Joint Committee On Human Rights Second Report



SHARING OF INFORMATION WHEN ASSESSING RISKS POSED BY CERTAIN OFFENDERS

54. Clause 262 would require the "responsible authority", that is, the chief officer of police for the area, the local probation board and the Minister of the Crown responsible for prisons, acting jointly, to co-operate with other bodies, which in turn are required to co-operate with the responsible authority to the extent compatible with their "functions under any other enactment".[67] Co-operation for this purpose may include the exchange of information.[68] Clause 262 (as the Minister explained in his letter to us) is separate from the assessment of risk or "dangerousness" for the purposes of imposing extended sentences under clauses 205-208. Clauses 262-264 would require the responsible authority in each area to put in place arrangements for monitoring dangerous offenders in that area. These "multi-agency public protection arrangements" have been in force since April 2001 by virtue of the Criminal Justice and Courts Services Act 2000, section 67, and clauses 262-264 would re-enact that provision with amendments.[69]

55. In her letter to the Department, our Chair asked whether it could be made clear in clause 262 of the Bill that the clause would not require the bodies to co-operate where doing so would be incompatible with their duties towards defendants and other people under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998. The Minister replies that the Department appreciates the concern, but considers that those statutes always apply. To refer to them explicitly would be unnecessary and might cast doubt on their applicability in contexts where they are not expressly mentioned, and cause problems of statutory interpretation.[70]

56. This raises an issue of general concern, namely the circumstances in which the existence of a duty on public authorities, under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, to act compatibly with Convention rights makes it unnecessary to specify safeguards for the rights on the face of legislation that affects the rights. Generally, the Committee has taken the view that explicit safeguards ought to be included on the face of the legislation. However, in the present context, the exchange of information is expressed to be a power rather than a duty, in clause 262(3) of the Bill, and no special institutional arrangements would be needed to take account of duties under the Human Rights Act 1998 or the Data Protection Act 1998. That being so, we accept that it is not necessary to include special safeguards on the face of clause 262 of this Bill.


67   Clause 262(3) Back

68   Clause 262(4) Back

69   Letter from Lord Falconer, para. 40, referring also to an Annual Report on the arrangements for 2001-02, published on 13 September 2002 and available on the Home Office Website Back

70   ibid., para. 41 Back


 
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