Suspected war criminal's illness

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Representatives of an alleged war criminal from Surrey whose trial collapsed last month, when a jury found him mentally unfit to face charges, had not told government law officers that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said last night. Lord Mackay said at question time: "Attorney General Sir Nicholas Lyell would expect to take account of any available medical evidence when deciding whether to consent to the bringing of proceedings under the War Crimes Act."

In the case of Szymon Serafinowicz, the 86-year-old retired carpenter charged with murdering three Jews on the eastern front, Sir Nicholas "did offer the defendant an opportunity to submit any such evidence". The Lord Chancellor added: "At the time, the Attorney General caused inquiry to be made to those representing the defendant whether there was any medical bar to a prosecution and whether the defendant wished to make representations to the law officers as to his health, mental or physical. But no representations were forthcoming."