Counter-Terrorism Bill

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Clause 43

Power to Amend Specified Terms or Periods of Imprisonment or Detention
Mr. Grieve: I beg to move amendment No. 175, in clause 43, page 32, line 4, leave out paragraph (a).
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 176, in clause 43, page 32, line 5, leave out from ‘force’ to end of line 9.
Mr. Grieve: This is a simple matter—just to have it on the record. As I understand the purpose of clause 43, it is to ensure that there will be no retrospectivity applying to any decision to reduce a specified term or period requiring notification but, at the same time, will give individuals the benefit of any retrospectivity in cases of extending the period and thereby taking people out of the regime altogether. In those circumstances somebody who has been made subject to a notification process but finds subsequently that the Government change the rules so that they would not have been subject to that process at the outset of notification would thereby no longer have to register.
Mr. McNulty: I am grateful that the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests that these are probing amendments.
Clause 42 specifies that sentences or orders of 12 months or more for relevant offences would lead to the notification requirements applying, as we have discussed. We believe that this threshold will lead to notification requirements for convicted terrorists who pose a significant risk to the community on their release from custody.
It may be found in future that the threshold captures serious offences not deemed to present sufficient risk to justify the application of the requirements because the threshold is too low. Alternatively, the threshold may be found to be too high. The clause provides the Secretary of State with an order-making power to vary the sentence or order thresholds to ensure that they remain effective, proportionate and justified. This will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny as the order is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. If the order reduces the thresholds for notification requirements, they will only apply to those dealt with after the order comes into force. However, if the order increases the thresholds, for example, from 12 months to two years, individuals who were subject to notification requirements because of a sentence of up to two years, would no longer be required to notify as from the date the order comes into force.
It is as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. With that explanation, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
Mr. Grieve: I have no difficulty with that explanation and will ask to withdraw the amendment.
That somebody has clearly seen the necessity of making the provision highlights the fact that although notification in itself may not be viewed as a punishment it is nevertheless an onerous requirement that has to be dealt with fairly. If it were not for that, there would have been no requirement to put in clause 42 at all. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 44

Initial Notification
Amendments made: No. 145, in clause 44, page 32, line 17, leave out from ‘question’ to the end of line 22.
No. 146, in clause 44, page 33, line 4, at end insert—
‘( ) In the application of this section to a person dealt with for an offence before the commencement of this Part who, immediately before commencement—
(a) would be imprisoned or detained in respect of the offence but for being unlawfully at large, absent without leave, on temporary leave or leave of absence, or on bail pending an appeal, or
(b) has been released on licence, having served the whole or part of a sentence of imprisonment in respect of the offence,
the reference in subsection (1) to the day on which the person is dealt with in respect of the offence shall be read as a reference to the commencement of this Part.’. —[Mr. McNulty . ]
Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Heath: My brief question also relates to clause 52, which sets out offences relating to notification. The offence, of course, is failure without reasonable excuse to comply with initial notification as outlined in clause 44. Presumably, that offence is triggered by any failure to comply with any part of clause 44, and what worries me—it is a perfectly simple concern—is subsection (2)(b), the national insurance number. I can see that it is entirely possible for a person to comply in every respect with clause 44—to appear at the police station within the three-day period, give their date of birth and home address, which they know, and all the other details which they know, but they may not know their national insurance number. They may thus not be able to comply with clause 44.
There is no requirement to know one’s national insurance number; it is helpful if one does, but there are circumstances in which people do not know or perhaps have never been allocated one, or have been allocated two, which is sometimes the case. As the offence is non-compliance, it worries me that the compliance is absolute in terms of the whole provision, yet one element is not necessarily in the control of the individual to whom the notification order applies.
Mr. Blunt: I have a brief point on which I seek clarification. In what circumstances is it anticipated that someone who is unlawfully at large would notify their address and all the other required information to the police? I just draw attention to subsection (1)(b)(ii), which puts a duty on someone who is unlawfully at large to provide their details. I would be grateful if the Minister—[I nterruption . ] I understand that, but the punishment under the provision is five years on conviction. I would have thought that someone unlawfully at large on a conviction for being unlawfully at large would already be subject to a punishment of that order. I would be grateful for the Minister’s clarification.
Mr. McNulty: On the point made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome, if he had committed the Bill to memory—as no doubt he has, but has forgotten it, rather as I have—he would have rushed to clause 52, where it says very clearly under “Offences relating to notification” that a person commits an offence who
“fails without reasonable excuse to comply with...section 44”.
It would be a reasonable excuse that a person had tried and been unable to get his national insurance number from the Department for Work and Pensions or whomever, but told the police that he would try to get it as quickly as possible. That would be a reasonable excuse, so I think the interplay between the two is perfectly fair. As the hon. Gentleman says, giving a false name would be a different matter.
An individual’s being at large does not obviate the need for them to comply with the notification order. If they are unlawfully at large and have a duty to notify and fail to do so, that is an offence with a penalty of up to five years in prison, so it is proper that the words “unlawfully at large” are included. I suspect that the meaning of those words is not covered by “reasonable excuse” in terms of clause 52.
The wording of the clause makes sense, but I take the point made by the hon. Member for Reigate. The legalese says:
“A person to whom the notification requirements apply must notify the required information to the police within three days...If the person was dealt with...before the commencement of this Part and... has been released on licence unlawfully at large”
on commencement, and so on. As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome implied, the notification elements do not disappear simply because a person is unlawfully at large; they are still germane and relevant, which is why they are mentioned in the clause. However, clause 52 answers the hon. Gentleman’s broader point.
11.45 am
Mr. Heath: I am most grateful to the Minister. I hope that every police officer who is administering that record will note carefully the Minister’s comment that if one happens not to know one’s national insurance number it is a reasonable excuse for not providing it within the three-day period.
Clause 44, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 46

