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Lord Renton: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that a burning cigarette end can cause damage to a large

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area of moorland and even to woodland? Will the Government bear that in mind and prevent people, for example, from making bonfires just because they want to have a picnic?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, substantial bylaws already exist in relation to bonfires. That matter would certainly be a consideration as regards any additional access to woodland.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I think everyone agrees there is a need for more access in general for people. The argument concerns how we achieve that. I would like to be a little clearer on the Government's proposals as to whether or not they believe that there are times during the year when people should not be allowed access to common land, moorlands, etc., to enable breeding seasons to commence without disturbance. That leads me to my next question. At the moment in many cases codes of practice are scarcely followed. There are certain associations which are good at sticking to the codes of practice. However, as a landowner, just this Sunday I had two groups of three people and dogs in a sensitive area where duck breed. Also this weekend, believe it or not, a green 4 by 4 car was driven into a lake some two miles off a public highway. Do the Government expect the landowners to fund these codes of practice--it would be quite difficult--or will they be funded by the Government?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, nothing in the Statement, or nothing that is likely to be in the legislation, gives any greater access to open countryside by 4 by 4 vehicles than is the case now. I repeat: this relates solely to access by foot.

We envisage a national code of practice to be agreed, we hope by consensus, and issued in effect under the statute. There will no doubt be local codes of practice produced by the local forum. It would not be expensive for the landowner to produce such codes or to enforce such codes. We would expect the organisers of substantial rambles to observe those codes and to urge all their members to observe them.

The noble Lord asked about closed periods. As I indicated in the Statement, for land management purposes--that would include the protection of the breeding season in certain respects--application to the countryside agency or the other authorities would be possible and closures could take place. We would not envisage that being a very lengthy period. Short of obtaining prior consent, the landowner would be able to close the area for up to 28 days. That would probably cover most of the situations the noble Lord has in mind.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, that access should be as wide and as reasonable as possible, especially as the landowning classes--I count myself as one of them--seem to be in receipt of vast amounts of subsidies from Europe. In return for subsidies one ought to give something back. I have no difficulty with the concept of the widest possible access. It is what I practice at home.

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It is not those who are responsible who make the difference; it is all those people who are irresponsible. It is the people who drive 4 by 4 cars into lochs four miles from a road who are irresponsible. No one in his right mind would give them the right to do that. Not even this Government would do that. But in the upland areas--unfortunately I do not have any--there are large amounts of grouse shooting. Someone may have come over from, say, the United States of America, paid £70 or £80 a brace to shoot grouse, and his whole joy is ruined by a general right to roam of some nerds in anoraks.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the noble Earl come to his question? Other noble Lords want to speak.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, even though I support the right to roam, will it be controlled in such a way that other people's interests are not harmed?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as to subsidies to landowners from the European Union, I cannot possibly comment. Access can be limited in the sense that if the landowner has a shoot he could close the land for a limited period of up to 28 days. That would, as the noble Earl puts it, ensure that at that point "nerds in anoraks" would not be present or in danger during the shoot. However, that would be a limited period of closure and would have to fall within the 28 days' closure without prior consent which relates to all purposes.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, will safeguards be placed on very fragile land? I am thinking of heath land in southern England, which is now extremely rare and very fragile from an ecological point of view. Being sandy, when one walks over it one denudes it of growing matter. Will there be special protection for such land; and will the legislation enable owners and managers of it to ensure that access is, as at present, along paths rather than by roaming?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, not in that generalised sense. This is open access; it is not confined to linear paths. We regarded that as too great a restriction on access to the countryside as a whole. However, the statutory authorities and the national parks will be able to authorise restrictions to protect fragile land and the management of it, just as they will be able to invoke the restrictions I mentioned previously as regards the protection of wildlife and other aspects of conservation. But the essential element is that it is open access; it is not simply linear access.

Lord Boardman: My Lords, the Statement relates purely to England and Wales. Can the noble Lord say whether there are similar proposals for Scotland?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there has been an indication that there will be a substantial right to roam in Scotland

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which will be, if anything, somewhat wider than this. However, the delivery and exact form of that will now be a matter for the Scottish Parliament, not for me.

Viscount Addison: My Lords, perhaps I may add to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, about forestry and fires. Although there may be a 28 day holding period to keep people away from forestry or other land that is likely to burn up in very dry conditions if we have a drought--which we do from time to time--will the Government make sure that there is an ability to keep people away from areas that are likely to catch fire very easily?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, to generalise such a requirement could lead to an abuse of the position. The statutory authorities would be able to authorise closures if there were a serious danger of fire in a drought situation. That would be clear from the statute and from the code of practice. I am sure that the countryside agency would wish to pursue a closure or a restriction if that danger were clear.

Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill [H.L.]

6.9 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 41 [Interpretation and application of section 40]:

[Amendment No. 60 not moved.]

Clause 42 [Procedure on applications under section 40]:

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

Clause 43 [Restrictions on reporting alleged offences involving persons under 18]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 30, line 28, leave out from ("where") to ("against") in line 29 and insert ("a criminal investigation has begun in respect of--
(a) an alleged offence").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 62, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 63 to 65, 67, 67A, 69, 70 and 120. This is a quite large group of amendments. They are both Government and Opposition inspired and have generally the same purpose. Perhaps I may set out briefly why we think that some changes are necessary and the best way that we may attain our common purpose.

We want to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from unwarranted publicity and irresponsible reporting, in particular when those in question are children and young people who may be involved in a criminal trial in the near future. As the law now stands, once proceedings have begun in a youth court restrictions on reporting automatically apply. We think that in the pre-proceedings stage it cannot be right that there are no such safeguards. Therefore we want to put the appropriate mechanism in place to prevent the

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authority of the court being bypassed and the lives of innocent youngsters ruined. We also appreciate that there have been quite deep concerns about how the new measures will apply to situations in which it is not clear whether an offence has been committed or who has been involved.

I have been happy to listen to representations about how the policy objective could be best achieved. We are continuing to listen to representatives, in particular from the press and broadcast media, and we have made a number of changes to reflect concerns about which we have been told.

Perhaps I may deal first with the changes suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. They propose amendments to the way in which the restrictions on reporting will apply. In Amendments Nos. 69 and 70 they suggest the introduction of two new clauses which would apply a differential approach to suspected offenders on the one hand and alleged victims and witnesses on the other. The new clauses introduce a number of interesting ideas. However, we do not think that in their present form they meet the bill. First, the new restrictions would apply only from the point of arrest, thus leaving a loophole of time. Secondly, the mandatory ban on restrictions would apply only to those suspected of committing an offence; those who may have been victims or witnesses would have to apply to the court or have someone apply on their behalf to have restrictions put in place. That could mean a race between the news organisation and the child concerned to see if the former could print a story before the latter had obtained a court order.

The new clauses contain lists of the factors that a court or the Home Secretary might consider before lifting or varying the restrictions. The list is neither exclusive nor exhaustive and at times appears unduly skewed in favour of lifting the ban. There is no requirement in the list to consider the welfare of the child. There is, however, the seed of an interesting idea in producing statutory criteria as a starting-point for the courts.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment No. 120, would remove from Schedule 5 all the transitional provisions which apply to the reporting restrictions under Amendments Nos. 43, 44 and 45. That would not help the successful introduction of these new provisions and therefore, on that basis alone, the amendment is not welcome. It would have the effect of applying the new provisions to proceedings instituted before their commencement date. I am not sure that that was the intention. Having reflected gratefully on the indications from the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and on comments from representatives of the press, I believe that in our amendments we have gone a long way towards dealing with some of the concerns expressed.

In government Amendments Nos. 62, 63, 64 and 67 we hope to provide greater clarity as to when the restriction will apply. That is now identified as the beginning of a criminal investigation, whether by the police or another investigative authority. That is more easily ascertained than the "point of allegation" yet still

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effectively closes a large proportion of the legal loophole to which I referred. I do not believe that Amendment No. 67A, which adjusts our definition of criminal investigation, is necessary.

We have also included, I hope to your Lordships' satisfaction, a specific consideration of the welfare of the child when a court is considering whether to lift or vary the restrictions. That should be a key element of any decision when one is thinking about the potentially harmful effects of negative publicity. That is achieved by way of a new subsection introduced by Amendment No. 65.

I repeat: it is difficult to get these matters absolutely right. I am perfectly happy to listen with an open mind to reasoned, considered arguments. For the moment, I invite the House to accept government Amendments Nos. 62 to 65 and 67, and invite noble Lords to withdraw their amendments on the basis that we have a common purpose and it may be that our amendments fit the bill better. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for responding to the calls we made earlier, which came from the press and electronic media, for improvements in the clauses that are now the subject of debate.

The amendments before us deal in part with the definition of the time from when the new reporting restrictions will start. Amendment No. 62 and Amendment No. 67 in particular mean that the reporting restrictions start when an investigation begins into whether a person should be charged with an offence. I am sure it is not necessary for a particular person to be identified before these provisions will be triggered. Often, in the early stages, it will be a person unknown who has apparently, or may have, committed an offence.

My contacts with the news media suggest that there may still be some difficulty with the definition as to when the investigation begins. