Joint Committee On Human Rights Twenty-First Report

3. Letter from the Chairman to Parmjit Dhanda MP

re the Criminal Evidence (Prohibition of Sale) Bill

As part of its function to consider human rights in the United Kingdom, the Joint Committee on Human Rights examines all bills introduced to either House with a view to reporting to each House on their compatibility with Convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, and with other rights which arise in international law under human rights instruments by which the United Kingdom is bound. The Committee is considering whether to report to each House on your Criminal Evidence (Prohibition of Sale) Bill. It has carried out an initial examination of this Bill, and would be grateful for your comments on the following points raised by its Legal Adviser.

Clause 1 of the Bill would prevent the owner of property gathered for investigation purposes or used in criminal proceedings from ever selling the property. The Committee is concerned that this might interfere with property rights, and that it might not strike a fair balance between the rights of the owner and the general interest as required by ECHR Protocol No.1, Article 1.

Clause 2 would apparently confer a power on the Crown to assign copyright in material when, as a matter of law, the Crown may not own the copyright. The Committee is concerned that this, too, might be held to lead to an unjustifiable interference with the right to enjoyment of possessions (ECHR Protocol No.1, Article 1) of the copyright owner, and also with the copyright owner's right to freedom of expression (ECHR Article 10).

In the light of this, the Committee is considering whether to draw the attention of each House to the human rights implications of the Bill. The Committee understands the difficulties which the sponsors of private members' bills, with limited resources, often face in responding to questions from the Committee about the human rights implications of their bills. Nevertheless, without suggesting that you are under any obligation to respond to its concerns, the Committee would of course give full weight to any representations which you might wish to put before it.

The Committee will be deciding on 17 June whether, and if so how, to report to each House on the Bill, and so would be unable to take account of representations received after 11 June.

22 May 2002

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