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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It seems to me that on almost all the important issues that we have debated today all of us are in agreement. Perhaps I may deal first with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and then refer in particular to the Government's response.
The noble Lord wondered, as he said, as a naive layman--I too am a naive layman--whether the words "molestation" or "non-molestation" were sufficiently precise. I wondered about that too, but having looked at the Family Law Bill, which uses the same words, and having had the benefit of discussions with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I am convinced that to have something which is not yet fully defined and which would have to be defined by the courts would be an advantage. It would enable action to be taken and
The noble Lord went on to say that the Bill does not deal with the problem of the unidentified stalker. Of course, he is right. That is one of the issues which would have to be dealt with by bringing the police in at an early stage and would almost require the criminal sanctions which I believe we all want.
The noble Lord's third point was that there are other laws which can deal with some cases of stalking. Again, he is right, but the Government agree with me that those laws are not adequate; otherwise the Government would not have issued their toughly worded press release on 11th May which, as the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, said, stated that something has to be done urgently. I am not suggesting that we go all the way. I am saying that the Bill goes a lot further than the existing legislation and makes action against stalking in a considerable number of cases more possible.
Of course I am disappointed by the Minister's final conclusion. However, I am very much encouraged by many of the other things that he said and in particular what he did not say. He did not criticise the wording of the Bill as it would be, amended. Therefore I am encouraged that the Government believe that, if we are not 100 per cent. there, we are nearly there in terms of the answers to this stage of the problem. The Minister went on to say that this is not the complete answer and it does not meet all the instances which arise. Again, he is right. It does not claim to do that. What we claim to do is to make an improvement on the present law.
I really must reject the Minister's final points. He said that it is necessary for consultation to take place before we proceed with legislation. I repeat the point that I made at the beginning; that nothing in the Bill pre-empts any legislation on a criminal offence. No damage is done to the consultation procedure or to the final solution which may emerge as a result of that consultation procedure.
The Minister went on to say that links are vital between the two. If they are, and I rather doubt it, those links can be provided when the criminal offence itself is defined at some later date. The provisions in the Bill are free-standing. They are modelled on the Family Law Bill, which has received the approval of Parliament. They stand up in their own right as a positive contribution to the protection of women who, as the Minister rightly said, suffer the scourge of stalking. I commend all the amendments to the Committee and I now commend Amendment No. 1.
Page 1, line 22, leave out from ("persons") to end of line.
Page 2, line 9, leave out ("section") and insert ("Act").
Page 2, line 10, after second ("Court") insert (", County Court or High Court").
Page 2, line 11, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 2, line 14, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 2, line 16, after ("believes") insert ("and provides evidence that").
Page 2, line 18, leave out ("another person") and insert ("a constable, employee of the Crown Prosecution Service or solicitor").
Page 2, line 22, leave out subsection (3) and insert--
("(3) The court may in any case where it considers that it is just and convenient to do so, make a non-molestation order even though the respondent has not been given notice of such proceedings as would otherwise be required by the rules of the court.
(3A) If a court makes an order by virtue of sub-section (1) it must afford the respondent an opportunity to make representations relating to the order as soon as just and convenient at a full hearing.").
Page 2, line 27, leave out subsections (4) and (5).
Page 2, line 27, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 2, line 33, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 2, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert ("regard to all the circumstances including--
(a) the safety of the applicant;
(b) any risk of significant harm to the applicant attributable to the conduct of the respondent, if the order is not made immediately; and
(c) whether it is likely that the applicant will be deterred or prevented from pursuing the application if an order is not made immediately.").
Page 2, line 36, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 2, line 38, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 2, line 45, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 3, line 2, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 3, line 4, leave out ("prohibitory") and insert ("non-molestation").
Page 3, line 5, at end insert--
("( ) A non-molestation order may be additional to other tort relief.").
Page 3, line 6, leave out subsections (13) and (14).