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My hon. Friend says we should bear in mind that we are discussing an extension of 14 days to
28, not an extension to 90 days. I ask him to bear in mind what some of us pointed out to the Minister. The period of 14 days was agreed in both Parliaments with no Division, and similarly no one voted against the extension from 14 days to 28. Consensus was established then, and I believe it should be retained.
The problem is that we do not have detailed enough evidence to contradict, or for that matter to confirm, what the Government say. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner gave my Committee some information about the airline bomb plot, following which 24 suspects were arrested in August last year. The information we received was that 17 of them were charged with offences. Of those 17, six were charged only after their detention had been extended beyond 14 days, and two were charged just four hours before the end of the 28-day period. Of the seven who were not charged, four were released without charge within the old 14-day period, but three were released without charge well after that time, including two who were released only at the very end of the 28-day period.
It is clear to me that that bare statistical information is not sufficient to answer the question, Does the airline bomb plot demonstrate the need for the extension to 28 days? On the face of it, the fact that six suspects were detained for more than 14 days before being charged would appear to show that the increase was necessary. On the other hand, the fact that three of the five who were authorised to be detained for the full 28 days were released very close to the end of that period could be said to raise concerns about whether the power to detain for up to 28 days was being used to detain those against whom there was the least evidence.
Was the evidence on which the individuals were charged after 14 days available before the expiry of the 14-day period? How precisely has the 28-day period enabled prosecutions to be brought that might otherwise not have been possible? How did the longer period affect the urgency with which the police pursued the investigation in relation to each of the suspects? How often were the suspects held for the longer period questioned by the police? Did the longer period available to the police have any noticeable effect on the amount of disclosure made by the police to the suspects? Are investigations being pursued in relation to any of the three suspects who were detained for almost the full 28-day period and then released without charge?
The next question has already been raised today. How would the availability of post-charge questioning have affected the way in which the police conducted their investigation? Could some of the suspects have been charged with the same offence earlier than they were in fact charged? Here is an equally important question. What was the psychological impact on those who were detained for nearly four weeks before being released without charge?
What worries me is that the report of the statutory reviewer, Lord Carlile, does not provide the sort of
detained scrutiny that would answer questions of that kind. The problem is that the statistics do not settle the issue one way or another unless we dig deep into the information. It has been suggested that there should be a Privy Council inquiry, but I do not think that that is the answer. What we need is for the statutory reviewer to do his job properly, and provide us with answers to the questions that I have posed. That is what is required if we are to make informed decisions on whether to extend the periodinitially from 14 days to 28 days, and perhaps subsequently for longer. I have no reason to doubt what the police and the Government have said about the 28-day period, but it must be noted that it is difficult to challenge what they say.
There are also important issues to do with the available judicial safeguards, and in particular the questions that judges are expected to ask in respect of granting a longer period of detention. The first question is whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that further detention is necessary to preserve relevant evidence, and the second is whether the investigation has been conducted diligently and expeditiously. However, neither question addresses the substantive and basic issue of whether there was material in the first place that provided reasonable grounds for believing that the suspect had committed a terrorism-related offence. There is no onus on the police to justify to the court the basic premise for the suspects detention. Why was the person arrested in the first place? Is the basic test for arrest met, never mind the test for continued detention? We must bear that important point in mind.
I also want to discuss the conditions in which people are held at Paddington Green police station. A while ago, my Committee paid a visit to that station and members were horrified by what we saw. Paddington Green was not, of course, built for its current use. It was initially reinforced to provide additional security when those suspected of IRA terrorism were questioned, but the detention periods were much shorter then. The staff at Paddington Green do a very good job under difficult circumstances. I was impressed by the custody sergeants we met and the other staff, who try to look after people in their charge in a humane way.
There are, however, problems with Paddington Green. There are only 16 cells, but more than 20 people at a time have been arrested during certain investigations and therefore some of them have had to be sent to Belgravia, which is not set up to deal with terrorism suspects. Paddington Green is also an ordinary police station that serves its local neighbourhood, and its normal day-to-day work is severely disrupted by such suspects. There are no dedicated facilities for forensic examination of suspects on arrival, and cells have to be specially prepared for that purpose, which exacerbates the shortage of accommodation. There is no dedicated space for exercise, so part of the car park is used for thatall the vehicles have to be moved around to create an inadequate exercise space. Only one room is provided for suspects to discuss their cases in confidence with their solicitor. There are no facilities on site for forensic examination of equipment such as computer hard drives, and the video conferencing room is too small. That also raises a question about video conferencing being used as a means to extend periods of detention via judicial hearings, which does not allow for a proper examination of suspects.
Suspects held for such long periods are allowed no family contact, except for a monitored telephone call. If people are to be held for lengthy periods, we must consider whether strictly supervised family contact might be appropriateletters, for example, are not currently allowed, but I do not understand why they should not be if there is also censorship. We need to consider the conditions in which people are held, and the inadequate conditions in which the police have to conduct their inquiries.
