Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Dr. Ladyman: I hear what my hon. Friend says. If he will undertake to provide me with concrete examples concerning my amendment, I am prepared not to press it now and to reintroduce it again on Report if such examples cannot be provided. I am a little distrustful, because I talk to lawyers who say, ``It's all right, little boy. Don't worry your pretty head'', but they cannot give me any examples. That makes me think that something is wrong.

I hope that the Opposition will not press their new clause to a Division, because the professional bodies that have talked to us and have tried to work closely with the Government and advise the Committee on a cross-party basis will not appreciate the matter being pushed into the political domain. My hon. Friend has given assurances that he will examine the issues, read the transcript of the debate carefully and introduce further improvements on Report. It is in everybody's interests to work together on the matter from now on.

The Chairman: I shall now put the question.

Mr. Hawkins: On a point of order, Mr. Hood. I am again seeking clarification. The question that you are about to put to the Committee relates to Government new clause 6—the lead amendment. Can I ask you to put the questions on new clauses 14 and 15 separately?

The Chairman: New clauses 14, 15 and 19 will come later on. I shall now put the question on new clause 6.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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.'.—[Mr. Charles Clarke.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 8

    Registration for criminal records purposes

    `.—(1) After section 120 of the 1997 Act there shall be inserted the following section—

    ``Refusal and cancellation of registration

    120A.—(1) The Secretary of State may refuse to include a person in the register maintained for the purposes of this Part if it appears to him that the registration of that person is likely to make it possible for information to become available to an individual who, in the Secretary of State's opinion, is not a suitable person to have access to that information.

    (2) The Secretary of State may remove a person from the register if it appears to the Secretary of State—

    (a) that the registration of that person is likely to make it possible for information to become available to an individual who, in the Secretary of State's opinion, is not a suitable person to have access to that information; or

    (b) that the registration of that person has resulted in information becoming known to such an individual.

    (3) In determining for the purposes of this section whether an individual is a suitable person to have access to any information, the Secretary of State may have regard, in particular, to—

    (a) any information relating to that person which concerns a relevant matter;

    (b) whether that person is included in any list mentioned in section 113(3A) or (3C); and

    (c) any information provided to the Secretary of State under subsection (4).

    (4) It shall be the duty of the chief officer of any police force to comply, as soon as practicable after receiving it, with any request by the Secretary of State to provide the Secretary of State with information which—

    (a) is available to the chief officer;

    (b) relates to—

    (i) an applicant for registration;

    (ii) a registered person; or

    (iii) an individual who is likely to have access to information in consequence of the countersigning of applications by a particular applicant for registration or by a particular registered person;

    (c) concerns a matter which the Secretary of State has notified to the chief officer to be a matter which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, is relevant to the determination of the suitability of individuals for having access to the information that may be provided in consequence of the countersigning of applications under this Part.

    (5) In this section `relevant matter' has the same meaning as in section 113.''

    (2) In section 119 of that Act (sources of information)—

    (a) in subsections (1) and (4) (supply of information to the Secretary of State for the purposes of applications under Part V), for ``for the purposes of an application under this Part'' there shall be substituted ``for the purpose of enabling him to carry out his functions under this Part in relation to—

    (a) any application for a certificate or for registration; or

    (b) the determination of whether a person should continue to be a registered person.'';

    (b) after subsection (1) there shall be inserted—

    ``(1A) Any person who keeps a list mentioned in section 113(3A) or (3C) above shall make the contents of that list available to the Secretary of State for the purpose of enabling him to carry out his functions under this Part in relation to—

    (a) any application for a certificate or for registration; or

    (b) the determination of whether a person should continue to be a registered person.''

    (c) in subsection (3) (payment for information provided under subsection (2)), for ``subsection (2)'' there shall be substituted ``section 120A(4) or subsection (2) of this section''.

    (3) In section 120(2) of that Act (duty to grant registration), after ``Subject to'' there shall be inserted ``section 120A and''.

    (4) In section 120(3) of that Act (regulations about registration), after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted—

    ``(aa) the nomination, in the case of a body corporate or unincorporate, of the individuals authorised to act for the body in relation to the countersigning of applications under this Part;

    (ab) the refusal by the Secretary of State, on such grounds as may be specified in or determined under the regulations, to accept or to continue to accept the nomination of a person as so authorised;''.'.—[Mr. Charles Clarke.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

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

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 189.

Mr. Clarke: I shall be brief, but I need to explain what the new clause is designed to deal with. New clause 8 is a technical amendment to part V of the Police Act 1997, but it is also important in its own right. It will increase confidence in the arrangements that are being implemented under part V, and will add to the safeguards that that part will bring to the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Under part V, many more employers, including voluntary organisations, will have access to police information. That will help them in making decisions about the suitability of people applying for jobs. The Criminal Records Bureau is being set up to implement part V.

The CRB will issue three levels of certificates, as hon. Members will be aware. It is important that applications for the certificates will have to be countersigned by a person registered with the CRB for that purpose. The registered person has a key role, and the CRB needs to know about the people seeking registration.

Part V as it stands does not provide what is required. The new provisions will mean that applicants for registration can be checked to the same level as those whose applications for certificates they will endorse. Applicants can be refused if their registration is likely to result in information becoming available to someone who is considered unsuitable; and similarly, someone can be removed from the register. Provision is also made for similar safeguards in relation to persons nominated by a registered body to act as a counter-signatory on behalf of that body. The new safeguards are important, and I hope that the Committee will agree to them.

The purpose of Government amendment No. 189 is to extend the provisions in new clause 8 to Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales. I hope that that is clear, and I am happy to respond to any points that members of the Committee would like to raise.

Mr. Heald: Obviously, Government amendment No. 189 presents no difficulty. However, I was not entirely sure of the purpose of new clause 8. As I understand it, certificates of conviction can be sought if, for example, an employer wishes to know the background of an individual, and a registered person is somebody who is entitled to request such a certificate or co-sign an application for one. In adding to legislation an ability to refuse or cancel a registration, are the Government concerned about the potential for such information to get into the wrong hands, as occurred in Portsmouth, where information about alleged paedophiles got into the public domain? Is it an attempt to ensure that information about previous convictions cannot get into the public domain by tightening up the provisions for those who seek to be registered?

 
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