Joint Committee on Human Rights Eleventh Report

1 Introduction

The Criminal Justice Bill

1.  The Criminal Justice Bill was introduced to the House of Commons with a statement of compatibility made by the Home Secretary under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. As originally introduced, the Bill proposed a range of significant amendments to the law of criminal evidence and procedure, several of which had the potential to affect important human rights. It was subsequently amended heavily in Committee and on Report in the House of Commons. Among other things, the amendments were designed to extend the range of matters covered by the Bill, further affecting human rights. The timetable for the debate at the Report Stage did not allow for full discussion of all the important amendments introduced then. The Bill which has now been introduced to the House of Lords is far larger and more far-reaching than that originally introduced to the House of Commons, and the range of human rights issues is considerably wider.

2.  All references in this Report are to the Bill as introduced to the House of Lords. Readers should note that the numbering of clauses and Schedules is different from that to which reference is made in the evidence published as an appendix to this Report.

The Committee's consideration of the Bill

3.  In January 2003 we reported on the human rights implications of the Bill as originally introduced to the House of Commons.[1] We came to the conclusion that various provisions raised no human rights issue requiring to be drawn to the attention of either House. These included: proposals in Part 7 of the Bill to limit trial by jury;[2] proposals in Part 11, Chapter 2 to extend the circumstances in which hearsay evidence would be admissible;[3] power for police constables to grant bail to people whom they have arrested, without taking them to a police station;[4] the abolition of the rule against double jeopardy in certain cases[5] (although more will be said about this below); and provisions for sharing information about certain offenders.[6]

4.  On the other hand, we identified a number of matters as being of concern on human rights grounds. These included:

a)  the adequacy of safeguards for the property of people detained by the police if the requirement under section 54(1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (hereafter 'PACE') for the police to record all property in the possession of the detainee is repealed by clause 6 of the Bill;[7]

b)  the implications for the right to a fair hearing and the right to respect for private life, under ECHR Articles 6 and 8 respectively, of provisions in Part 11, Chapter 1 of the Bill to extend the admissibility of evidence of a defendant's or witness's bad character;[8] provisions relating to sentencing and punishment;[9]

c)  the effect on the right to a fair hearing under ECHR Article 6 of provisions now in clauses 152 and 153 of the Bill restricting disclosure of pre-sentence reports and certain other reports by local probation boards and youth offending teams to defendants who are aged under 17 and are not represented by counsel or solicitor.[10]

5.  Subsequently, we considered amendments made to the Bill in Committee and on Report in the House of Commons. We had a number of concerns about both matters raised in our Second Report and amendments introduced subsequently, and several of these were raised with the Minister of State for Criminal Justice, Sentencing and Law Reform, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, when he gave oral evidence to us on 22 May 2003. After that, the Home Office provided further written evidence about some of the issues discussed during that session. We are grateful to the Minister, and to his officials, for their helpful co-operation.

6.  In the light of all this, we now report our views on the human rights implications of the Bill as introduced to the House of Lords. We reiterate our concern about:

a)  the protection for property rights of people detained in police custody in the light of clause 6 of the Bill;

b)  the provisions in Part 11, Chapter 1 regarding the admissibility of evidence of bad character;

and we draw attention to the effect of amendments to the double jeopardy provision, now in clauses 72(2) and 73 of the Bill, which would allow a new trial to be ordered following an acquittal if evidence is now available which was not adduced by the prosecution at the first trial, even if it was available at the time.

7.  We also consider the following new provisions with human rights implications:

a)  the new provisions, now in clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill, which would allow the more or less routine taking and storage of fingerprints, non-intimate samples and data derived from them, from anyone arrested for a recordable offence;

b)  a new provision, now in clause 298 of, and Schedule 29 to, the Bill, which would allow the Home Secretary to delegate to a private body, including potentially one situated outside the United Kingdom, his functions in relation to the issue of criminal record certificates by the Criminal Records Bureau;

c)  a new presumption against granting bail to any defendant who has failed to surrender to bail before in the proceedings, now contained in clause 15 of the Bill;

d)  new provisions, now in clause 271 of the Bill, for a minimum sentence for certain firearms offences;

e)  new provisions, now in clauses 254 to 262 of, and Schedule 17 to, the Bill, for setting 'tariff' periods of imprisonment to be served by a person convicted of murder before he or she would be come eligible for release on licence;

f)  amendments to the Terrorism Act 2000 to allow people detained on suspicion of terrorism to be held without charge for up to 14 days, instead of the current maximum period of seven days.

1   Joint Committee on Human Rights, Second Report, Session 2002-03, Criminal Justice Bill, HL Paper 40, HC 374 Back

2   Ibid., para. 5 Back

3   Ibid., paras. 24-30 Back

4   Ibid., paras. 36-42 Back

5   Ibid., paras. 43-52 Back

6   Ibid., paras. 54-56 Back

7   Ibid., paras. 6-10 Back

8   Ibid., paras 11-23 Back

9   Ibid., para. 53 Back

10   Ibid., paras. 34-35 Back

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