We have inevitably come to the conclusion that Paddington Green must be replaced and that a new facility should be established as soon as possible. It should be located in London, and it should strike an appropriate balance between the need for high security and the desirability of it being accessible to the local community. It should be part of a functioning police station, rather than an exclusive terrorist facility, in order to maintain public confidence that people are being dealt with within the ordinary legal system. Proper accommodation for the police must also be close at hand. We heard stories about police officers having to live in hotels while conducting inquiries because of the long hours that they have to work. The facility must also be significantly larger, to cope with the requirements of holding many people and with the need to be adequate for detentions of at least the 28-day period that we are debating. Under the current arrangements people are moved from Paddington Green to Belmarsh after 14 days, and then shipped backwards and forwards to allow interviewing to continue. It is undesirable in principle for suspects to be transferred from police custody to prison custody during the period of pre-charge detention.
We also ought to make it mandatory that police interviews of terrorist suspects are videoed. At present, that is not compulsory, which leads to arguments. Such videos would provide a safeguard both for the police against allegations of ill treatment and for suspects that the interviews are conducted properly.
I will not oppose todays orders. If we are to be asked to consider a renewal next year or a further extension, we should have better evidence and scrutiny than we are currently provided with. However, regardless of whether we are asked to do so, we must ensure that the facilities in which people are held are adequate for the police and suspects.
Allowing the extension from 14 days to 28 days is an important step that raises significant civil rights considerations. I am willing to accept what the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) says about inadequate conditions in the holding police stationI think that he has a point. Holding people for as long as 28 days comes close to holding them in administrative detention, and if questioning takes place during the whole of that period there is a danger that those held will be coerced by circumstance into saying things that are untrue or misleading.
The truth is that no Member present, with the possible exception of the Minister, knows whether the
circumstances justify an extension to 28 days. I am prepared, at least for the moment, to accept that they might do so. The number of terrorist cells that need to be investigated might be a justification for that, as might the desirability of examining computer databases. However, the renewal should not be deemed to be automatic. This is a grave matter, and we should not be asked to renew every year without there being compelling supporting evidence.
I also wish to endorse the points about the future raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve). I am glad to hear that there will be a consultation paper, and I hope that it will be a genuine one and that there will also be genuine discussions. My hon. Friend is right that the issue of post-charge questioning is key in considering whether there should be an extension. If such questioning is allowed, there is less requirement for an extended holding period. He is also right that we must look at the codes that regulate the treatment of detainees being held for an extended period. It is important that the codes form part of the consultation. I also have concerns about the statutory warnings given by judges to juries if a detaineeor defendant as he has then becomehas refused to answer questions during such an extended detention period. After an extended period of detention, it is not unreasonable for defendants to refuse to answer further questions, and I am worried about the adverse inference that juries can currently take from such a refusal. That should feature in the consultation.
The House should not be asked to renew the provisions unless there is compelling evidence of need. I accept that it might be difficult for the House to be given such evidence as much of it will be covert in nature. The Government have suggested that they might be willing to establish a Privy Council Committee to look at intercept evidence. I would like such a Committee to be asked to consider evidence on whether there is a need for an extension to 28 days or more, as it could be told many things that cannot be openly ventilated in the House. The function of that Privy Council Committee would be to receive the evidence, to assess the weight of the evidence and to advise the House. Ultimately it would be for the House to decide whether we wished to accept that advice, but I would be much more comfortable about making a decision to extend the period either to or beyond 28 days if I were in receipt of such advice.
Mr. Hogg: I take it that that is a rebuke of me, but I am not trying to be self-interested. I am trying to say that some things have to be said confidentially, and that is clearly the case with the intercept evidence. After all, the hon. Gentlemans party has decided that the intercept matters should be considered by a Privy Council Committee and I assume that that is because of the covert nature of the information to be disclosed. The same principle applies in this case and it is on that basis that I make my suggestion.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): We are short of time, so I shall deal briefly with the main points. The Government cannot get away with the argument, sneaky or otherwise, that this matter has adequate consultation to come. The reality is that they have had more than enough time to sort this out. There has been a succession of failures. The Minister himself has had to admit that control orders do not work. He has said so on the record. The bottom line is that the sunset clause was a last resort, which I voted for only after very careful consideration, although it was completely against the rest of the Bill. Control orders do not work because they are constructed on the basis of the human rights legislation and it is impossible to square the circle.
With regard to the question of evidence, I have already mentioned that Lord Carlile has said that there is a certain amount of evidence for the extension of the period of time. That has also been endorsed by at least two former Attorney-Generals. Much of the argument that I have heard does not take account of the fact that under the existing provisions a senior judge is concerned only in applications for extension of detention beyond 14 days. I personally see no reason why a red judge should not be involved at a much earlier stage. I am all in favour of habeas corpus, and Lord Steyn said that it was the most important of all the functions of judges. Therefore, it is essential that judges are brought in at an early stage, but that is not to say that it follows that in certain circumstances, providing that it is properly staged and that there is to be a fair trial and due process, there should not be a period of time in excess of 28 days. I do not suggest that it need be 90 days, but in certain circumstances more than 28 days will be required, and I am certain that the Government know that. I accuse them of playing political games with a very serious subject. They could have dealt with this issue at an earlier stage, but they failed to do so. It is a case of grave negligence against the public interest that the Government have not dealt with it so far.
judicial scrutiny...has been damaged by excessive judicial concern about suspects rights.
