|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Brabazon of Tara: Before my noble friend decides what to do with his amendment, perhaps I may ask the Minister to clarify a point which I raised. What happens if a passenger deliberately gives a false name? Is the carrier responsible for passing that information on? Will he be responsible for the fact that the name is false, or will it be the responsibility of the passenger?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I understand that the carrier can pass on only that information which he has reasonably obtained in an accurate form based on such information. It is not for the carrier to verify the quality or veracity of that information and it would be unreasonable to expect him to do so. He can only act reasonably in the circumstances.
If the carrier is told something and he believes it to be the case, and if he passes that information on in an accurate form, one would not want to hold him to account for any inaccuracies which were not in any way, shape or form his responsibility.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: We have had an interesting and slightly longer debate than anticipated. The Minister said a great deal that will be reassuring and we shall study his words carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
On the face of it, Clause 54(1) and (2) extend to weapons training in the Army, the police or the cadet force. The subsections extend to and criminalise a farmer teaching his son to shoot rabbits or pigeons. They also extend to and criminalise training provided to employees of a legitimate armaments business.
It is absurd to say that training in the use or making of weapons is itself a general offence. As I have already indicated, such training is often not only legitimate but necessary. The gist of the offence here is not providing weapons training per se, but providing weapons training for purposes of terrorism. Indeed, that is how the offence itself should be defined. If that is so, then subsection (5) would need to be deleted, as we have provided.
Of course, if terrorist purposes are part of the definition of the offence, then that is a necessary element for the prosecution to prove. If the defendant raises a reasonable doubt in the mind of a jury or, in the case of the Diplock courts, the mind of a judge as to the purposes for which he is providing weapons training then, of course, he would be entitled to be acquitted. That is as it should be. It is contrary to the
I move on to Amendments Nos. 146 and 151 in relation to Clause 57 of the Bill. That clause provides that possession of an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that possession is connected with terrorism is an offence. Clause 57(2) requires a defendant to prove that possession is not for terrorist purposes. Again, that is too high a standard. Conviction can be on the basis of reasonable suspicion. Certainly, it should be enough for the defendant to show that there are reasonable grounds for believing that possession may not be for terrorist purposes; in other words, that the suspicion does not exclude reasonable doubt.
Clause 57(3) imposes a wholly artificial test of possession, where the mere fact that property is found on premises at the same time as the defendant creates a presumption of possession which the defendant has to disprove. That means that if terrorist equipment is found, let us say, in the back of a pub, anyone who is in the pub at any time when the equipment was there is deemed to be in possession of that equipment unless they can prove that they did not know or were not in control of it. Therefore, in our amendments we propose to delete Clause 57(3) altogether on the grounds that it provides a wholly artificial test of possession.
Amendment No. 159 deals with Clause 58, which makes it a crime to possess information which is likely to be useful to a terrorist. That could extend to possession of a copy of Who's Who. Certainly that is a document that at one time the IRA appear to have used for the purposes of identifying potential victims. However, they seem to have made the mistake of using out-of-date copies of Who's Who and putting bombs outside houses which formerly had been occupied by a target but, at the time of the bombing, were occupied by someone else. Again, this is a case where under the Bill as it now stands a reasonable excuse for possession has to be proved. We think that is inappropriate. It is putting it back to front. What Clause 58 should require is for a crime of possession with a view to the article's use by a terrorist.
The common factor which lies behind the way all these clauses are drafted is an attempt, I believe, to make it easier to obtain convictions. That, some people might say, is a legitimate aim. If it was done properly, of course, I would agree it was a legitimate aim, but it cannot be done in the way that it is being done here.
What is happening here is that offences are being artificially subdivided and some elements then have to be disproved by the defendant rather than proved by the prosecution. The artificiality is shown, for example, by the absurdity of treating training in the use or manufacture of firearms as an offence in itself.
I believe that these clauses as they now stand do not adequately comply with the presumption of innocence. Someone charged with terrorist offences is entitled to rely on the presumption of innocence just as
Terrorism is not what it once was. Some of your Lordships will have seen the very good film about the Irish ascendancy in Cork during the remaining years of the British rule in Ireland. A friend of mine, who is a member of the Irish ascendancy, says she remembers her uncle who when he was a schoolboy had his shotgun stolen by the IRA while he was away at school. When he came back he found it on the hall table, complete with cartridges, for him to use during the holidays, and when he left for school again he left it on the hall table and it disappeared the same day.
There are all sorts of problems where there is an uncertain support for terrorists in a particular area, and it is very important in that area that we should put up a situation where people cannot be automatically thought guilty and should be able to follow the perfectly normal British practice of being considered innocent until they are proved guilty.
It is a difficult path to tread, but I am sure the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and my amendments to a certain extent come from very much the same stable. We are on the right track and I hope that the Government will pay attention to what we are saying.
Lord Marlesford: I find myself in almost total agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. These clauses, as drafted, are extremely objectionable. Of course, I see the purpose of them but they would be subject to misuse; they give the wrong impression; and they are not in accordance with our traditions.
I shall give two examples, one of which is farcical and the other less farcical. When I was a small boy aged about eight and interested in chemistry, I remember being shown how, if you put iodine crystals in ammonia and left them for half an hour or so and then poured them away, there was a black sludge. When the black sludge dried, you could scatter it on the ground and if people walked on it, it made a most satisfactory, although quite harmless, bang. That particular experiment came to an end when I had a matchbox of the stuff in the pocket of my shorts on a very hot day; unfortunately, it dried without me realising it and I had a large violet stain on my thigh for many months. I have never been quite the same since.
I ask the Government to reshape those clauses, roughly on the lines proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I say happily that I yield to no one in my desire to have effective opposition to terrorism, but we must be extremely careful that we do not use methods which are unacceptable to the great majority of people in this country.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page