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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I thank the noble Lord for his reply. I appreciate the arrangements made by the Crown Office; they are familiar to me as a layman. Now that I know that some of the words used by noble Lords in discussing the Bill are not used in Scotland—all this talk of "process" is a complete mystery to me—I am beginning to understand much better.

I shall read with interest what the Minister said. He believes that, contrary to the Law Society suggestion, there will be no conflict of interest for the

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Lord Advocate. If that proves to be the case, of course, the Law Society will be satisfied. I shall be interested to read what the Minister said. I shall consult with the Law Society to ascertain whether it wishes to make any further points.

Lord Filkin: We do not believe there will be a conflict of interest. If I can find further argumentation or evidence to satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, and her advisers, I shall forward it by letter.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I thank the Minister for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Requests for assistance in obtaining evidence abroad]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 21:

    Page 4, line 34, leave out "it appears to"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 21, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 22 and 23, which are grouped with it.

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 relate to the standard of proof that will apply when an application is made to a judicial authority in the United Kingdom to request assistance in obtaining evidence abroad. I recognise that the phrase "it appears to" is already used in the 1990 Act, but it would be helpful if the noble and learned Lord who is to respond could explain how it is being interpreted by the courts. Is the criminal standard of being satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt of the matters specified applied, or is a lower standard of proof applicable?

Amendment No. 23 seeks to ensure that an application for assistance under Clause 7 would include information on the procedure for gathering evidence lawfully and the admissibility of evidence in the United Kingdom. Different countries have different procedures and different laws on admissibility. Indeed, ours are about to change, too, if we are to take anything from the Criminal Justice Bill making its passage through another place. Can the noble and learned Lord say whether any problems have been encountered in relation to the use of evidence obtained under the provisions of the 1990 Act in respect of the legal rules on evidence that apply in the various parts of the United Kingdom? Are the authorities of other countries routinely informed by the United Kingdom of what rules will apply to evidence gathered in those countries once it is in the United Kingdom and ready to be used in our investigative and judicial process? I beg to move.

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): In rising for the first time, perhaps I may respond to a question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, when she noticed my presence at an earlier stage. She asked whether or not I would be able to say anything about the practical issues which lie behind the objectives of the Bill. At Second Reading, my noble friend the

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Minister emphasised how important are the provisions of the Bill, particularly those under the part with which I am dealing, and I am happy to re-emphasise that.

It has become apparent to me from my responsibilities as the superintending Minister for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office and with certain responsibilities for other prosecutors that we now face a situation where the threat of crime is global. It has increasingly become global as criminals operate across international boundaries, whether trafficking young women from the reaches of eastern Europe, smuggling drugs from South America or laundering money through every financial centre in the world.

Criminals operate across boundaries and without respect for national frontiers through international travel and through cyber space. National law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, are trammelled by rightly having to operate within our own national frontiers. While the criminals treat boundaries and frontiers with contempt, we respect them, with the consequence that when it is necessary to bring proceedings in order to investigate crime, which so frequently these days involves a foreign element, the law enforcement agencies cannot do what they would do within their own countries. They have to look for assistance from other law enforcement agencies, often through the courts or judicial authorities of other countries. If we do not keep up to date the procedures under which we are able to do so, we will not keep up to date with the criminals, who are becoming more and more sophisticated.

I have no doubt whatever that bringing up to date and modernising our procedures for obtaining help and assistance in the way laid down in this part of the Bill is absolutely key to the fight against global crime. I was glad to note how strongly the noble Baroness endorsed our objectives and expressed her desire to make the Bill as effective as possible in meeting them.

As to the amendments—the noble Baroness spoke to Amendments Nos. 21, 22 and 23—the first relates to the standard that judicial authorities have to meet before granting a request. As the noble Baroness noted, the language used in the clause replicates exactly the language in the 1990 Act. Section 3(1) of that Act refers to certain matters "appearing to" the court rather than requiring that the court be satisfied of them. It contains exactly the same test for the issuing authorities as the one in the Bill as currently drafted. We are not aware of any difficulty which would justify changing that test. So the first and second amendments—both of which would have that effect—are not acceptable.

The noble Baroness asked me whether or not the test applied is the criminal standard of appearing beyond reasonable doubt. At that stage of the process, when assistance is being sought for the purposes of a prosecution, whichever way it is, one would not expect proof beyond reasonable doubt to be necessary. The evidence would go towards a total picture which, at the completion of a prosecution, would focus on a particular criminal standard. So, in regard to Clause 7(1)(a)—does

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it appear to a judicial authority that an offence has been committed or that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed?—the words speak for themselves.

Amendment No. 23 seeks to place an additional requirement on requesting authorities to provide in the request information on procedures in regard to the gathering and admissibility of evidence in the requesting country—in this case the relevant part of the United Kingdom. The consequence of that amendment could be that requests are rejected for not including such information. There is no international obligation for us to provide that information and there is no particular reason to believe in any given case that the court which receives the request from abroad would need that information; that it would not be sufficiently familiar with existing procedures or unable to obtain information about them if it was in doubt.

Requesting authorities provide this information where they consider it to be appropriate and, in many cases, good practice may indicate that they would do so. But the Government do not see a need for this to be imposed as an obligation and fear serious disadvantages if it is. It would be an additional requirement, not imposed by international obligation, which could impede a proper request for assistance. We are trying to ensure that we remove unnecessary obstacles. I hope that that explanation is of some assistance to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that response, in particular for his survey of the difficulties that we all face.

He referred to the importance of judicial systems being able to respond as rapidly as possible and the difficulty of maintaining the currency of legislation. The 1990 Act is 13 years old and has served us reasonably well, but the noble and learned Lord referred to the problem of cyber space crime. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman will warm to this theme when we reach the parts of the Bill dealing with banking. We on these Benches are very much aware of the difficulty of combating crime which may take place in less than a second, where funds are transferred not only once, twice or thrice but a hundred times around the world from one account to another in an attempt to hide finances. We are all-square with the Government in recognising the difficulties in dealing with that kind of crime.

The noble and learned Lord referred to the trafficking of drugs and people. We shall be tabling an amendment, on which we hope the Government will look kindly, in regard to trafficking in guns. We are always concerned about that issue, but particularly at this time.

The noble and learned Lord was most helpful in his detailed response to the amendments. We have no intention of making life more difficult for the authorities except in circumstances where we believe the action they are taking could be more burdensome than necessary to individual liberty. That is not the case in this respect.

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I accept totally the noble and learned Lord's response to Amendment No. 23. As he said, the amendment could lead to serious disadvantages in the system. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 21.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

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