I agree. If one re-reads the House of Lords decisions in the Belmarsh case in December 2004, one finds many reasons for believing that the Law Lords got carried away with themselves. Nine out of 10 did so and that was a great shame. They have an opportunity now to redress the balance.
There are many things that could and should be said this afternoon, but in conclusion I merely say that I believe that there is ample evidence. Nobody has rebutted Mr. Haymans analysis way back in 2005. Time and again I have heard people say that there is no evidence, but I have not seen a single paper demonstrating that his paper is intrinsically wrong. I shall say no more as I know that others wish to speak, but I hope that the consultation does not fall into the wet social liberal attitudes that I have observed on this question. We should put the public interest first and ensure that we protect the public.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): I shall be brief and address myself directly to the public interest to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has just referred. I wish to look at the order through the lens of community cohesion. It is undoubtedly true that in the struggle against al-Qaeda and the sort of atrocious incidents that we saw last weekend in London and Glasgow, the solution cannot be only one of security. The winning of hearts and minds, as both my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and the Prime Minister have put it, is crucial.
I represent the largest number and percentage of Muslims of any official Opposition Member of Parliament. When I meet them, as I regularly do, they make the point that al-Qaeda likes nothing better than to be able to portray events as a plot or conspiracy against Islam. I found that out only last weekend when it was put to me that the knighthood awarded to Salman Rushdie was part of an anti-Islamic plot, organised by the Government. Although I am not, of course, a great defender of the Government, I tried to put that point of view right directly.
Arguably, approving the order and retaining the 28 days will make it more difficult to win Muslim hearts and minds. That cannot, of course, be the final consideration. In the delicate balance of civil liberties and national security, weight must sometimes be placed on national security. That is what happened when the 28-day period was approved without a Division. Since the question of 90 days has been raised this afternoon, I have to say that any move to that period would make it more difficult to win hearts and minds. While that consideration is not in itself conclusive, if a proposal for 90 days were put before the House, I would want to see much more evidence that there was a case for it. Indeed, I would want to see incontrovertible evidence before supporting it.
Mr. McNulty: I commend the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) on the work that he has done in Wycombe since the alleged plot last summer. It is sad that on the two or three occasions I have been there our paths have not crossednot for any adverse reasons. I agree with what he says about hearts and minds and that this is not just a security problem that requires a security solution.
I thought that I made it clear in my opening remarks six individuals had been held for the full term, three of whom were convicted and three who were not. The actual figure for 14 days-plus was 10, seven of whom were convicted. I take the points made by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) about PACE. The hope is that the Crown Prosecution Service will put out a paper alongside the consultation papers that we issue, summing up the position in terms of the need for a time between 14 and 28 days. I also accept the point that interviews that cannot be used are of no value to anyone. I agree with his points about the possibility of pushing back the barriers in terms of the recognised normality for the rule of law to no avail, for interviews that are ultimately inadmissible. On his points about welfare, the police have in all circumstances sought to ensure that questioning is not excessive and that those
detained are given regular breaks for exercise and so on. If I obtain any further information on that, I will put it in the Library.
It is suggested that the provision is used to get round the broader lawthat it is used as a disruptive measure in cases in which there is no possibility of charges being laidbut I can confirm that that is emphatically not the Governments starting point. I accept the point that further discussion is needed of the evidence, the nature of the evidence and peoples judgments and speculation about the nature of the future threat. As the hon. Gentleman suggests, however, such consideration is properly for the real play, rather than the dress rehearsal, to use his terms.
As to the hon. Gentlemans comment that there is no evidence of consensus at this stage, we would rather get the papers and the substance outhe has an advantage over much of the House, as he has seen some of the papers during early discussions. He is right that the mechanisms of such consultations should also be discussed. I am not with him on his specific point about chronology: if a Bill is coming, it is right to discuss all the issues together. It would not work to discuss where we are going on pre-charge detentionwhether 28 days or otherwise, back to 14 days or beyondoutwith discussion of what else is in the Bill. I do not accept his point about Pandoras boxI was going to make a little joke about Morrison, with Pandoras box opening and all sorts of Trojan horses jumping out, but I shall not bother.
I am grateful for the thrust of much of the discussion. In the last couple of minutes, I want to pursue the issue raised by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield: the notion that the longer people are detained before charge, the more time there is for speculation among the 24/7as it is describedmedia. That is a two-edged point, and he discussed one of the edges. I do not have any instant answers. It grates a little when, for at least a little while during the process, the only factual view of the world comes from the putative defence solicitor getting his retaliation in early, which clouds the issues.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the large trials that have come to fruition recentlyRhyme, Crevice and othershave had that merry dance for at least two or three weeks, when the whole discourse has been about whether a fair trial can take place and whether the nature of the media coverage was fair or otherwise. In part, we are stuck with that. If, however, during the course of our deliberations, we can come to some consensus about what we do about that, or how that is managed around the edges, without being draconian, I would be enormously grateful, as long as that included solicitors having a free run for the defendant as well as the media speculating ad nauseam.
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