Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Clause 45

Persons acting in an anti-social manner

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Hawkins: We shall come to another issue to do with antisocial behaviour orders under clause 57. I am delighted that my amendments Nos. 271 and 272 and proposed new clause 20 have been selected for debate under that clause, and I do not want to anticipate those

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arguments. However, we have been asked by the Police Federation to raise one particular matter under clause 45, which also deals with ASBOs, and I hope that the Minister can shed light on it.

Although the Police Federation supports what is said in the clause—and I can well understand why—it raises the issue that as yet there is no specific statutory definition of what is encompassed under the term ''antisocial behaviour.'' All of us will have some idea of what is meant, and the Minister might say that it would not be helpful to have a statutory definition. However, as the Police Federation specifically asked my hon. Friends and me to raise the issue, I thought it best to put the question on the record under the clause, and to give the Minister an opportunity to give his view as to whether the Government have it in mind, perhaps in later legislation if not in the Bill, to give an overarching definition of what constitutes antisocial behaviour.

Mr. Denham: Clause 45 centres on the ability to ask for a name and address from someone believed to be acting in an antisocial manner. It has some read-across to this morning's debate on accredited community safety officers and CSOs being able to do so. It would be strange if, through earlier legislation, CSOs and ACSOs had the power to ask for a name and address but a police officer did not. The clause therefore completes the picture.

There is wording that answers the hon. Gentleman's question. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 gives the definition of antisocial behaviour as acting

    ''in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household''.

We will, under a later set of amendments, debate the phrase,

    ''not of the same household'',

but that definition is the basis that we are relying on in the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 45 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 46 to 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 49

Extension of role of nurses

Mr. Denham: I beg to move amendment No. 227, in page 43, line 26, leave out 'nurse' and insert 'health care professional'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following: Government amendments Nos. 228 to 238, 245 and 246.

Government new clause 12—Persons authorised to take intimate samples from persons in police detention.

Mr. Denham: The Bill already makes provision for registered nurses to deal with the taking of blood specimens with consent in drink-driving cases and in cases under the Transport and Works Act 1992. The amendments under discussion extend that provision to registered health care professionals, who include registered nurses, although the term goes wider. The

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particular group that the Government have in mind in introducing the amendment is registered paramedics, who are highly trained clinical practitioners.

Proposed new clause 12 amends the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to allow registered health care professionals to take blood and other intimate samples from suspects at police stations in non-drink-driving cases. Such samples are used for a variety of evidential and investigatory purposes and currently must be taken by a registered medical practitioner.

Allowing registered health care professionals—we have in mind paramedics in particular—to take the entire range of intimate samples simply reflects their expanding role throughout many different medical environments. Enabling the use of the entire range of registered health care professionals and not only registered nurses is a practical measure in law to extend the benefits of the new provision as broadly as possible without compromising standards. However, the Secretary of State will have to introduce regulations on the matter.

The amendments and the new clause will increase the scope for a wider range of health care professionals to provide services in the custody environment. They will help to promote value for money, avoid delays and remove the need to call on the services of a police surgeon when the practical requirements can easily be dealt with by appropriately trained registered health care professionals. I commend them to the Committee.

5.45 pm

Mr. Hawkins: We do not foresee any particular difficulties with the amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire has some important points to make about the next clause, but I shall not take up the Committee's time on this group, because we believe that what the Government are suggesting is perfectly sensible.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 228, in page 43, line 30, at end insert—

    '(2A) In subsection (2) of section 11 of that Act (interpretation of sections 3A to 10 of that Act), after the definition of ''prescribed limit'' there shall be inserted—

    '''registered health care professional' means a person (other than a medical practitioner) who is—

    (a) a registered nurse; or

    (b) a registered member of a health care profession which is designated for the purposes of this paragraph by an order made by the Secretary of State.

    (2B) After that subsection there shall be inserted—

    ''(2A) A health care profession is any profession mentioned in section 60(2) of the Health Act 1999 (c.8) other than the profession of practising medicine and the profession of nursing.

    (2B) An order under subsection (2) shall be made by statutory instrument; and any such statutory instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'''.

No. 229, in page 43, line 31, leave out

    'section 11 of that Act'

and insert 'that section'.

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No. 230, in page 43, line 36, leave out 'nurse' and insert 'health care professional'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 49, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 50

Specimens taken from persons incapable of consenting

Mr. Paice: I beg to move amendment No. 101, in page 44, line 23, at end insert—

    '(iii) if the medical practitioner who for the time being has any responsibility for the clinical care of the person concerned objects to the request.'.

I should say first that we warmly welcome this part of the Bill. I do not want there to be any doubt about that. Many hon. Members will have been present in the Chamber on Second Reading, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) spoke passionately about the issue. The Minister has been in long discussions with him. We entirely support the proposition in the clause that if people are incapable of consenting to having a sample taken, that should not necessarily prevent a sample from being taken. My right hon. Friend referred to a case, and I know of others. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) has been involved, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), in cases in which people who self-evidently have a responsibility for causing an accident, for example, have been unconscious in hospital and blood samples cannot be taken. I do not want to say something that cannot be proven, but it might be argued that the guilty have gone unpunished because it has not been possible to collect the evidence.

We entirely support the clause. However, I am sure that I am not the only hon. Member to have received from the British Medical Association details of some concerns on the subject. I tabled the amendment simply to suggest that the medical practitioner in charge of the patient at any one time should have the right to object to the request for a sample to be taken on the basis that he or she believes that it would be deleterious to the patient's condition.

The amendment is not intended to undermine the purpose of the clause. It would simply allow the medical professionals to have a say in the matter.

The BMA said that it

    ''is concerned that the operation of the clause is dependent upon a police constable assessing that a person's incapacity is attributable to medical reasons.''

It goes on to ask how a constable who is not medically trained could

    ''differentiate between an incapacity caused by concussion, or by shock, or by drink or drugs or a pre-existing medical condition''.

I understand that, under section 9 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, provision is made to protect a person who is a patient at a hospital from having to provide a specimen of breath or blood for a laboratory test, unless the medical practitioner in charge of his case does not object. A medical practitioner might object if he considers that to provide a specimen would be prejudicial to the care and treatment of the patient.

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That is a reasonable position to adopt. Our amendment would extend the protection to the care and treatment of a person from the moment that he or she comes under the care of any member of the health team, including the ambulance and paramedic services, and any health care professional who assists in either a voluntary or an official capacity.

Obviously, whatever has happened, the health of the individual is paramount. It seems sensible that the individual should be protected by the medical practitioner. The Minister may say that the term ''medical practitioner'' is wrong and that it should have been ''health care professional''. I am more than happy to accept that the amendment may be deficient technically, but we believe that a medical professional should be able to say, ''No, you cannot take that sample because it could prejudice the health interests of the patient''.

 
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Prepared 25 June 2002