Criminal Justice and Police Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Heald: That sounds sensible and I have nothing to add.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 138, in page 105, leave out lines 5 to 8.

No. 139, in page 105, line 11, at end insert—

    `Homes Act 2001 (c. 00). Paragraph 11(1) of Schedule 1 to the Homes Act 2001.'—[Mr. Charles Clarke.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

New Clause 6

Police directions stopping the harassment etc of a person in his home

    `.—(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, a constable who is at the scene may give a direction under this section to any person if—

    (a) that person is present outside or in the vicinity of any premises that are used by any individual (``the victim'') as his dwelling;

    (b) that constable believes, on reasonable grounds, that that person is present there for the purpose (by his presence or otherwise) of representing to the victim or another individual (whether or not one who uses the premises as his dwelling), or of persuading the victim or such another individual—

    (i) that he should not do something that he is entitled or required to do; or

    (ii) that he should do something that he is not under any obligation to do;

    (c) that constable also believes, on reasonable grounds, that the presence of that person (either alone or together with that of any other persons who are also present)—

    (i) amounts to, or is likely to result in, the harassment of the victim; or

    (ii) is likely to cause alarm or distress to the victim.

    (2) A direction under this section is a direction requiring the person to whom it is given to do all such things as the constable giving it may specify as the things he considers necessary to prevent one or both of the following—

    (a) the harassment of the victim; or

    (b) the causing of any alarm or distress to the victim.

    (3) A direction under this section may be given orally; and where a constable is entitled to give a direction under this section to each of several persons outside, or in the vicinity of, any premises, he may give that direction to those persons by notifying them of his requirements either individually or all together.

    (4) The requirements that may be imposed by a direction under this section include a requirement to leave the vicinity of the premises in question (either immediately or after a specified period of time).

    (5) A direction under this section may make exceptions to any requirement imposed by the direction, and may make any such exception subject to such conditions as the constable giving the direction thinks fit; and those conditions may include—

    (a) conditions as to the distance from the premises in question at which, or otherwise as to the location where, persons who do not leave their vicinity must remain; and

    (b) conditions as to the number or identity of the persons who are authorised by the exception to remain in the vicinity of those premises.

    (6) The power of a constable to give a direction under this section shall not include—

    (a) any power to give a direction at any time when there is a more senior-ranking police officer at the scene; or

    (b) any power to direct a person to refrain from conduct that is lawful under section 220 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (right peacefully to picket a work place);

    but it shall include power to vary or withdraw a direction previously given under this section.

    (7) Any person who knowingly contravenes a direction given to him under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or to both.

    (8) A constable in uniform may arrest without warrant any person he reasonably suspects is committing an offence under this section.

    (9) In this section ``dwelling'' has the same meaning as in Part I of the Public Order Act 1986.'.—[Mr. Charles Clarke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Charles Clarke: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman: With this we may take the following: Government new clause 7—Malicious communications—

    `.—(1) In subsection (1) of section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (offence of sending letters and other articles with intent to cause distress or anxiety)—

    (a) in paragraph (a), for ``letter or other article'' there shall be substituted ``letter, electronic communication or article of any description''; and

    (b) in paragraph (b), for the word ``other article'' there shall be substituted ``article or electronic communication''.

    (2) In subsection (2) of that section (defence of making a threat in the belief that it was a proper way of reinforcing a demand and that there were reasonable grounds for making that demand)—

    (a) in paragraph (a), for ``which he believed he had reasonable grounds for making'' there shall be substituted ``made by him on reasonable grounds''; and

    (b) in paragraph (b), after ``believed'' there shall be inserted ``, and had reasonable grounds for believing,''.

    (3) After that subsection there shall be inserted—

    ``(2A) In this section `electronic communication' includes—

    (a) any oral or other communication by means of a telecommunication system (within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act 1984); and

    (b) any communication (however sent) that is in electronic form.

    (4) In subsection (3) of that section (definition of ``send'')—

    (a) after ``delivering'' there shall be inserted ``or transmitting''; and

    (b) for ``or delivered'' there shall be substituted ``, delivered or transmitted''.

    (5) In subsection (5) of that section (penalty for offence), for ``a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale'' there shall be substituted ``imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both''.

    (6) Subsection (5) does not affect the penalty for an offence committed before the day on which this Act is passed.'.

