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Beverley Hughes: No, they would not be destroyed. Consistent with existing provisions, fingerprints or photographs will be able to be retained and used in the investigation of further offences, whether they are criminal or terrorist offences. That is the law at the moment. We are not giving a new power to the police; we are simply applying the powers that pertain at the moment to these new powers.
Jeremy Corbyn: Will the Minister tell the House what the Home Office's recommendation is to police authorities as to the length of time that they should keep records on people against whom all suspicion has evaporated, in relation to any offence, in the eyes of the police?
When the police are holding someone in a police station without knowing who it iseither because the person will not co-operate or because he has given a false identitythey do not know what they are dealing with. They do not know whether the person has been involved in terrorist acts, or whether the reasons for detaining[Interruption.] Well, let us take a specific example, if hon. Members are finding this difficult to understand.
Let us take the example in which someone has been brought into a police station and detained because he was trespassing on the property of a public utility, and has refused to divulge his identity. Clearly, the reasons for his trespassing could be many and varied. They could involve a range of criminal offences, sabotage or the planting of a bomb on those premises in relation to a terrorist activity.
At that point, because the police do not know who the person is, they cannot begin to identify the kind of person with whom they are dealing or what that person might have been seeking to do. It is, therefore, critical that the identity of the person should be discovered in the shortest possible time, and that the police should have the powers to enable them to establish that identity. If, in that example, someone had already planted a bomb, time would be of the essence. The police would be doing many things at that point, but one thing that they would surely need to do would be to establish the identity of that person.
Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, this Government have made it a criminal offence to trespass on private ground in a number of situations. Therefore, in theory, what the Minister has said could apply to somebody caught trespassing with a dog off a lead in Snowdonia. That is a criminal offence according to her Government's legislation and her remarks apply to it, but what about somebody arrested for a road traffic offence? Is she suggesting that, under these proposals, somebody detained in a police station for any criminal offenceperhaps an ordinary traffic offencemust be subject to all those procedures as it is vaguely possible that it may one day be proven that they had some link with a terrorist activity? In the ordinary balance of events, that is highly unlikely.
Beverley Hughes: Let me give the hon. Gentleman another example, which is relevant. He mentioned road traffic incidents. In 1997, a group of three Algerian people were arrested in London for a road traffic offence. The circumstances of the case are that there were explosives in the back of the van. In the ensuing incident, the police officer was shot, so what brought that person
A road traffic infringement brought that person to police attention and the activities in which that person was engaged are exactly those against which the police would want to use these powers. They would use them to identify the driver of the truck.
Mr. Paice: But the Terrorism Act 2000, coupled with clause 88, which we have just passed, achieve precisely that objective. Of course, any sensible police officer who stops a car and finds explosives in the back will suspect nefarious activity, and probably terrorism, but I contend that those powers already exist in that context. They do not need the proposed draconian extension.
Beverley Hughes: I remind the hon. Gentleman that, as I outlined in the trespass example, we are discussing the circumstances in which somebody is detained, albeit on a minor charge or allegation, but refuses to give his
Mr. Burnett: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. She has given examples: a trespass on property owned by a public utility, someone planting a bomb and a truck with explosives in the rear. Surely no police power would be curbed or curtailed by accepting the amendments. In other words, the powers exercised must be justified as being in connection with a terrorist investigation. Prima facie, in those examples surely a terrorist investigation is warranted.
Beverley Hughes: Not in the trespass example. As I have tried to make clear to hon. Members, when the police detain a person who refuses to disclose his identity, they will not know which possible scenario that person is involved in, whether it be robbery or something more than robbery. The police do not have the benefit of hindsight. They have to deal with a person in a police station who will not disclose his identity. The establishment of the detained person's identity is critical to the police's ability to discriminate between those scenarios and the activities that he may have been involved in.
There is a link between crime, especially organised crime, and terrorist activities. There is a great deal of organised crime in this country, including counterfeiting, trading in counterfeit goods, smuggling cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, and trading in drugs. The security services estimate that about half of all organised crime groups, certainly in Northern Ireland, have links with terrorist groups. Organised crime fuels and funds terrorist activities.
If a person is detained on suspicion of being involved in organised crime or smuggling large quantities of cigarettes, drugs or alcohol and he refuses to give his identity, the likelihood of his activity being used to fuel and fund terrorism is even greater. It is a serious impediment to the police's investigations and to their discovery of terrorist activities if they cannot identify that person.
We have considered carefully the points made by the Joint Committee, which have been reiterated by hon. Members in this debate. However, it is critical that the police have these additional powers because of the strong connection between crime and terrorist activity, because it is not possible for the police to draw a firm line between various crimes and terrorism, and because of the small number of cases in which the police cannot identify a suspect or get his co-operation to do so. Therefore, we will not accept the Opposition's amendments.
Mr. Paice: It has been a useful debate. I am pleased that we tabled these amendments, not least because they have brought out from the Minister some elucidating remarks about the Government's attitude to this whole issue. If we were in any doubt about the wisdom of our amendments when we started, we were certainly in no
Mr. Paice: That is not correct. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read the clauses, because the provisions apply whether or not consent is given. I hope that he is better informed when we get to the Ministry of Defence provisions.
The clause provides that anyone who is brought to a police station and detained there for any crimeit could be a footling traffic offenceis subject to all these provisions. The examples that the Minister gave do not stand up. Of course, if there is justification for believing that terrorism could be involved, it is perfectly right and proper for the police to have these powers. There is no dispute about thatcertainly not from Conservative Members. The dispute is over the idea that those powers should be all-embracing and apply to anyone in any circumstances.
If someone has been caught trespassing on a public utilityassuming the offence is of any significancea police officer may, especially in a period of heightened security, suspect that the person could have planted a bomb in a power station or wherever. That is reasonableand I sincerely hope that if a van containing three Algerians and explosives in the back were stopped, any reasonable police officer would assume that terrorism might be involved. Neither case, however, negates the need for the amendments, which refer to detention
I believe that the arguments are overwhelming. Terrorism itself should be dealt with in the Bill, but not the proposed widespread expansion of police powers. A few moments ago, the Minister said that the Bill allowed the police to discriminate. It allows them to discriminate, but does not oblige them to do so. That, too, is a serious civil liberties concern. Unless the police are obliged to be reasonable in the use of their powers, there is a risk of excessive use of those powers.
The Minister said that more than 50 per cent. of organised crime related to the funding of terrorism. That may be the case in Northern IrelandI am not sufficiently knowledgable about Northern Ireland to dispute such a claimbut it is a pretty sweeping statement to make about the rest of the United Kingdom. If the Minister is right, what she said puts things in context, but I suspect she wishes that she had not said it.
In any event, the Minister failed to undermine the logic of our arguments. Indeed, I feel that the example she gave enhanced our case that the provision should be limited to those detained in connection with a terrorist investigation. In view of her intransigence, we wish to press the matter to a vote.