Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence


Annex C

THE LAW SOCIETY PARLIAMENTARY BRIEF

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND POLICE BILL

SECOND READING: HOUSE OF COMMONS, MONDAY 29 JANUARY 2000

  The Law Society supports all efforts to combat crime and disorder but remains concerned that any increases in police powers must be carefully scrutinised. Whilst broadly supporting the measures proposed in the Bill, the Society raises the following questions:

DNA TESTING AND FINGERPRINTING

  The Bill makes provision for the taking of intimate samples and fingerprints before a person has been charged with a crime. In addition, under the terms of the proposed legislation, the police will no longer automatically have to destroy samples or fingerprints once the individual is cleared of the offence or will not be prosecuted. Their samples and fingerprints may be kept indefinitely. Will the public be aware that when assisting the police or after being cleared of an offence, their information will be held by the police for future speculative searches in the investigation of other crimes? Will this mean that those who would come forward voluntarily will be less likely to do so?

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS ON DRUG TRAFFICKING OFFENDERS

  The Society supports the Government's intention to take a hard line with offenders. However, this clause will enable the courts to impose overseas travel bans on those convicted of drug trafficking, even after they have completed their prison sentence. Whilst this provision will be restricted to those who have served a four year sentence, some first time defendants or those vulnerable persons who have been persuaded to act as a "mule" may be subject to a four year sentence. Should such an order be made if the pre-sentence report shows that the person is unlikely to re-offend? Will it be possible to return to court to have the order lifted (either permanently or temporarily) in certain circumstances (such as an urgent need to travel abroad to visit a sick relative).

FIXED PENALTY NOTICES

  The application of fixed penalty notices will be at the discretion of the police. The Society is concerned that this may be open to misuse. How will the issuing of these notices be monitored? In addition, the Society is anxious that people who lack mental capacity or those with limited English may be unable to question the fixed penalty notice, either at the time of issuing the notice, or by requesting a trial if challenging the penalty notice. What provision will there be to ensure the most vulnerable are not disproportionately affected?

ADDITIONAL POWERS OF SEIZURE

  The Bill proposes that police powers be extended to allow for the seizure of material from premises, including material for which there may be no authorisation to search or which may be legally privileged, if it is difficult to determine which elements of the material can be seized or where the material that can be seized is considered inseparable from other material, eg information held on computer disk or where there is a large bulk of material. The Society is concerned that privileged material should not be available to the police in any circumstances, most particularly as the Bill does not make provision for information gained improperly by the police other than application to a Crown Court judge for return. Will this provision undermine the solicitor/client relationship where complete confidence must be assured?

  For further information, please contact:

  Deborah Pester, Public Affairs Adviser. Tel: 0207 320 5717, e-mail [email protected]

  Sophy Thomas, Policy Adviser. Tel: 0207 316 5748, e-mail [email protected]


 
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Prepared 13 March 2001