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Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP):
Does the hon. Gentleman face the same dilemma as me? When we are dealing with legislation on terrorism, I am disposed to give the police, and indeed the Government, the benefit of the doubt, but a change from 14 to 90 days surely requires a rationale. If the only rationale is that the police are asking for the change, it is difficult for any of us to justify a move from 14 days. Do not the Government have a responsibility to show us why they require the additional time? They cannot simply say that they need more time to look at closed circuit television footage or to make inquiries abroad; they must be able to tell us why that requires 90 days rather than 30.
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Mr. Grieve: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, whose comments highlight the problem. I want to make it clear to the Home Secretary that the Conservatives have never said that there can be no movement from 14 days. As he can see, we have deliberately not tabled amendments suggesting other periods, as it seems to us that the first thing that the Government must do is to engage in dialogue with the Committee about why the period of 90 days has been chosen and why other possibilities, ranging from 15 days to 90, would not be equally feasible and meet their need. I am conscious that Labour Back Benchers have tabled an amendment that provides for 28 daysan interesting period, because it strikes me, from my discussions with members of the legal profession, that it is probably at the outer limit of what would currently pass scrutiny under the European convention on human rights. That is a subject to which I shall happily return.
Mr. Hogg: If by any chance the Committee were to move to 28 days, does my hon. Friend agree that revised codes would be required to ensure that questioning was not over-intrusive at the latter stage of that period?
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman said that he would discuss warrants for further detention, but I have listened carefully to his remarks and so far he has not done so. Does he agree that the judicial procedure for which those warrants provide is a substantial safeguard against detention for an extended period with no authority at all?
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman is right. There is a procedure, especially under clause 24, to deal with scrutiny of the grounds for continuing detentionthe amendments cover clauses 23 and 24. I am pleased that the procedure is in the Bill, but I have to point out to the hon. Gentleman that similar provisions already exist. Our amendments aim to provide more safeguards in that process.
Mr. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): We do not need to look to the future to realise that the relationship between the public and the police is delicate. We only have to go back to 198485, a period that many Members will remember; the divisions that were caused between the police and the public in mining communities still exist today. It is extremely important that we get the measure right, as if a number of people are arrested in particular areas, with a 90-day penalty, I envisage the same divisions occurring.
I agree that policing in this country has always been done by consentthat is the fundamental basis on which it happens. There are occasionsI acknowledge that the miners' strike was onewhen the principle of consent is seriously eroded. We can argue about necessity, but I do not dispute that the miners' strike caused such an erosion, and there are plenty of other examples. It has occurred in some ethnic
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minority communities and it happened before the Brixton riots. One might say that that is sometimes inevitable, but one should always bear it in mind that it happens and consider the consequences. Far from making the country a safer place, it contributes to some of the problems from which we suffer. Once consent is withdrawn, policing has to become more heavy-handed, the local community participates less, general crime rates increase and communities begin to suffer badly, becoming thoroughly dysfunctional. We must have regard to that because if we do not, we simply dig a hole for ourselves.
Mr. Bailey : Again, the hon. Gentleman appears to pose a theoretical argument. The Muslim community in my constituency is most active in calling for more police in the local communityBill or no Bill.
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman misses the point. I cannot think of any law-abiding community in this country that does not call for more police. Indeed, that reinforces the Government's signal failure to implement community policing. However, in communities where a breakdown in relations occurs between the police and the local people, more police are not requested and people complain about routine and regular police action. That has happened on numerous occasions. Frankly, if the hon. Gentleman has not witnessed it, he must live on another planet. I witnessed it when I stood as a candidate in south London in the late 1980s for a constituency that included Brixton, and I have witnessed it in my work in the past three years when I have travelled to areas where there is poverty, deprivation and large ethnic minority populations.
Amendment No. 8 is a probing amendment, and is designed to discover the reason for the decision that applications for a warrant of extended detention should no longer be made only by the police but by the Crown prosecutor. The Home Secretary may have some perfectly sensible answers, but I wanted to know the reason for the extensionit is not clearand what role the Crown Prosecution Service and similar services in other parts of the country will play in determining applications. Hitherto, applications have been made by the police. Of course, I know that the Crown Prosecution Service plays a greater part in the charging process, but I hope that we can have some explanation.
We tabled amendment No. 9 because the Bill is poorly drafted and the amendment deals with one example of that. The sentence to which it applies makes no sense and I assume that the word "a" is missing. However, it highlights the fact that the Government have plunged into legislation in some haste.
Amendment No. 10 is important. It deals with the way in which the court should regulate the process whereby extended detention takes place. The Bill provides that the police or the prosecutor can ask for an extra seven days. I cannot understand why seven days have been chosen. If someone has been in custody for 32 days, I can think of no reason why the
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court should not be entitled to say, even in ordinary circumstances, "You can have another 48 hours and no more." Under the Bill, the court can do that only if special circumstances warrant it.
Let me give a first example of our attempts to improve the Bill. If the Government are to depart from the 14-day rule, the court must play a much more proactive role in determining whether days of detention are justified. Indeed, there is an argument that that should apply to the seven-day rule before the first extension. Simply returning to court on a weekly basis and asking for another seven days is not good enough. The amendment seeks to provide a greater opportunity for the court to exercise its discretion.
Amendment No. 12 deals with a point that we discussed earliernamely, that it is quite wrong that further detention should be allowed solely to obtain evidence by questioning. Of course I appreciate that questioning is an important part of ascertaining whether an offence has been committed, but the reality is that the vast majority of those arrested for alleged terrorist offences usually decline to comment. Alternatively, they might be wholly co-operative because they believe that they will be able to exonerate themselves by providing a complete explanation. I cannot believe that 14 days is not long enough for that process to take place. If detention were to be allowed beyond 14 days merely for questioning, the courts would soon start to find such conduct oppressive.
Ian Lucas : Would not this provision apply if information came to the police within that period as a consequence of forensic testing, and gave rise to the need for further questioning of the individual concerned?
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