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These amendments are extremely important. With respect to the time of night, I will ask the Minister just a few questions. Does he accept that there is a place for legislation to lay out more clearly the fundamental rights when it comes to peaceful protest? Does he accept that it is unacceptable for the police to prevent or disrupt legitimate protest through tactics such as pre-emptive arrest? Does he accept that the seizure of personal property from demonstrators is not acceptable as a matter of course? He will have seen the Kingsnorth video and will know why that, in particular, concerns me. I appreciate that a policing White Paper is coming, which will cover a lot of these issues, but in order to focus our minds on the areas that will need legislative reform it would be very useful to have this short debate. I beg to move.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, from the point of view of these Benches, the noble Baroness's amendments are something of a mixed bag. There is no question but that we support Amendment 153, which specifies that the presence of three or more people together as part of a peaceful demonstration will not, in itself, be taken as conduct that threatens unlawful violence.
However, we are a bit concerned about other amendments, which seem less well thought through, such as those that would repeal the offence of demonstrating without authorisation in the vicinity of Parliament. That is fine in relation to a small protest, but we have to think about larger protests, which certainly do occur. Yet further amendments concern me, such as those that would repeal the offence of trespassing on designated sites, such as nuclear sites. This is a difficult issue, but I must confess that I would have more sympathy with taking the route of reviewing the list of designated sites.
I am also concerned with those amendments that affect the PACE codes and the use of police powers for the purposes of managing protests. They come very close to dictating, if not interfering with, police tactics. That is a sensitive and difficult issue, which requires careful consideration.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is trying to achieve in her amendments and I accept the basic principle that police doctrine must remain focused on allowing protests to happen peacefully. However, I am concerned that these amendments are not really the vehicle for getting the right balance, particularly in view of the amount of time that we have available.
Lord Brett: I start by expressing sympathy for the contributions of the noble Baronesses both in terms of the intention to try to address the concern that we should not prevent, hinder or criminalise peaceful protest, but also I recognise from the Opposition Benches the wisdom of looking carefully at the whole scene rather than just one or two aspects of it. On the question of the Kingsnorth power station incident, which to put it at its mildest none of us thinks is a good training video for how policing should take place, I understand that the report into that was put on the Kent police website a month or two ago. The more pertinent question from the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is whether we see legislation as the route.
It is vital that we have a common standard in the policing of protests, particularly as we are going to see a series of national events in the near future, with perhaps the Olympics as the test of our ability to handle large numbers of people in confined areas. Certainly the G20, the Kingsnorth climate camp and other recent protests have shown that not everything we want to see actually happens. As the noble Baroness pointed out in moving her amendment, these events have been the subject of numerous reviews by the Home Affairs Committee, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Association of Chief Police Officers, all of which we welcome. While we take the concerns raised about public order policing very seriously and are committed to working with the police and public to ensure that recommendations coming out of recent reviews are acted upon, it is important to recognise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, mentioned, that the police manage thousands of peaceful demonstrations, both large and small, every year.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned that we shall be setting out our proposals in the policing White Paper, which is due to be published next month. This in turn will be informed by the recommendations and lessons learnt emanating from the work of HMIC's review into policing and protest. However, the direct answer to the noble Baroness does not necessarily lie in further changes to legislation, and at this stage I have to say that I do not accept that need. It is not a question of more legislation because what is clear is that those protests were not policed in an appropriate manner, so it is a question of focusing on the key principles that need to underpin the policing of protest and ensuring that these are reflected in police guidance and training. We also need to ensure that police forces comply with revised guidance and training which will help to ensure that the concerns we all have about issues such as officer identification, use of stop-and-search powers and proportionate use of force are properly addressed.
The individual amendments tabled by the noble Baroness are, in our view, unworkable and would
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Amendment 159 also causes confusion. It states that powers and offences set out in subsection (2)(a) to (i) must not be used for the purposes of preventing, hindering or obstructing a peaceful protest. I think that is fine, but it then makes an exception where a police officer has reasonable cause to consider that there is a "high risk of serious violence". The "high risk of serious violence" test represents a significant shift from the wording of some of the existing powers as agreed by Parliament. It would create considerable confusion to the police, courts and protestors as it would mean that existing case law, guidance and understanding could no longer be applied.
