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Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): With great respect, my right hon. Friend has been misled on the ricin case, because the individual who fled the country while on bail was released by the police after two days in custody, not after 14 days. It cannot therefore be argued that they could have charged him if they had been able to hang on to him for 90 days. Will he confirm that that is the case?
Mr. Clarke: I can confirm that that is the case, but the specific example I gave demonstrates that there are cases in which the police, when making a judgment about whether to charge someone, can reach a decision that, in my opinion, is damaging to the course of justice.
Dr. Wright: I should have thought that the name of Lord Carlile would have some resonance among Opposition Members. He is the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, and he said that there should not be a Dutch auction in Parliament on the numbers, which is exactly what is happening. He also said that
"I am satisfied beyond doubt there have been situations in which significant conspiracies to commit terrorist acts have gone unprosecuted as a result of the time limitations placed on the control authorities following arrest".
Lord Carlile has played an admirable and outstanding role, despite being a Liberal Democrat, in seeking to get terrorism legislation into a coherent form. We should take seriously everything that he says, which is why I have tabled a number of amendments on Report to try to meet some of his concerns. It is incumbent on others, particularly Liberal Democrat Members, to look at what he says in the round and to act accordingly.
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab):
May I caution my right hon. Friend not to overstate his case? I do not question the integrity of the police in proposing 90 days, and they may well have a good case. However,
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according to documents released to the Home Affairs Committee, when the Government agreed to support the 90-day proposal, they had received only two documents from the Association of Chief Police Officersthe ACPO press release of 21 July and a two-page summary of two difficult cases, neither of which is analysed to provide a case for 90 days. It would be better if my right hon. Friend did not overstate the strength of his case, and would he not have done better to ask the police to provide a more substantial report before making a decision?
Mr. Clarke: I accept part of my right hon. Friend's rebuke, as it is important not to overstate the case. However, it is also important not to understate the case. It is important to understand all sides of the case. I have tried throughoutwhether successfully or not, others will judgeto put the case in a balanced way and to respond to the debate. I shall continue to do so, but I take my right hon. Friend's point that it is important to address all these things in the round, which is one reason why I decided that a sunset clausegenerally, I do not support such provisionswas an appropriate way to proceed and would allow a detailed assessment of the measure by the Home Affairs Committee and others.
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): Over the weekend, I sought the views of South Wales police and had a detailed discussion about the measure with them. They have no interest whatsoever in obtaining those powers for themselves, even though that is how the debate has been played. They are reassured, however, that the powers are in the hands of the judiciary, who will oversee the process and review it every seven days or sooner. I acknowledge what my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen said, but South Wales police are convinced that there are rare circumstanceswe hope, however, that we will never have to use the measurein which 90 days will be required. I urge my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider that view, and not to backtrack too easily.
Mr. Clarke: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I should like to pick out a couple of points. First, he used the word "rare". We are talking about a very small number of cases indeed, but by hypothesis we are trying to deal with some of the most dangerous people in the world. Secondly, we have not made as much of judicial oversight as we should have done, but we should address the powerful issue of a High Court judge reviewing the detention either every seven days or on the more flexible basis that I set out. It is very important indeed that we look at this in a balanced way, which is another argument for the sunset clausesomething to which, as I said, I am not usually sympathetic.
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab):
I have attended meetings with the police, and have paid
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attention to the Hayman review. However, why do the British police need that period, when police forces across EuropeI discount the example of France, because the French cannot teach us much about law and order at the momenthave not taken such powers, even though other countries, particularly Spain have experienced similar problems?
Mr. Clarke: The fact is, we have very different legal systems, which is why it is difficult to make comparisons. However, to use the example of France, this morning I spoke to Lord Carlile, who had had a conversation with a judge in Paris about that very question. Following a low-level chargeassociation with "malfaiteurs" or something similarthere can be an investigation of up to four years. Those are the comparisons that we need to make.
Joan Ruddock : I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. Can he confirm whether, in the past 18 months, people held for 14 days under existing terrorism laws have been charged in all cases, and that no one has been set free after being held for that period? Have individuals who have been charged after 14 days been satisfactorily charged? If so, would not 28 days have been a good extension to offer?
Mr. Clarke: I understand the case that my hon. Friend is making, and the facts that she cites are correct. In one case, a serious situation could have arisen near to the end of the detention period. I draw her attention to Lord Carlile's assessment of the argument that she made, and his conclusion that 90 days is appropriate.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): Earlier, my right hon. Friend referred to the evidence of Mr. Clarke to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Mr. Clarke emphasised, however, that we are talking about a maximum period of three months:
Without an extension, could the present situation not lead to a miscarriage of justice, because the police cannot investigate properly or effectively, and are unable patiently to work their way through the evidence?
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