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Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, leave out lines 31 to 35.

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4 and 5. Clause 5 provides for the audio recording of all terrorist and some other interrogations conducted by the police.

My reservations with regard to the clause stem from a concern for intelligence gathering. My experience of Northern Ireland--which is much less than that of many others in the House and elsewhere--and everything I have read about combating terrorism convinces me that intelligence gathering is the absolute core of anti-terrorist operations if they are to be successful. No

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one can be sure how much intelligence is likely to be deterred and will not come into the hands of the police if this provision for audio recording is put into effect. However, it is obvious that if a suspect thinks that at some stage in the future what he says to the police may be played back to the terrorist godfathers, he will shut up.

There is no doubt that members of terrorist gangs in Northern Ireland are comprehensively threatened by experts about what will happen to them if they leak. The godfathers ensure that there are exemplary and salutary cases of murder and maiming when anyone breaks their twisted faith. No one who is interrogated has any doubt about what will happen to him if the godfathers discover that he has leaked. He will also be aware of their great ability to discover all kinds of information which is supposed to be kept secret; they use intelligence, too.

We used to be told that the police were against audio recording, for the reasons I have set out. We are now told that the police favour it because of the protection which it undoubtedly would give, or could give, to police officers accused of falsifying evidence and because audio-taped evidence could not be argued against in court. I suppose the fact is that different police officers will make different judgments on these matters. I accept that both sides of the argument have force, but intelligence seems to me to be the priority.

Controls on what is allowed to happen to the tapes could give me some reassurance on the matter, provided those controls were believed and trusted by the potential informers. I understand that Mr. Louis Blom-Cooper has done some useful work on this, which Ministers may wish to draw on. If we are to go ahead with this provision, it is important that the Minister explains to us how the tapes will be controlled and whether parties acting for accused people may be able to get their hands on them, through discovery or some other legal means, and at what stage the tapes will be destroyed when no longer required.

To make clear that our amendments in this case are directed specifically at terrorist interrogations, we provided in Amendment No. 5 that the provision for audio recording could be triggered after 12 months of terrorist peace. If that were to be adopted, it could give those who make war on society a small additional encouragement to make peace. However, my main point is the argument I put forward in moving the amendment at the start of my remarks. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: Whatever may be said for this practice in criminal cases, in the case of the interrogation of terrorists it is a highly dangerous suggestion--not least for the interviewee and his family.

When a terrorist subject is arrested and questioned, the first step taken by his terrorist associates is to find out exactly what he said and all that he said during the audio or video recorded interrogation. It is misleading to say that the recording would not become available. Normally a recording should be disclosed in discovery, and without a shadow of doubt it will become available to terrorists, and even sometimes to terrorists from opposing sides.

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As I said, the terrorists will not hesitate to eliminate an associate who is seen--and in this case heard as well--to have endangered the movement concerned. In another place my colleague sought to limit the danger by amending the legislation, and not merely amending the code of practice, to ensure that a copy of the recording was furnished by the police to the trial judge and to no one else. Amending the code of practice alone would not be a safeguard because it would not prevent the recording being discoverable.

If that legislative step is not taken, not only will the lives of those questioned be placed in jeopardy, but also their families, friends and associates will be attacked without mercy. It follows, therefore, that suspects--and this is the truth of the matter--will be prevented from giving even minimum assistance to the police.

Lord Alderdice: Let me say from the outset that I am unhappy about the amendments. I and my colleagues have for some time maintained the view that video and audio recording of such interviews is a positive and constructive contribution to the fight against terrorism.

Members of the Committee who spoke for the amendment indicated their concerns about the matter. It is said, first, that the crucial element is that of intelligence. Let me repeat in another form what I said at a previous intervention; that is, that the security component of the fight against terrorism is a crucial component, but it is only one of two. The other side is the question of hearts and minds or, if I might put it more crudely, the propaganda war.

