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Mrs. Brooke: I welcome the amendment. The naturists on Studland beach will be able to enjoy their time so much more. Obviously, they do not intend to cause offence but they have great concerns when they
The Solicitor-General: I shall be glad if anybody welcomes any Government amendment this evening, but I have to say to naturists, on Studland beach or anywhere else, that they will be subject to the law. If they intend, by exposing their genitalia, to cause alarm or distress, a file will be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will consider the sufficiency of the evidence and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. Nevertheless, I welcome the hon. Lady's remarks.
As the hon. Lady knows from her involvement in the proceedings, a number of amendments were made in Committee, including the removal of recklessness, which reassured naturists that they would not be caught by the offence. However, it was clear from the debate in Committee and from the correspondence that we have received that naturists were still worried about this offence. We undertook to look at the clause again, and the amendment is our response. Hopefully, genuine naturist activity, whatever that might mean, does not include the intention to cause alarm or distress, so I hope that now that we have dropped knowledge from the offence and left only intention, naturists will be reassured.
Mr. Grieve: I can be very brief. All the Government amendments are acceptable. There is only one that I need positively to welcome because it does more than tidy up the provisions, and that is the amendment on which the Solicitor-General has just touched. That reassures naturists by removing knowledge from the offence, leaving intention. The right hon. and learned Lady will remember the debates in Committee. Clearly this is not a blanket dispensation to naturists to practise naturism wherever they choose. They will have to continue to exercise restraint and show due consideration for other people.
The point that is successfully met by the amendment, which I welcome, is the need to get rid of a situation in which a naturist goes to a remote beach where they legitimately do not expect, and certainly do not intend, anyone to be in any way insulted or distressed, but nevertheless are constantly aware that somebody might turn up unexpectedly. The amendment strikes the right balance, and I hope that it will allow naturists to practise naturism discreetly, freeing them from fear that they might be unfairly prosecuted while ensuring that there is still a robust framework to ensure that the situation is not abused.
This issue took up a considerable amount of time in Committee, and we need to consider it further before the Bill returns to another place. As the House will be aware, the Bill came from the Lords with an amendment, made against the Government's wishes, that would have ensured anonymity for those alleged to have committed rape and other offences right up to conviction and throughout the trial process. That was debated in Committee, where the Government argued forcefully that such a blanket prohibition on reporting might interfere with the interests of justice after charge and during the trial process, and that victims might not come forward if, while the police were attempting to identify other potential victims, they did not know that somebody had been charged with an offence. I fully accept the Government's second argument that anonymity went against the general principle that the trial process should take place in public, with the public being made aware of the identity of the person on trial.
New clause 4 does not seek to reopen that wider issue. However, a narrower issue received consideration in Committeethe publicity attached to those being investigated for sex offences prior to their being charged. Examples, some of them very recent, were given of individuals who had been subjected to great media scrutiny, adverse publicity, investigation and inquiry into their background, which was reproduced in the press, but who at the end of the day were not charged with anything at all. There has been a great deal of public disquiet about this issue, and one way of dealing with it would be to impose a prohibition on publicity, broadcasting or publication that identified the person under investigation once an allegation had been made to the police.
As the Under-Secretary of State is aware, the purpose of new clause 4 is to facilitate that debate and impose such a prohibition. I apologise to the House because, as currently drafted, new clause 4 does not meet that objective. I felt that new clause 1, which the Liberal Democrats tabled, was flawed, and did my best to correct it by drafting new clause 4. However, the reference to schedule 3 to the Sex Offenders Act 1997 is erroneousit should be to schedule 3 to the Bill. However, I do not think that the Minister was misled, and I believe that he fully understands the thrust and purpose of the new clause.
Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston): Many hon. Members may agree with what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do, but how could the new clause be enforced in respect of overseas publications and the internet? In high-profile cases, the word on who is involved gets around rapidly. If the new clause cannot be enforced, why discuss it?
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman is right that there is a limit on the territoriality of the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. It is therefore always possible to publish abroad material that cannot be published here. If someone published such material on the internet and it came into this country, however, they could be arrested and prosecuted if they subsequently happened to visit this country. I shall return to the issue of the internet in a moment, because it is important.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): My hon. Friend will know that publishing can be defined quite widely and could extend to the vendors of newspapers. Will he confirm that the new clause is not intended to catch small shops that sell newspapers?