Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Dr. Lynne Jones: Earlier, I asked my right hon. Friend to explain what would be reasonable grounds on which a police officer might believe that an individual had caused or contributed to violence. He responded that provisions such as these are available in other legislation. He has dismissed the idea of tattoos or slogans on clothing being grounds for suspicion, so is it not clear that a police officer would require--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. The hon. Lady's intervention is too long.

Dr. Jones: I was drawing my intervention to an end, Mr. Martin. Is it not clear that the police officer would have to have intelligence to have reasonable grounds for suspicion, and if that intelligence is available--this is the point that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) was making--surely the proper procedure would be to use the other provisions for acquiring a banning order?

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend has two worries. First, she is worried about whether the police will use the power arbitrarily. Secondly, she is concerned that if there is not good intelligence, which is normally inadmissible in a court because of its nature, but there is good evidence, that should be used to obtain a criminal conviction.

On the first point, we have in amendments Nos. 42 to 46 considerably narrowed the grounds on which the police can intercept someone, make inquiries of them, hold them

17 Jul 2000 : Column 126

while their inquiries are taking place and issue them with a notice to attend court. Those grounds now parallel those in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 on reasonable suspicions and beliefs. The reasonable belief must be that if the person concerned is taken to court, which must happen within 24 hours, the court is likely to grant a banning order against them. That power is very constrained, and the police will not, except in very exceptional circumstances, misuse it because whether they have exercised it reasonably will be a matter of judgment within a court process that will begin 24 hours later.

My hon. Friend's other point raises the central issue of whether banning orders by the alternative route of civil process should be available. As she will notice from schedule 1 on page 10, banning orders by criminal process are available only where there are football-related convictions. We are proposing--it receives the general approbation of the three main parties--that there will be a basis for a banning order when there is evidence of someone's past involvement in violence or disorder, which typically will be convictions not for football-related offences but for violence, and when there are reasonable grounds for believing that if, for example, they go abroad, they will cause further violence or disorder around the football ground. I think that that will work fairly and proportionately.

I shall deal briefly with some of the other matters that have been raised. I understand, although I am afraid that I was not present to hear it, that the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) asked about a power of arrest after a notice had been issued. That arises under proposed section 21B(5) if, in the opinion of the police officer, reasonable grounds make it necessary to arrest the individual in order that the notice is complied with.

Several right hon. and hon. Members have asked about the practicalities of the summary procedures. If grounds for detention under proposed section 21A are met, the constable may detain for immediate inquiry for a maximum of four hours on his own decision and up to six hours in total with the approval of an officer of the rank of inspector or above. As soon as a decision whether to issue a notice is reached, the person is either released, if it is decided that there are no grounds to issue a notice, or the notice is issued. The notice will contain conditions for the person to appear in court within 24 hours, not to leave England and Wales before then, and to surrender his passport if the offence relates to the control period. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that it is necessary to ensure compliance with the condition of the notice, there is, as I have explained to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire, a power of arrest. In other cases, the person will be released.

On appearance in court, the case may be dealt with immediately and dismissed or dealt with immediately and a banning order made. Alternatively, the court may adjourn the case and remand the person either in custody or on bail, as in normal circumstances. Bail may be subject to conditions not to leave the country and to surrender his passport.

I gather that a number of hon. Members asked for figures on the number of custody suites available and on the additional manpower required. There are custody suites all over the country and, obviously, provision will

17 Jul 2000 : Column 127

be made proportionately, according to available police resources. That is always so because that, by definition, determines the amount of police activity.

Several questions have been raised about the 24-hour limit. We have consulted the Lord Chancellor's Department, and it believes that the 24-hour limit for a magistrates court hearing is doable. Plainly, it is in everyone's interest to get the individual into court as quickly as possible, and in under 24 hours if possible.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine): I may have got the wrong end of the stick, but I understand that a ban would at one point require someone not to leave England and Wales. I may be at the limits of testing the legislation, but if a resident of Scotland passes through an English port and is then suspected by the police, will that person be banned from returning to their home in Scotland?

Mr. Straw: The legislation applies to United Kingdom citizens, who include residents of Scotland as well as of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, so the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes. However, if the person happens to be a Scottish supporter, it is extremely unlikely that they will be caught up in the legislation. [Interruption.] I make a serious point; we have a good deal to learn in England from the behaviour of Scottish fans.

10.30 pm

Mr. Malins: We understand that the Home Secretary is unable to cover every point that has been raised by Opposition Members, but, as many important points will remain unanswered at the end of the debate, will he undertake during the next week to send detailed written responses to those of us whose points have not been answered?

Mr. Straw: I am happy to do so.

Mr. Gummer: Is the Home Secretary saying that, for the first time in British law, we are going to stop people going from England to Scotland? Even if it were to be invoked only rarely, that would constitute a real constitutional change. If that is what he is telling the Committee, he is putting before us an entirely new fact of considerable importance.

Mr. Straw: I do not believe that it is the first time in English law that people are to be required not to leave the jurisdiction--

Mr. Gummer indicated dissent.

Mr. Straw: The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but it is often the case that people are required not to leave the jurisdiction for a certain period. I shall write to him if further inquiry into the matter proves me wrong on that.

We are dealing with new powers. By definition, any legislation passed by Parliament is new; if we never had to change things, we would never need to sit. They are new powers for new circumstances and, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) pointed out, the

17 Jul 2000 : Column 128

process of legislation involves speculation about the future. We have to use what intellectual and political resources we have to speculate as accurately as possible.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne) asked whether a person could be arrested more than once in the same 24-hour period. Plainly, it would be wrong to make repeated arrests to circumvent the time limit on the arrangements that we have provided, and we shall consider whether that should be made more explicit. However, I ask the Committee to consider the following case: the police intercept a person on his way to port X; they make inquiries of that person, but conclude that there are not sufficient grounds to serve him with a notice requiring him to go to court; that person then moves off to a different port and, at that port, more evidence emerges as a result of different police officers following different lines of inquiry; it is decided that there are good grounds to serve that individual with a notice; that individual is served with the notice and, in due course, the court endorses the banning order. I do not think that would be inappropriate police action, any more than it is inappropriate for the police to stop and search someone who has committed a crime but who has managed to evade detection in a previous stop and search. However, I accept that we need to ensure that there are provisions to prevent gratuitous exploitation in circumstances which, although unlikely, might arise.

Finally, I promised to address Opposition amendment No. 9, which would require a magistrates warrant rather than an inspector's authorisation before an officer could issue someone with a notice not to leave the country and to attend a magistrates court within 24 hours. Our judgment is that insisting on a magistrates warrant before notice is issued is likely to lead to longer delays and longer periods of detention by interposing another procedure between the initial decision to issue the notice and appearance in court. It would complicate matters and I am not sure that it would necessarily be welcomed by the magistracy. It would give magistrates summary powers of arrest and detention which, in our system, are typically given to the police, and then made the subject of proper adjudication by the courts.

I hope that I have dealt with the burden of the main issues raised by right hon. and hon. Members. I have explained the Government amendments and invited the withdrawal of Opposition amendments. I commend the Committee for a constructive debate.

Next Section

IndexHome Page