I have a long, erudite and beautifully phrased series of arguments but I hope that in the brief argument I have made I have shown that the Government are intent on moving forward. It is not the legislation that is the problem; there are individual police officers-and maybe some groups of officers-who have not shown the required commitment. Training and guidance for those officers is probably needed more than increased legislation.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, and the Minister for their contributions to this short debate. I, too, had about 12 pages of notes on this group alone but, in the interests of time, I condensed them into about four sentences. We share in common the fact that there are issues here and, as the various reports come to be debated in your Lordships' House, they will merit serious scrutiny. We need to consider how guidance is interpreted and how we move forward into a healthier recognition that protests need to take place in a democracy. Some matters have been demonstrated by HMIC to be unhelpful-for example, a bad communications gap can cause things to go wrong between protestors and the police, as can physical issues such as the early use of shields and so on-and, as the Minister knows, the practice of kettling is being examined.
There is a great deal to debate and I hope that we will have a further opportunity to look in greater depth at whether we need some legislative tweaks. I do
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"(5B) Following the notification and confirmation of an authorisation under this section, the Secretary of State will update and publish a list of each area in which searches have been authorised and the geographical extent and the time period for which each authorisation will apply.""
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, this group of three amendments concerns particularly the terrorism legislation that has a bearing on the various powers of the police. Amendment 157 relates to the fact that, at the moment, no one can know where stop-and-search powers can be exercised and so, if you are stopped and searched, you have no idea of whether or not it is reasonable. In a Written Answer, the Minister's colleague, the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, said:
"The Home Office does not make the fact of the existence of an authorisation in any particular area public while it is running or for how long a particular force have an authorisation".-[Official Report, 20/5/09; col. WA 339.]
This creates a difficulty. Of course terrorism legislation is vital, but so is the issue of where people are stopped and searched. Again, I am up against the clock in expanding the argument, but the issue merits greater debate.
Amendment 159 highlights some of the powers that have been used disproportionately by police to curtail the activities of protesters and journalists at recent demonstrations. These were intended to be used with regard to terrorism issues, but the NUJ has written to the new Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, to make a complaint and express serious concerns about the manner in which press card-carrying journalists are being monitored by the police, specifically by the Met's forward intelligence team. The NUJ's general secretary has written to the Home Office to say that it believes that certain journalists are the target of police surveillance because they speak to people who the police consider to be anarchists. All these sorts of situations are highly threatening in a democratic society, and we need to examine them in greater depth.
Amendment 159E explores this matter by proposing the omission of Section 58A of the Terrorism Act, which was added by the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 and makes it an offence to elicit, publish or communicate information about a constable. That is a pretty wide and sweeping power, and while the Minister may not be ready to repeal it this evening, he might at least undertake to monitor how it is working.
There are a large number of issues here, and it is important that we keep our eye on them. We must ensure that our terrorism legislation is not inhibiting the operation of a proper democracy. I beg to move.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, despite the lateness of the hour, I rise to support the amendments. Under this Government, powers available under terrorism legislation have been used for reasons entirely unrelated to those for which they were put on the statute book; an inappropriate use of stop and search is one of the most obvious examples. This is the surest way to lose public support and damage community relations.
The Government need to make sure that antiterrorism powers are used proportionately and only for terrorism-related purposes. That, in our view, is what the noble Baroness's Amendments 157 and 158 seek to achieve, and we support them. Not least, with the amount of terrorism legislation the Government have added to the statute book, the amendments would provide greater clarity not only to the public but to the police and other practitioners who are tasked with tackling the terrorist threat.
