Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Bermingham: Does my hon. Friend agree that the current preferred thinking is that the refusal of access to a solicitor during an interview would be a breach of article 6.3 and that the court would rule against us, as it appears that the idea of a fair trial--equality of arms--is paramount and the right exists throughout the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. McNamara: If I understood my hon. Friend correctly, I agree.

Article 6.3, which should be enforced, does not appear in the legislation. I seek an undertaking that there will be access to a solicitor. That is implicit in the Bill, but not specific. I tabled the new clause in the hope that, when their Lordships in one place or another read our debates to see what was intended, a statement from the Front Bench will be on the record.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): I want to speak mainly to amendments Nos. 173 and 178, although I would also like to say a word about Government amendment No. 64.

Clause 40 concerns arrest without warrant. Liberty issued a briefing note for our Second Reading debate. It said:

15 Mar 2000 : Column 365

That is quite a critique of the power, on the use of which amendment No. 173 is designed to put only a small restraint.

I am concerned about people being held incommunicado. One of my first cases as a Member of Parliament, in the 1980s, was when a constituent came to my advice surgery and reported that she had been to the police because she thought that her son had disappeared and she wanted to report the fact and get their help to find him, but it later transpired that the police were holding him and had not informed her. That was a dreadful abuse of civil liberties.

The police have increasing powers to hold people, but the rights of both the person detained and the family are very important.

Dr. Godman: I remind my hon. Friend that he dealt with a case involving my nephew, Luke, who was detained for eight hours in a police station in his constituency. He will confirm that my nephew was innocent of any misdemeanour.

Mr. Cohen: I cannot remember all the cases that I have had in 17 years in Parliament, but I am happy that my hon. Friend has put that on the record and that I was able to help his nephew. I am happy to help all my constituents in such circumstances.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick's report on his inquiry into legislation against terrorism--Cm 3420--has been quoted a lot. Paragraph 9.26 on page 48 says:

That makes it clear that, in non-terrorist cases, the norm is 36 hours. If the period is to last longer than that, it is not unreasonable that the reason for the delay and denial of rights should be specified. A simple explanation would suffice, perhaps involving the suspicion of terrorism, but some concrete justification should be given and someone should not be kept an extra 12 hours and denied those rights without genuine suspicion. That would subvert PACE, because every case could be treated as a terrorist case and a person detained for an extra 12 hours without anybody being notified.

7.30 pm

Mr. Bermingham: Does my hon. Friend agree that, if those games of holding persons incommunicado--the purpose of which is to put pressure on prisoners--are played, those actions would be subject to subsequent

15 Mar 2000 : Column 366

inquiry by the court and, after 2 October, by the European Court of Human Rights? It is ludicrous that we should lose cases because of unnecessary provisions such as the ones before us.

Mr. Cohen: That is a good point. It would not be difficult to give a reason, because the Government's proposals in the legislation against terrorism consultation paper suggest that a written record should be kept of the outcome of the review of the case. Lord Lloyd also made it clear that delay had to be for specified reasons.

Lord Lloyd also pointed out that a survey of those detained under the PTA in Britain in 1989-90 found that legal advice was delayed in some 26 per cent. of cases and there was a delay in informing someone of a person's detention in 44 per cent. of cases. Those are high figures, and I hope that we will not see a return to such wholesale denial of rights. In a sense, the Bill would legalise those delays.

Other hon. Members have mentioned the European Court of Human Rights and its judgment in Murray v. United Kingdom. The court found that the denial of access to a lawyer, when combined with the trial court's right to draw adverse inferences from silence under questioning, violated the detainee's rights under article 6 of the European convention on human rights. Consequently, the circumstances that gave rise to the successful challenge in the Murray case could now arise throughout the United Kingdom. I would like an assurance that the Government have addressed that point so that we will not face similar judgments in future.

Amendment No. 178 seeks to ensure that a detained person has access to his or her family after four hours of detention and that the first review of the case should be completed by then. I admit that the figure of four hours has been plucked out of the air, but a review of the case could reasonably be completed within that time. It would be better than a long time without any proper review and the denial of rights of the person being held.

The amendment would amend the review process. I want to ensure that individual rights are maintained, although that is outside the review process. However, the amendment would build on the existing requirement for a review officer to inform the detained person of his rights as soon as continued detention has been authorised, by adding a requirement that the first review must be completed and the decision notified to the detained person within four hours of his arrest. At that point, the detained person would have to be notified of his rights, otherwise--as far as I can see--he would be left without having been notified of his rights for an indefinite period. The amendment would extend the civil liberties of the person involved.

I am concerned about the drafting of Government amendment No. 64, which is not as tight as I would have hoped. The Government may be able to reconsider in the other place. The amendment repeatedly mentions doing things

That is a bland requirement, and no explanation for undue delay need be given. No indication is given of how long that requirement could be. The amendment also states:

15 Mar 2000 : Column 367

The amendment also states:

Will that mean that he will be denied those rights at the first police station he is taken to, with the excuse that he will eventually be transferred, thus increasing the delay? It also states that a detained person may

However, that right is negated later in the amendment, when it provides that

Bang goes the right to privacy.

Mr. Bermingham: Does my hon. Friend know why is it necessary to put such provisions in the Bill, which will open us up to litigation in the European Court after 2 October, because the European convention on human rights contains the right to private consultation?

Next Section

IndexHome Page