There is no doubt that claims--some of them justified and others most certainly not--of certain activities by police officers in the course of interrogation have been extremely damaging in the fight against terrorism. When I look at the question of video and audio recording, therefore, I am looking not a little at the question of protecting the good name of those police officers who are involved in interrogations. Therefore, when claims are made that all sorts of dreadful things have happened, if they have happened then police officers should fall victim to the due process. But if they have not happened, there is currently no way of demonstrating that the claims made--some of them strident, outlandish and widely reported not only in Northern Ireland and this side of the water, but much more widely--are untrue; there is no way of effectively defending against them. Those Members of your Lordships' House who have travelled, not least on the other side of the Atlantic and in certain parts of the eastern and western seaboards, will know how significant such claims are in undermining the good name, and the rightfully good name, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

When I look at the matter my first concern is what this does to the propaganda campaign against terrorism, albeit an honest propaganda campaign. When it is clear that events have been recorded on video and, if necessary, on audio, it can be demonstrated whether or not there has been bad behaviour on the part of the

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police. If so, they should suffer. If there has not, adverse and ill-founded claims against them should not stand, and they can be demonstrated as such.

I entirely accept that there is another arm to the campaign against terrorism and that is the security arm. Intelligence plays a vital part in that. It is claimed that those who wish to speak need to be protected. I do not doubt that. However, I am not at all sure that, in the kangaroo courts operated by the Provisional IRA and indeed the loyalists, they calmly sit down, sift the evidence and require the proof that is available by due process and by audio recordings before they decide to inflict their own perverse form of judgment on those they deem to be the accused. It seems to me that they make their own decisions, often on the basis of nasty suspicion--and sometimes when there is barely even that--in order to enforce their own form of discipline in their own communities.

Of those who come forward with real information, the overwhelming majority, as I understand it, are rather well trained in order to ensure that they divulge nothing whatever during interrogations. They have made themselves familiar with a discipline before they are arrested and they carry themselves with appropriate imperviousness to any form of questioning.

The chief constable does not believe that this would have an adverse effect on the obtaining of intelligence material. The Minister in another place, Mr. Ingram, on 11th December 1997 at col. 1223, quoted him accurately. Indeed, interrogations have not been the route of most of the intelligence material. I rather suspect--and here I do not have the benefit of the experience of other noble Lords--that when really useful intelligence comes forward, it does not come forward in interrogation rooms; it is coming forward because it is being passed in other contexts and with other motives and perhaps sometimes with other rewards. I believe that the intelligence operation is important, but I suspect it is not in interrogation rooms that it finds its best base.

I would urge your Lordships to set aside these amendments because it seems to me that they are misguided. They judge the war against terrorism only from the pillar of security operations and even then I believe they are making a judgment on the basis of perhaps how things were when there was less sophistication from the terrorists and, thankfully, from our own intelligence operations. Therefore, they are a rather dated, if understandable, proposal for amendment. I find myself in agreement with the Bill as it stands.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, yet again, for the third time this evening, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for putting the arguments so clearly, arguments with which I am in a very large measure of agreement.

The combined effect of these amendments is to defer the implementation of audio recording until a period of 12 months has elapsed during which no terrorist incidents have come to the notice of the RUC.

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Successive governments have consistently aimed to ensure that such emergency provisions that exist strike the appropriate balance between providing those counter terrorism measures which are necessary for the protection of the community and ensuring the protection of the rights of individuals against whom the measures are used. Where it is possible to normalise policy, practices and procedures, this Government will strive to achieve normalisation.

The question of audio recording in the police holding centres has a long history. It was previously resisted because of concerns on two counts: that it would inhibit interviewees from responding to questions and thus hinder the pursuit of terrorist crime; and that it could put lives at risk if tapes were later disclosed in court, as they invariably would be if a prosecution ensued.

The Government's view has consistently been that the many benefits attached to electronic recording, in particular audio recording, outweighed the potential difficulties. Audio recordings would provide the best available evidence in any proceedings. Their availability could also reduce the length of contested trials emerging from confessions in the holding centres and they would provide evidence to prove or disprove allegations of psychological abuse, as well as physical abuse. The Government's move to introduce audio recording therefore carries the full support of the chief constable.

The noble Lords seek to defer implementation of the change until terrorism has been non-existent for a full year. The Government's response to this is that there is absolutely no case for delaying the initiative. To defer introduction until there had been no terrorist incidents for 12 months would negate completely the purpose of this safeguard, since the holding centres themselves would not be being used in such circumstances. There is no reason to defer introducing audio recording and there are many sound reasons for pressing ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, asked a number of questions and I shall try to supply specific answers. As regards disclosure, audio tapes will be disclosable in the ordinary way as they will represent best evidence. They will not be disclosed otherwise. The codes of practice which will govern audio recording have not yet been prepared. The House will have the opportunity to consider the codes in the not-too-distant future. We may have a further debate on the detail of the proposal--

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