The noble Baroness also mentioned the question of eliciting information in relation to constables, with regard to Amendment 159E. Presumably, that is to stop this legislation being used as a defence for a police officer not identifying himself or herself when undertaking order or policing duties. When the offence of eliciting information was debated during the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Bill, an offence that also includes members of the Armed Forces, we on these Benches voiced cautious support for the powers lest they be used disproportionately. That is our concern. It would be helpful if the Minister would update your Lordships' House on how the powers have been used to date.
Lord Brett: My Lords, I share noble Lords' view that these are important issues. The point of agreement between the opposition Front Bench and ourselves is that these powers should be both appropriate and proportionately used, and must be used only for anti-terrorism purposes. The National Policing Improvement Agency published revised guidelines in November 2008.
I am clear that I cannot do justice to the debate, because the noble Baroness has not been able to enunciate many of the arguments that she would have put and I have a considerable brief. That brief confirms what the noble Baroness said-that the Home Office does not make the existence of an authorisation in a particular area a matter of public knowledge while it is running. As with all these things, it is a matter of balance. The need for greater public transparency would have to be balanced against how great the continued threat was perceived to be. Jonathan Evans, the director-general of the Security Service, said recently that:
It is that question of balance. The best that I can do in relation to the detailed argument is to write to the noble Baroness, not because I have doubts about the arguments to be put but because I would not be able to do justice to them this evening.
Amendment 159E raised the question of journalists. It is not the Government's intention that counterterrorism powers be used to stop people taking photographs or to impair journalists in their going about their normal business. I can amplify that too in writing, and I have no doubt that it will be debated at another stage.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, for her support for the amendments. I would be grateful if the Minister could expand on those issues in writing and place a copy of the letter in the Library. It would be welcomed also by the NUJ, because any clarity that can be given to this matter would be very helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(a) clearly display his or her identification numerals; and
(b) when requested to do so by a member of the public, clearly state his or her name or identification number.
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both; or
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine, or to both."
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: This is a very practical amendment which the Government might consider putting into statute. It concerns the duty of identification and arises from the difficulties that have arisen from police in uniform not being able to be clearly identified, as they should be. That is not a statutory requirement; it is only in guidance.
This issue was highlighted in September. After members of the Metropolitan Police Authority had criticised police chiefs for not formally disciplining officers for not wearing their ID numbers, Sir Paul Stephenson made a pronouncement on it, saying that all uniformed officers were of course expected to wear their ID. However, the very next day, it was noticed that some officers policing the Tamil demonstrations had no ID. The guidance therefore needs statutory backing, which would make the matter very clear. While the amendment may not be perfect, it is simply drafted and would give some power to the elbow of police chiefs who are finding the requirement difficult to enforce. It is a very important issue, as I am sure the Minister accepts. I beg to move.
Baroness Neville-Jones: It would be nice to think that the police would not need to have it set in statute that they need to wear their identification. Will the Minister clarify the precise status of the requirement to display ID? There clearly has been a problem and there appears to be a continuing problem. It would be helpful to know two things: what the precise status of the requirement is and what steps the police have taken since this has come to public attention to ensure that there is no repeat of what must be a disciplinary offence. Is there improved training or clearer guidance on the matter? We are certainly in strong sympathy with the amendment.
Lord Brett: I hope that in responding to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, I shall cover the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. The HMIC report, Adapting to Protest, which was published in the summer following the G20 protests recommended that the police should ensure officers wear numerals or other clear identification at all times during public order operations and deal with individual officer non-compliance swiftly and robustly. This is a position that the Government fully endorse. I am aware that the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its follow-up report, Demonstrating Respect for Rights, has recommended that it should be a legal requirement for police officers to wear identification numbers while on duty or to identify themselves when asked.
Police officers of any rank are subject to the standards of professional behaviour set out in the Police (Conduct) Regulations, which were approved by this House and the other place in 2008. These standards reflect the expectations that the police service and the public have of how police officers should behave. Any breach of those standards may lead to disciplinary action being taken. An officer deliberately removing his or her identification to avoid being held accountable is likely to be in breach of the standards expected and therefore liable to be dealt with under the disciplinary arrangements. While I am not convinced that failure to display
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