And the following amendment thereto: (a), at end of subsection (2) insert—

    `.—``(2ZA) No defence under subsection (2) above is provided where the threat conveyed is a threat of an action which if carried out would be an offence under any other Act.''.'.

Government new clause 20—Addresses of directors and secretaries of companies.

New clause 14—Fear of Violence—

    `.—Section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 shall be amended in subsection(1) by leaving out the words ``on at least two occasions''.'.

New clause 15—Conspiracy—

    `.—After section 4 of the Protection for Harassment Act 1997 there shall be inserted the following section—

    ``Conspiracy

    4A. Where two or more persons agree to organise or plan the commission by any other persons or by themselves a course of conduct contrary to Section 1 and Section 4 of this Act, they shall be guilty of the offence of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977 Section 1.''.'.

New clause 19—Increase in sentences for hate crimes—

    `—(1) This section applies where a court is considering the seriousness of any offence.

    (2) If the offence was aggravated for the purposes of this section, the court—

    (a) shall treat that fact as an aggravating factor (that is to say, a factor that increases the seriousness of the offence); and

    (b) shall state in open court that the offence was so aggravated.

    (3) An offence is aggravated for the purposes of this section if—

    (a) at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim's actual or presumed sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or disability; or

    (b) the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a group based on their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or disability or based on their membership of, or association with, such a group.'.

Government amendments Nos. 176 and 243.

Mr. Clarke: The new clauses are important. We welcome the Opposition's decision to work within the framework of our guillotine resolutions in order to prioritise debate on the key issues. My hon. Friends have made similar arguments.

I shall deal first with Government amendments Nos. 176 and 243, which are relatively minor and relate to the commencement and extent of the measures. Amendment No. 176 provides that measures on police direction to stop harassment of a person in his home and malicious communications will come into force on Royal Assent. Measures to protect the victims of harassment will be available as soon as the Bill is passed. Amendment No. 243 extends the measures relating to companies, secretaries and directors to Great Britain.

On the more substantive provisions, I begin with new clause 6, which is an important element in the Government's package of measures to deal with the activities of animal rights so-called protesters. It will give the police powers to deal with protesters or others who attempt to harass, alarm or distress a person through their presence in the vicinity of his home. It is important to note that it is not an offence to be within the vicinity of the dwelling as such. An offence arises only if the police give a direction that is not complied with. The new clause can apply to any number of people from a single individual to a large group.

Subsection (1) makes it clear that the police officer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the person being directed is there for the purpose of persuading the victim or another individual either not to do something that he is entitled to do, or conversely to do something that he is under no obligation to do. The police officer must also believe that the presence of the person or people is likely to result in harassment or cause alarm and distress to the victim.

Subsections (2) to (5) deal with the nature of the directions, specifying that they can be given orally to individuals or a group, and that they can require the people directed to do whatever is thought necessary to prevent harassment, alarm or distress, including leaving the vicinity. Conditions can be attached to the directions, to allow a police officer to specify how far from the vicinity people must go, or that certain individuals may, by exception, remain in the area.

Subsection (6) restricts the power to make directions to the most senior police officer present at the time, and makes it clear that the power does not extend to giving directions to those who are lawfully carrying out a peaceful picket under section 220 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. If a person refuses to comply with a direction, subsection (7) makes him guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty of a level 4 fine and/or three months imprisonment on summary conviction.

The clause will allow the police to deal with people such as animal rights extremists who target individual researchers or company employees and cause great distress by gathering outside their homes. Their behaviour may fall short of the sort of threatening behaviour that is covered by the Public Order Act 1986 but, taken in the context of threats made in other places, and the knowledge that such people occasionally resort to criminal and violent acts, their mere presence can create a real sense of fear for their victims and their families.

Those powers may be of use in other situations. For instance, they would be available to deal with the mobs who have, in recent times, gathered outside the homes of supposed sex offenders—in some cases, as a result of mistaken identity—in an attempt to drive them out of their homes. However, we shall expect the police to exercise those powers with discretion; we have no reason to expect them to be used indiscriminately. They will provide a valuable addition to the police's repertoire of responses in cases when the threat to individuals is more insidious, but no less real, as it strikes at the heart of their home and family.

 
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