Joint Committee On Human Rights Third Report

7. Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP, Secretary of State

for Northern Ireland


The Joint Committee is considering the above Bill. It has carried out an initial examination of it, and has formed the provisional opinion that the Bill is likely to be compatible with relevant human rights obligations. The Committee would, however, be grateful for your comments on the following point. Our starting­point is of course the statement made under s.19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998; but I should make it clear that the Committee's considerations extend to human rights in a broad sense, not just the Convention rights under the Act.

The provisions of Part 2 of the Bill, concerning police powers, provide for police powers of arrest, detention, search, seizure, and investigation to be exercised in certain circumstances by designated support staff. These provisions affect rights under ECHR Articles 5 (right to liberty) and 8 (right to respect for private life). They would bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales under the Police Reform Act 2002. When examining the Police Reform Bill in the 2001-02 session, the Committee concluded, in the light of an exchange of letters with the Home Office, that the provisions corresponding to those contained in Part 2 of the present Bill were compatible with human rights, while recommending that the Government should lay before each House information about the training to be given to civilian support officers before they started to exercise the powers.[56] The Committee is provisionally of the same view in relation to Part 2 of the present Bill.

In the light of these considerations the Committee seeks a description of the training that civilian support officers in Northern Ireland would receive before being authorised to exercise police powers.

The Committee would also be grateful for a description of any representations you have received in connection with this Bill in relation to human rights issues, and to what specific points those representations were directed.

The Committee would be grateful for a reply by 31st January.

21 January 2003

56   See Joint Committee on Human Rights, Fifteenth Report of 2001-02, Police Reform Bill: Further Report, HL Paper 98, HC 706, para. 39 Back

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