the House if he is to obtain its support.

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