Notification of changes
Mr. McNulty: I beg to move amendment No. 147, in clause 46, page 33, line 37, at end insert—
‘This does not apply if the person is at the same time required to notify the police under section 44 (initial notification).’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 149 to 152.
Mr. McNulty: These are deeply tedious technical points. Let me explain the tedium.
Amendment No. 147 ensures that there is no double requirement to notify changes by stating that if the individual is already required to notify the police upon his release from custody, prison or detention in a hospital, he is required to notify only under clause 44 and not under clause 46 as well, which could be an inference under the current draft.
Amendment No. 149 adds notifications that are made to the police under clause 47—“Periodic re-notification”—to those covered by “previous notifications” in clause 46. Amendment No. 150 clarifies that the one-year period for re-notification under clause 47 runs from the last notification made by the individual.
Amendment No. 151 makes it clear that a person is not required to re-notify under clause 47 if the annual re-notification date falls when he is remanded in custody, imprisoned or detained in a hospital. Further to that, amendment No. 152 provides that if the person is remanded in custody, imprisoned or detained in a hospital when the period of one year since his last notification ends, he is required to notify the police on his release in accordance with clause 46(4); it further provides that the information he has to notify is that specified in clause 44(2).
The amendments tidy up a range of technical points in respect of the interlocking nature of all the clauses in the part of the Bill relating to notification requirements. I commend them to the Committee.
Mr. Heath: I have one small anxiety. I hope that the people to whom the notification orders apply are made aware, while in custody, of all the details about what they are required to do. I am thinking particularly about the fact that they are required to provide notification that they have been released from custody. Many people might assume that the criminal justice system would be aware that a person had been released from custody, although that is an unsafe assumption in the current circumstances. Nevertheless, a reasonable person might assume that the criminal justice system was aware that a court had released somebody from custody or from detention in a hospital. Unless that is spelled out to the person, I fear that they might inadvertently be in breach of the notification procedures even while they were attempting to do everything required of them, having made the sensible assumption that once a court says “you are now free to go”, the fact is logged somewhere in the system.
Mr. McNulty: That part of the hon. Gentleman’s comments is perfectly fair, but it is incumbent on the individual—having previously been under a notification requirement—to understand fully where that requirement picks up again once he is released from custody. It is a bit two-way but I take the point none the less.
In terms of the hon. Gentleman’s first point, I say simply that we are getting there. The one thing I have discovered, having been tangential to—but never responsible for—prisons and the interface between prisons and criminal justice, is the enormous churn of numbers on a daily basis. It is quite phenomenal when explored in any detail—those on short term and those being moved from security to open prisons as a prelude to release. The hon. Gentleman is right; any normal person would expect that everyone in the entire system knows when someone is released, but sometimes there is more than one link-up to make in that regard.
There are also responsibilities on the individual, however, bearing in mind that they are already under a notification requirement and, for whatever reason, are now detained in prison or custody. They should know precisely when they should pick up and notify again in terms of the register regime. Between the individual and the criminal justice system, it is to be hoped that sanity will prevail.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. McNulty: I beg to move amendment No. 148, in clause 46, page 33, line 40, leave out from ‘changes’ to the end of line 41 and insert ‘in that information’.
This amendment simply makes the drafting throughout clause 44 rather simpler and easier to understand in terms of how it relates to clause 46(5). It does not change the policy in any way, but it links to the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome’s earlier point about how key elements relate to each other. I hope the amendment makes that clearer rather than otherwise, and I commend it to the Committee.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 149, in clause 46, page 34, line 11, leave out ‘or this section’ and insert
‘, this section or section 47 (periodic re-notification)’.—[Mr. McNulty.]
Clause 46, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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