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Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 67:

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment which seeks to ensure that people appointed as judicial officers--however those appointments are made--shall have rather more experience than five years' membership of the Bar or as a solicitor. I speak from personal knowledge. My daughter passed her Bar exams before she was 21, was called to the Bar just after she was 21, and then did a year's pupillage. It was not until she had been in practice for several years that she truly got up to speed. By the age of 26, which is the age envisaged in the Bill, she had not had much experience, although later she gained a great deal.

We must bear in mind that, in the main, judicial officers will be judge advocates, advising the courts on the law and using their own experience within the law in order to be effective. I believe that 10 years' experience is a more appropriate requirement than five years. It is clear from the Explanatory Notes on the Bill that the judicial officers are mostly to be judge advocates, although some of them will act in other capacities. However, we are not told quite in what capacities they will act. I feel strongly that five years' qualification as a lawyer is not long enough, even for

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those who are only called later. I was not called to the Bar until I was 24. It is better to be safe in this matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has explained, this amendment seeks to adjust the minimum qualifications required for judicial officers who are to be appointed to deal with the custody hearings to be established under the Bill. The aim of the clause is to ensure that those appointed have an appropriate level of experience. As the noble Lord pointed out, that is very important. However, we have drafted the clause in such a way as to allow a measure of flexibility to appoint suitably qualified Commonwealth lawyers who could be used, if necessary, in some of the remote locations that we have discussed in the context of the provisions of the Bill. In all cases, we are proposing a period of five years' qualified experience, and it is important to point out to noble Lords that this is the qualifying period required to be appointed as a judge advocate.

The fact is that a 10-year qualifying period would reduce the pool of lawyers from whom judicial officers could be appointed. That, in turn, would reduce our flexibility--the very flexibility that all noble Lords have agreed is so vitally important for the implementation of the measures in the Bill. If passed, the amendment would serve to make the implementation of the provisions of the Bill a great deal more restrictive and make the new procedures more difficult to operate.

While I understand the noble Lord's concern that there should be proper experience--there must be proper experience for the judge advocate--it seems sensible that the minimum qualifying periods are one and the same and that we maintain the flexibility of the provision as drafted.

2.15 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley: Before the noble Baroness leaves this point, perhaps I may ask for clarification. Does the judicial officer appointed under this provision have to be a British national? Can he be a citizen of the European Union or indeed of the United States? I am not clear whether the intention is to restrict the provision in that way.

Lord Renton: Before the noble Baroness answers the noble and gallant Lord's question--my intervention may help her to obtain a fuller answer--will she be so good as to consider whether "barrister or solicitor" in this context means a barrister or solicitor qualified within the United Kingdom or one who has qualified anywhere else in the world? We have to bear in mind that in many countries the profession is not divided into two. Those concerned are just called lawyers. The word "lawyer" has not been used in this provision. Therefore, the interpretation will be strict and the term "barrister or solicitor" will have to be applied.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The eagle eye of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, spotted my anxious look over to the officials' box. I can tell the Committee

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that Commonwealth lawyers are also qualified in this sense. They might be appointed. On the question of EU lawyers, I shall have to take further advice. I hope to be able to write to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, to answer his point. Similarly, although the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was extremely kind in allowing me the extra time to look anxiously over my shoulder, he was perhaps a little unkind in giving me yet another question that I cannot answer at this stage. I hope the noble Lord will be kind enough to accept a letter on the point that he raised. I shall ensure that copies of those letters go to the Front Benches and to others interested in these issues.

Lord Burnham: Unfortunately, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon is no longer in the Chamber. I am sure that he would wish to ask the noble Baroness to add "Scottish lawyers".

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The noble Lord is kind to raise that point. It gives me the opportunity to put right an earlier omission. I wished to assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay--I do it now through the noble Lord, Lord Burnham--that I would write to him on the points that he raised about the terms of appointment and security of tenure of the judge advocates.

Lord Renton: I thank the noble Baroness for her attempted justification of five years. I am still not persuaded that that is long enough. I said that it was a probing amendment. However, I believe that it is a matter deserving of further consideration. I may come back to it at the Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Custody rules]:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean moved Amendments Nos. 69 and 70:

    Page 30, leave out lines 32 to 36 and insert--

("(h) the use for the purposes of the proceedings of live television links or similar arrangements, including the use of such a link or other arrangement as a means of satisfying the requirement of section 75C(2)(b), 75F(1) or 75K(6)(b) or (7)(b) of this Act for a person to be brought before a judicial officer or judge advocate;").

Page 31, leave out lines 15 to 19 and insert--

("(h) the use for the purposes of the proceedings of live television links or similar arrangements, including the use of such a link or other arrangement as a means of satisfying the requirement of section 47D(2)(b), 47G(1) or 47L(6)(b) or (7)(b) of this Act for a person to be brought before a judicial officer or judge advocate;").

The noble Baroness said: These amendments are straightforward. They are designed to ensure that the practicalities of the system are as simple and as flexible as possible. The amendments clarify two points. First, the rules allowing the use of live television links need

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not confine that use only to those occasions where an accused must be brought before a judicial officer but may be used for all custody hearings. The second point we wish to clarify is that the arrangements may include live television links and visual transmissions via other media such as the Internet.

At Second Reading I noticed that some noble Lords were sceptical about the practicalities of judicial officers traipsing through the jungle--perhaps the jungle of East Timor or elsewhere--and our assertion that video technology would solve the difficulties.

I hope to offer the Committee some reassurance on that point. I shall refer to the Army in particular, since it is likely to have the greatest number of personnel in remote locations. The Army would seek to use video link technology where operational or training circumstances mean that a face-to-face hearing is not possible within the required time-frame.

It is important to remember that time moves on. The services are fully capable of exploiting successive advances in technology, which they already deploy with great success. Video technology is in day-to-day use. It was in constant use throughout the recent crisis in Kosovo. The armed services see no reason why that technology should not be deployed equally successfully in other operational environments and for purposes such as those envisaged in the Bill.

It must be remembered how much this kind of equipment has changed, even in the past few years. It is highly portable, it is available, and satellite technology should enable its use even in very remote places where standard telephone lines are unavailable. So I hope that we can reassure your Lordships that this is not merely a question of the vague response, "Let us use video because that is the best thing we can say in the context of the Bill". The matter has been very carefully examined by the Ministry of Defence. A great deal of work has been done on it. The available technology is portable, people know how to use it, and it should be able to be deployed--as it was very heavily in Kosovo for other purposes--in situations where it will make life easier for our Armed Forces. I beg to move.

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