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Lord Carlile of Berriew: I declare an interest in this matter as the statutory independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act 2000. I believe that it is right never to vote on issues relating to the Terrorism Act and the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, Part 4. However, before this amendment was laid in another place, I was asked to consider what was proposed and I have spent considerable time doing so.
It may be helpful if I give Members of the Committee an insight from my viewpoint as independent reviewer which may inform the debate. Like everyone here who has met him, I, too, have great admiration for Commander David Veness. However,
I acknowledge the eminence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, in relation to legislation on terrorism, particularly as, with great respect, I am about to disagree with him. His report of 1996 provided the templateindeed, most of the detailupon which the Terrorism Act 2000 was founded. As the independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act 2000, I have to provide reports on the operation of the Act as a whole. I do so by travelling the country, by reading material that is provided and by speaking to various interest and pressure groups, political parties in Northern Ireland and the police, notably Special Branch. As regards the operation of the whole of the Terrorism Act 2000, my next report will be published around the turn of the year.
As my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and others said, it is extremely rare for detention without charge of as much as seven days to take place. There are controls upon the exercise of detention for longer periods permitted under existing legislation. I have reviewed those controls. For what it is worth, in my opinion, those controls are exercised very carefully by those in charge of them. Certainly, in the period that I have been the reviewer, I have not received complaints that those controls are being exercised in anything other than a proper way.
Therefore, are seven days sufficient for the purpose of the legislation? Is the seven-day period fit for the purpose, having regard to what has been happening in recent times? I say to the noble and learned Lord that there is room for argument. It is justified to say that there has been a change in the character of terrorism. Certainly, there has been a change in the character of the terrorism upon which investigation is strongly focused during the past three years.
In summary, the police are involved now in the investigation of terrorism in which the suspects, as compared with the suspects from the island of Ireland, are people about whom we know far less and who are far more difficult to investigate over a short period. There are very few cases in which the seven-day period may not be sufficient. If there are any such cases, they are at the extremely serious end of the spectrum. They are likely to be the most serious cases.
Perhaps I may give the reasons, which are slightly more in number than those described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, following his review of evidence provided by the Minister and by the Home Office. Firstthis is derived from the experience of an operation that was founded in Scotland recentlyit can be the case that a substantial number of suspects have to be interviewed during the course of their detention. If the operation requires very tight securitymany of these operations depend upon intelligence material provided by the intelligence services to the policeit is absolutely necessary that
Secondly, in order to identify suspects who have been arrested, it is important to know who they are, where they have come from and what they have been doing recently. If the suspect has lived in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland, we are bound to know a great deal about that person at the time of their arrest. However, the real experience of the police in relation to recent events is that they have on occasion arrested people about whom they know nothing, not even their names. In some cases, these people entered the United Kingdom illegally and have never come into official contact with any kind of authority. They may have arrived in the back of a lorry, or by some other secret means, and have been dispersed into the community. They first become known at all to the authorities, let alone the police, on their arrest. So it can be a tortuous process involving inquiry across Europe and the rest of the world to find out who they are.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: There are controls of a judicial kind and that does take place. Further, a dedicated group of district judges (criminal) does exactly that. Some months ago I spoke to the district judge in charge of that operation and I am certainly satisfied that they are very rigorous about it. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, can be reassured on that point.
I turn to the next important issue. An operation was carried out in Scotland called Operation Scotia, which crossed the Border. However, it is a matter of which substantial parts are still sub judice, so it is difficult to talk about it in any detail. The operation resulted in the forensic science procedure in certain premises taking three daysjust the search process, not the analysis. In any case where, for example, the presence of poisonous material is suspected, the police have no option but to exercise the most extreme andusing the word literallyminute care inI hope that I will be forgiven for the use of a rather ugly word now in common useforensicating the premises. Sometimes it is not realistic to interview suspects who were on those premises unless the process of forensication has been completed and without some kind of report being made, even if it is only preliminary, about what has been found.
I turn to the question of interpretation facilities. The police have had difficulties with interpretation in some parts of the countrynot by any means are all terrorist suspects found in London. In certain areas it can be extremely difficult to locate enough interpreters with the skill and the time to play their full part in the interview process, bearing in mind that the defence lawyers also need to use interpreters. Those people must be drawn from a small pool and great skill is required.
We have already heard mention of computer hard drives. Anyone involved in criminal cases concerning matters such as fraud, for example, knows how difficult it is to find experts who are not already fully occupied to analyse computer hard drives. It can take a long time.
Time must be made available for legal advice. In many of these cases, it so happens that a very small number of legal firms advise most of the suspects. Those lawyers have to be given time to do so, including making an allowance for interpretation as already mentioned.
There are the personal needs of the suspects to consider. Many of those arrested recently are Muslims. Their prayer rights and wishes have to be and are respected, as are their meal arrangements. They must also be allowed sufficient visits by their families as well as their lawyers. All this takes a considerable amount of time.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He has listed a number of points, all of which would apply equally to other forms of crime, in particular to the importation of serious drugs.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: With great respect to the noble and learned Lord, cases involving the importation of class A drugs very rarely involve people of the kind I have described; that is, those who have never been identified, who have extreme language difficulties of the kind already mentioned and with the forensication requirements which may involve public safety issues of an immediate kind.
Where the noble and learned Lord and I would probably have to disagree about this matter is that I would say that there are special features here. I do not refer only to the trauma of a potential terrorist act, but to the special features of the arrest situation which mark out serious suspected terrorist offences from other forms of crime, including international dealing in class A drugs.
The final matter I wish to mentionit is the eighth pointis one which leads me to the conclusion that this proposed measure ought to be available. We hope that the police would carry out very carefully collated and thought-out interviews in cases of this kind. They will be given only one chance and it is in the interests of both the public and the defendants, if they become defendants, that the interviews should be well researched and conducted in a proper way, without undue prolixity. Having spoken to many police officers about this, my view is that there will be cases where the issue of interviews, taken in conjunction with the other points I have mentioned, means thatonly occasionally, but in very important casesseven days may not provide enough time.
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