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Viscount Brentford: My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. Like him, about three or four weeks ago I was at a local police station one night during which three cases involving missing persons arose. Speed was very much of the essence. There was then no question of any great publicity. I am glad to say that those missing persons, all of different ages, turned up before I left the police station in the early hours of the morning. I believe that this is a simple measure that will facilitate the work of the police so that they do not have to go to a court if they believe that publicity will help and press restrictions should be lifted. Anything

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that facilitates the very professional job that they normally carry out is to be welcomed. I support the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I sympathise with the spirit of the amendment, but I hope to be able to reassure noble Lords that it is not necessary on two bases. The evening occurrences to which the noble Lord and the noble Viscount have referred would not be relevant in the context of Clause 43 except in certain circumstances. Clause 43(1) starts to bite only where an allegation has been made that an offence has been committed, or that a civil offence has been committed. That is the important context of this discussion. The prohibition on publication that one finds in Clause 43(2) is:

    "No matter relating to any person involved in the offence"--
therefore, it is not simply, "Please can you help us to look for someone?"--

    "when a minor shall while that person is under the age of 18 be included in any publication".
Therefore, here one is considering a subsequent stage to that identified by the noble Lord and the noble Viscount.

But I concede that there may well be some circumstances in which courts are of the view that this is a criminal investigation and they need to publish certain information. The point of the provision as presently drafted--this is why I say that I hope to provide reassurance--is that in Clause 43(6) it is provided:

    "Any appropriate criminal court may by order dispense ... with the restrictions ... if it is satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of justice to do so".
Very importantly--I take the point about speed and flexibility--the power of a magistrates' court in England and Wales under subsection (6) may be exercised by a single justice. Therefore, one has the opportunity of speed on the fair analogy that if the police need to swear out a warrant at very short notice they can always get hold of a magistrate within their area by administrative arrangements. The point is a fair one to raise, but I hope that I have satisfied any doubts.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, unless I misheard him the Minister has just read out a bit of the clause that we amended a few minutes ago. He read out Clause 43(1):

    "This section applies where an allegation has been made--

    (a) that an offence has been committed".
We have knocked out those words and, by Amendment No. 62 and other amendments, replaced them with the words

    "where a criminal investigation has begun in respect of--

    (a) an alleged offence".

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we have moved on. Whether it is described as an allegation made or a criminal investigation begun, we have moved on--I believe that I used the words "criminal investigation"--from the factual situation which the noble Lord and the noble Viscount identified; namely, we are looking for someone who is missing. I believe that on the illustrations given a crime has not been

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committed; there is no criminal investigation. My point is that however those circumstances are defined--I hope that we have helped the press by giving a more precise definition--there is still power to go to the court in the form of a single justice to get a relaxation of the restrictions.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I accept what the Minister says, but there will be other instances where it is apparent from the first moment that a crime has been committed. In the case of a missing child it may not be so, and in that case the noble Lord relies on going to a single justice to get permission to release information to the press.

Frankly, that shows a distrust of the police in the course of their duties, which I do not share. I think the police should have the ability, without the added complication of having to go and find a justice in order to get permission, to tell the press what is happening. I think the police should have that ability. It may be that my amendment is not perfectly drafted, but I should like to test the opinion of the House on it and press the point that the restrictions we are trying to introduce are not restrictions on the police--or they should not be--but restrictions solely on the way the news media operate.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I wonder if I might take up that last point, to be helpful and not tedious. The amendment says:

    "Nothing in this section shall impose any restriction on the police or any prosecuting authority from publishing information in the course of their duties".
Absolutely. But this is not restricted to the police. The amendment goes on to say:

    "nor on the reporting of any such publication"--
and that is the media.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Yes, my Lords, but there is no point in the police publishing something if it cannot be picked up by the newspapers. All that the newspapers or, for that matter, television and so on could report would be what the police had said. It is only that information supplied by the police or the other authority which would be permitted to be published. So the police would be able to put out an appeal if, for example, they were suspicious of a red car seen outside a school. In that case the police would be able to pass on information to the press and the press would be able to report that, but nothing else.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, of course they can report that. The prohibition on reporting refers to any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify a man as a person involved in the offence.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, exactly so; and that would be overridden if this amendment were to be inserted. That is what I am trying to achieve: to permit the police to override the restriction in the interests of their investigation.

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6.42 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 68) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 132.

Division No. 2


Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Brentford, V.
Bridgeman, V.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Caithness, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chesham, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elton, L.
Fookes, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Geddes, L.
Henley, L. [Teller.]
HolmPatrick, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mancroft, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Morris, L.
Mountevans, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Prior, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Seccombe, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stewartby, L.
Wilcox, B.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Bragg, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanworth, V.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harrowby, E.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lawrence, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Lovell-Davis, L.
Ludford, B.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McNair, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marsh, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Orme, L.
Patel, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thornton, B.
Tordoff, L.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Warner, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Wharton, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

8 Mar 1999 : Column 64

6.51 p.m.

[Amendment No. 69 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

Clause 44 [Power to restrict reporting of criminal proceedings involving persons under 18]:

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