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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most obliged for that helpful response. The amendment was not designed to insist that statements should be obtained on every occasion but that information should be recorded. The Minister has said that there is nothing between us in the thrust of what we aim to secure. Upon that basis, for which I am most grateful, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne): My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 49, I should point out that if it is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 50 or 51 because of pre-emption.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 49:


Page 10, line 3, leave out from ("information") to end of line 7 and insert ("which is obtained in the course of a criminal investigation and may be relevant to the investigation is recorded;
(b) that any record of such information is retained;
(bb) that any other material which is obtained in the course of a criminal investigation and may be relevant to the investigation is retained;
(c) that information falling within paragraph (a) and material falling within paragraph (bb) is").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, perhaps I may speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 52 and 56. These amendments ensure that the enabling provisions of Clause 16 are consistent with the provisions of the draft code of practice. Under Clause 16 as currently drafted, the code of practice would have to require the retention of all material obtained during a criminal investigation regardless of its relevance to the investigation. On reflection, we have concluded that that would be unworkable. For example, if the police seized a dustbin, searched it and found drugs, they would need to retain the entire contents of the dustbin as well as the drugs. Amendment No. 49 accordingly limits the retention requirement to material which may be relevant to the investigation. Although narrower, this should still catch all material which the prosecutor needs to see to form a view on whether material needs to be disclosed. It also accords with current police practice.

Amendment No. 52 ensures that the police can give material to the accused at the request of the prosecutor either by copying it to him or by allowing him to inspect

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it. At present Clause 16 only provides for inspection, with copying subsequently if appropriate, but I understand that generally, unless the material is, for example, a very long document, it will be more efficient simply to copy it to the accused without requiring him or his legal representative to turn up at a police station to inspect it.

Amendment No. 56 ensures that some of the tasks which must be carried out in pursuance of the code of practice can be carried out either by police officers or by civilians employed in the police force, although a police officer will always be ultimately responsible for ensuring that these tasks are carried out.

Under Clause 16 at present, all tasks, even administrative ones, must be carried out by police officers. That does not take account of the modern practice of employing civilians within the police service on tasks which do not need the specialist skills of a police officer. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, these are very welcome amendments not only in themselves, but in the way in which the Minister introduced them and the way in which they have been linked. Strictly speaking, they are all on very different subjects and, under some circumstances, I believe that we would have wished to debate them separately. After all, one is about the retention of irrelevant material; another concerns the way in which material can be disclosed to the accused and the third refers to the implementation of the code of practice by civilians as well as police officers. One could not have more different subjects for those three amendments, but they are linked for a very welcome reason. They are linked because the Government are recognising the force of the arguments we put forward at Committee stage that the important elements of the code of practice ought to be subject to legislative authority. That indeed is what the Government are now doing. They are recognising that the will of Parliament extends not only to the establishment of a code of practice itself, but also to significant elements of the code of practice. So in putting forward these amendments which, as the Minister rightly said, bring the Bill into line with the code of practice, as at present drafted, she is in effect conceding that our arguments for debating these issues on the Floor of the House have been correct, and for that I am grateful.

The Deputy Speaker pointed out that Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 will be pre-empted if Amendment No. 49 is carried, as I believe it will. I hope that the House will forgive me if I make some reference to those two amendments. I do not know whether the Minister has simply assumed that Amendment No. 49 would be carried and that she did not need to refer to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51. I hope she may feel able to respond to my points about those two amendments which I shall be unable to move.

In both cases we have taken account of points made by the Government. We have made changes to the amendments that we tabled at Committee stage. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that these amendments are sensible and that it would be entirely

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proper for them not to be pressed here--they cannot be--but for them to be incorporated in the next version of the code.

The first issue concerns material which at present is to be kept in durable form. In the amendment we are saying that where possible it should be kept in the original form as well. The Minister rightly said to me in a letter that our original amendments put an impossible task on the investigator requiring him to keep in the original form material which was not necessarily in his possession, but in that of a third party. The Minister acknowledges, and I acknowledge, that the issue of evidence in the possession of third parties is extremely complicated. I accept her point that although she is trying to table amendments to the Bill which recognise these points, the Minister has been unable to do so yet and that it will be necessary to do that at a later stage and possibly not even in this House. Now that we have added the words, "obtained by the investigator" in Amendment No. 50--in other words, we have limited the scope of our Amendment No. 69 tabled at Committee stage--I hope that the Minister will agree that there is something of substance here which deserves to be considered further.

Amendment No. 51 is extremely important because it is about samples and particularly forensic evidence. I believe that the Minister will be able to agree to the thrust of some part of this amendment. My understanding is that the present rule is that non-perishable material, such as a boot, is returned to the police by the forensic scientist, but that perishable material is subject to a notice under rules which have been drawn up by the Crown Prosecution Service and by the Lord Chief Justice; namely, notification of intent to destroy a piece of evidence. All this sounds entirely satisfactory to me, but it is important that there should be recognition in the code of practice that samples of this kind are, under appropriate and enforceable rules, kept under the control of the code of practice and included in its scope. We have no objection to Amendments Nos. 49, 52 and 56.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I support the suggestion that when the code of practice is drawn, serious consideration may be given to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51, which are very useful.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I thought that it might be presumptuous of me to have jumped ahead. I am happy to respond to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 before a decision is taken on my amendment.

I understand the concerns about the issue raised in Amendment No. 50. But again, the requirement--and this is the distinction--to retain material in a durable form and as far as practicable in its original form, is insufficiently flexible to take account of operational practice. Perhaps I may give an example. Where papers are obtained from a company, it makes sense for the police to take a copy and return the originals to the company so that it can continue its work. For that reason

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we prefer to retain the existing provision in the draft code, which recognises that material may be retained either in its original form or in the form of a copy, but nothing that would prejudice justice in these cases.

Amendment No. 51 requires the retention of both draft and final versions of witness statements. The code requires only final versions to be retained. We accept that draft versions of witness statements should in general be retained. Although special considerations apply to statements of opinion prepared by expert witnesses, these tend to evolve as further information comes to light and additional expert contributions are obtained. Earlier versions of such statements tend to be based on incomplete information and could be misleading. We see no advantage in their retention for their own sake. I have already given the noble Lord an undertaking that we shall amend the draft code to require the retention of draft witness statements subject to that qualification.

The second amendment seeks to specify the material which the expert must retain to support the report on any work carried out and the schedule of scientific material which are sent to the investigator. The code is not designed to regulate the activities of expert witnesses--we have had this debate already--but only of those persons who are charged with the duty of conducting an investigation. Again, we discussed this point when debating a previous amendment. What is important is that where there is a requirement to retain samples in a condition that will be appropriate, that responsibility lies with the investigator.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 not moved.]


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