[back to previous text]

Mr. Hanson: I will happily cover that point now, in an intervention. Having checked the matter, I can say that case study 1 and case study 5 are the same case. One reason why there is some difficulty is that we have been seeking to ensure that we get victim approval when victims’ names are put into the public domain. Every name that I have mentioned in my contributions has had the victim’s approval of it being put into the public domain. There was some confusion over those cases. I will clarify the matter if necessary by letter for the Committee, but we have many more cases that we have permission to use, and I will do so during the debate.
James Brokenshire: I am a little disturbed by what the Minister has said. Obviously, we have received the letter, which in effect set out to formalise the Government’s approach and to show why the Government feel that the Scottish model, and any adjustments in that direction, are not appropriate. It is therefore quite worrying if we are being told that there are five case studies when in fact there are four. I ask the Minister to reflect on whether a letter of clarification should be written to the Chairmen, in case the documents are all put down as evidence to the Committee and then all bound up and looked at afterwards. The question is what other facts may not be correct if, just having highlighted one issue—
The Chairman: Order. I might be able to help. The letter was sent to Members. It becomes evidence only if it is sent to the Committee as evidence—if it is stated that it is sent as evidence. If that helps to clarify the matter and deal with the hon. Gentleman’s concern, we might be able to move forward.
James Brokenshire: I am grateful for that, Mr. Cook. It was the fact that the letter had been addressed to you and your co-Chairman that gave me the impression of extended formality. I think the Minister was indicating that he wished to intervene, but if he does not, I will leave that point, because I understand what he is saying. I do not want to delay the Committee and I know that the right hon. Gentleman will respond as required on the matter. We look forward to receiving that information in due course.
We have heard clearly that on the balance of proportionality, there is a difference of opinion in the Committee. In the light of that, I wish to test the Committee’s opinion on amendment 26.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Cook. I wish to ensure that the record is clear. Before we broke for lunch, the Minister of State referred to a case involving a constituent of mine. He may have led the Committee into believing that, if adopted, Liberal Democrat party policy would have made a difference and not allowed the murderer in that case to have been pursued.
For the sake of clarity, I must point out that my party’s policy would have made no difference, because the assailant in that case was arrested some months afterwards and his DNA was captured then. That sample was cross-referenced with the DNA captured at the crime scene. I wish the record to be clear that that case would have been pursued to a successful conclusion.
Mr. Hanson: Further to that point of order, Mr. Cook. I am happy for the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington to give us whatever clarification he wishes in relation to specific cases, including the one I mentioned. The facts that I put to the Committee this morning are the same: Liberal Democrat policy, principled though it is, would lead to fewer convictions because of the lack of use of DNA.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 7.
Division No. 1]
Baldry, Tony
Brake, Tom
Brokenshire, James
Burns, Mr. Simon
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Flello, Mr. Robert
Hanson, rh Mr. David
McDonagh, Siobhain
McIsaac, Shona
Seabeck, Alison
Watts, Mr. Dave
Question accordingly negatived.
James Brokenshire: On a point of order, Mr. Cook. This may be an appropriate point to raise the matter. I understand from the business statement made earlier today on the Floor of the House that there will be a motion to approve an instruction relating to the Crime and Security Bill next Wednesday. I wonder whether you have received notification of it or had any instruction relating to the matter. Motions seem regularly to appear at the moment, and any clarification would be greatly appreciated.
The Chairman: I grasp the point. I have not been informed, but it is not a matter for the Committee. It is a matter for the Chamber and the business of the House.
Mr. Hanson: Further to that point of order, Mr. Cook. I will write to members of the Committee and to you and Sir Nicholas about those matters, but I had to wait for an announcement to be made by the Leader of the House on the Floor of the House before I could do so.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. We are all being very proper today, thankfully.
James Brokenshire: I beg to move amendment 150, in clause 14, page 30, line 42, leave out from beginning to end of line 27 on page 35.
We come to a slightly narrower point and a further testing amendment on the differential approach being applied in relation to young people and adults. During the first debate on clause 14, I acknowledged that the Government sought to adopt a different regime for children to reflect not only the Marper judgment but the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. However, under the proposals on retention periods for adults and persons under 18, will the DNA of a young person convicted of an offence, albeit not a qualifying offence falling within a category designated by the Government as serious, not be retained for longer than someone who is innocent in the eyes of the law?
The retention period for an adult arrested for any offence will be six years, whereas the period for a young person convicted of an offence other than a qualifying offence will be five years. In essence, someone who is guilty of an offence will be treated more leniently than someone who is not guilty. Will the Minister explain the thinking behind the relative positions? We touched on this question during our previous debate, albeit obliquely, but it is worth probing the Government’s thinking to explore how they have arrived at those retention periods.
The Minister of State has discussed dealing with minor as well as more serious offending, yet the Government have made a distinction on that point in respect of children which cuts across some of the more general arguments made in the previous debate and seems inconsistent with their broad view on retaining DNA records. It would be useful to understand the difference in thinking on this issue. Why has a distinction been made that appears to treat young people who have offended more leniently than those who have not offended at all?
Mr. Hanson: This is an interesting amendment, and the hon. Gentleman has phrased it so as to allow debate on convictions involving under-18s. The reason for the differential is that we have taken a view that young people are often involved in minor crime at a young age, but we hope that diversionary activity through youth offending teams, youth custody if necessary, non-court disposals and a range of activities will help to ensure that when the individual reaches the age of maturity at 18, they will not progress into the criminal justice system for a long period.
We have considered the matter in factual terms. We recognise that for many teenagers, criminal activity can be and often is a minor and isolated incident. However, teenage involvement in crime can be a strong indicator of risk of further criminality in adulthood, so we need to consider retaining DNA up to the age of 18. Based on a fair assessment of the difficulties faced by young people, we will call an end to retention at the age of 18 to give young people a fresh start in life.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have again downgraded the proposals from our May 2009 consultation. We have changed our original proposals for first convictions under 18—that records be removed at 18 or retained indefinitely—to retention for five years. Individuals could, for example, be convicted of an offence at the age of criminal responsibility of 10 or 11, and in such instances, a five-year period would be sufficient to ensure that they can examine their criminality. If they commit further crimes, retention will continue. Changes have been made in the regulations after our May 2009 consultation and I believe that they are fair and just.
1.15 pm
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the question whether we will have people who have not been convicted of a crime having their DNA retained for a longer period—six years—than those who have been convicted of a crime under the age of 18. Again, it boils down to the judgments that we have made in the context of European legislation. I still think that the six-year period is fair, based on the evidence that we talked about under the previous group of amendments and our discussions about the clause generally. I also think that the five-year figure is fair for under-18s. It is a matter of judgment and that is the judgment that we have come to, which is based on the offending rates of younger people and on the likelihood of offending for those who are not convicted but who are initially charged.
James Brokenshire: The Minister of State said that he has undertaken some analysis and research in relation to youth offending rates. That does not appear to be captured in the hazard rate analysis, which is more general in plotting the hazard rate curve. That may have been because of the relevant information that was available to him. However, is there any published research or anything else that led him to conclude that the five-year period is appropriate, or was it, as he says, simply a matter of judgment?
Mr. Hanson: We have a range of information, which we continuously examine, about youth offending rates between the ages of 10 and 18. There are peak years when offending commences—around the ages of 14 and 15—which are covered in the maximum retention period of five years up to the age of 18. At that point, we are trying to draw a line in the sand to give people a new opportunity not to offend again in their adult years after an offending period in their teenage years. The age of criminal responsibility is and will remain the age of 10. People can be convicted of criminal offences from that age. The majority of our young offenders are between 13 and 18. That is why we made the judgment that we did in relation to the five-year period.
I do not have statistics to hand, although I may get some during the debate. However, I know from my experience of having responsibility for the Youth Justice Board and for youth justice in two years as a Justice Minister our focus all along was on diverting people away from the criminal justice system, changing their behaviour and ensuring that we gave them a new start in life at 18. We did not succeed in every instance, but that is the principle and the logic behind the proposals that are before the Committee.
James Brokenshire: I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says and I respect the approach of trying to give young people who may have committed one minor offence an opportunity to reflect on that offence and not necessarily have it blight the rest of their life by affecting their employment and life chances. I understand and recognise the principle that he is seeking to establish. The issue is more fundamental. It requires that we take a step back from that approach, use our judgment and examine the time periods for records and DNA profiles are to be kept. We seem to have ended up in a rather perverse situation, where a young person who has not been convicted is being treated less leniently than someone who has been convicted. It is almost like treating someone who is innocent more harshly than someone who is guilty. It is important that we recognise that logical inconsistency.
I will certainly reflect on what the Minister of State has said and I do not intend to press the amendment to a vote. However, my parting comment is that, at the very least, the situation seems rather odd. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: 130, in clause 14, page 35, line 29, leave out ‘sections 64ZB’ and insert ‘section 64ZB, or sections 64ZD’.—(Mr. Hanson.)
This amendment is consequential on amendments 128 and 129.
James Brokenshire: I beg to move amendment 151, in clause 14, page 36, leave out lines 21 to 41.
The amendment relates to new section 64ZK of PACE, inserted by the Bill, which gives a chief officer of police the power to retain DNA profiles for rolling two-year periods if that officer judges it necessary to do so
“for the purposes of national security.”
I am sorry if I sound slightly cynical about the term “national security”, but it seems from some of our debates that there is very wide scope to use other powers and justify it on the basis of national security. The provision therefore flags up concerns about what we mean by national security.
Earlier in our proceedings, we heard of the concerns that Lord Carlile expressed in his last report about powers that were ostensibly intended for the purposes of national security being used for non-national security purposes. Given what he has said, and given our previous experience of this Government, there are grounds for questioning whether the wording will be used in a way that reflects our interpretation of it—in relation to anti-terrorism and other such matters—or whether the perspective will be much broader.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 springs to mind in the context of powers whose use has been justified on the grounds of national security. A raft of organisations have been approved to use the powers under the Act, which have been applied to minor infractions, such as dog fouling. The former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), even referred to its being used by the dustbin Stasi.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government are starting way back on their own five-yard line as far as the Opposition are concerned? My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) was arrested on the grounds of so-called national security, and it will take Opposition Members some time to forgive the Government for that.
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