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Mr. Clarke: I agree with all that and, as I said to the House both on Second Reading and in Committee, we think the case for the right hon. Gentleman's point is well made. Application of the procedure that he set out may mean that it would be less necessary in a given case, and thus there would be fewer cases where there was an extended period of pre-charge detention. The key point, however, is that it does not remove the need for pre-charge detention in certain circumstances, although I agree that the number would be limited. Nevertheless, I accept the integrity of his point; the view is shared across the Government that we need to achieve the state of affairs that he described. It is none the less important to note that there are implications for other aspects of the conduct of our legal process and they, too, need to be considered.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): We have heard a lot about the views of the police on the extension of the detention period. Given that my right hon. Friend cannot tell us what the Attorney-General has told him, has he spoken to the Director of Public Prosecutions? The Solicitor-General, who has responsibility to the House for the views of the Crown Prosecution Service, is sitting next to my right hon. Friend. What are the views of the DPP about the 90-day period? Secondly, given that the provision will disproportionately affect members of the Asian community, what steps will my right hon. Friend take to ensure that when the police have those additional powers they will engage fully, at a local level, with the Asian community?
Mr. Clarke: I can give my hon. Friend the specific assurance that he seeks on his first point: the CPS strongly supports the proposed extension to 90 days. I have said that throughout the debate, because the experience of prosecutors intimately involved in such difficult cases has led them to the same conclusions as senior police officers involved in the process. That is their clear and unequivocal position, explicitly and directly.
Mr. Clarke: I want to finish answering my hon. Friend's question. His second point was very important. Without any encouragement from me, the police, over a period of 10 to 15 yearsperhaps since Scarman, perhaps for even longerhave been working extremely hard to transform their relations with various minority ethnic communities in particular cities. Obviously, that is patchy and there are areas where not as much has been done, but some of our great metropolitan forces have made massive strides in developing relationships between operational policing and particular communities that did not exist previously. Moreover, the major faith leaders, nationally and locally, in most of our communitiesnot allare working hard to find ways to co-operate in addressing the issues on a basis of respect for different faiths. To be candid, the comparison that was made earlier with current events in France is utterly unhistorically based when we consider our achievements in the UK.
I agree with my hon. Friend that we need to re-intensify our efforts to ensure that police relationships with various ethnic minority communities and faiths are substantial and real in every community in the country. Much work is already going on, but I can give him an assurance, without qualification, of the key importance of that point.
Mr. Carmichael: The Home Secretary was right to seek the views of the CPS in England and Wales, and it is right that the House should listen to them. Having done so, however, why did not he seek the view of the Lord Advocate with regard to the necessity and workability of 90-day detention in the context of Scots law?
Mr. Clarke: I set out as clearly as I conceivably could the precise process that we followed in trying to obtain those views. That was the right approach. I set that out both in what I said earlier and in the letter that I sent to Members of Parliament from Scotland. I believe that we have gone about things in the right way and we are establishing properly based legislation for the whole United Kingdom.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): May I take the Home Secretary back to the issue of the Lord Advocate? From what he told the House a moment or two ago, it appears that the Lord Advocate's view is that the period should be the same both north and south of the border, and that the authorities in Scotland should co-operate with the authorities in England, but it does not appear that the Lord Advocate endorsed the principle of 90 days. Is that correct?
Mr. Clarke: The Lord Advocate endorsed the view that it should be the same north and south of the border, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said[Interruption.] That is the case. Our proposal is that there should be a 90-day period south of the border, so the Lord Advocate thinks that there should also be a 90-day period north of the border.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):
How has it transpired that the Lord Advocate, Scotland's senior Law Officer, expressed to the Home Secretary the view that the period of detention pre-trial should be the same north and south of the border, but at no stage
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in that correspondence or discussion expressed a view about how long that period should be? Does not the Home Secretary accept that many of us find that an incredible state of affairs?
Mr. Clarke: I am always ready to accept that the hon. Gentleman leading the Scottish National party finds things incredible, but the fact is that I do not think it is incredible; it is a perfectly reasonable state of affairs.
Amendment No. 63, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris), addresses an important point that a large number of people have raised with mecompensation in the event that someone was held incorrectly. The amendment provides that those held for more than 14 days and released without charge should be entitled to compensation. That is my hon. Friend's principal proposal.
I have much sympathy with the idea, but there are some issues regarding its implementation. Thus far, we have never paid compensation, other than in cases involving malpractice, to people tried and acquitted, even though they may be held in custody for far longer periods than we are considering in these circumstances. We may or may not agree with the justice of that position, but it has been the case for a long time. We need, therefore, to consider carefully the precedent that we might set if we agreed to the amendment. However, I accept, first, that my hon. Friend is making a serious point and, secondly, that by hypothesis we would be dealing with a very small number of cases indeedthe very small number of cases where people are held, say, for more than 28 days pre-charge and within that group the very, very small group of people who were wrongly held and subsequently not charged. For that reason, because the provision would apply to such a small group of people, I am prepared to look carefully at my hon. Friend's suggestion and will report back to him and the House as soon as I can. I hope that he will understand that we need to take the operational implications fully into account, so I cannot give him an unequivocal commitment at this stage, but on the basis of that proposal, I ask him to consider withdrawing the amendment.
Clare Short: I want to take my right hon. Friend back to the point about interviewing a person who has been charged already. My understanding is that, under existing arrangements, if new and significant evidence becomes available, it is possible for the police to apply to re-interview. Is that not the case? Does that not cast some doubt on the case for 90 days?
Some colleagues have a wonderful tendency not to allow me to answer my right hon.
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Friendwhich I will. I shall then considerI make no commitmentthe merit or otherwise of giving way further. Let me try to answer the question that she fairly raises with me. She is fundamentally right in her analysis that it is possible in certain circumstances to re-interview. She is also right in that the Government are considering whether such circumstances could be[Hon. Members: "We cannot hear."] I beg hon. Members' pardon.
My right hon. Friend is also right in that we are looking carefully, as I have told Opposition Members, to extending the case more widely. She is also right in her implication that, if we were to succeed in doing that, it might reduce the number of people whom we had to hold in pre-charge detention for longer than the current period. All those points are correct. They do not, however, obviate the central point that, even all that said, there will still be cases where it might not be possible to operate in that way. That is why the power that we seek is needed.
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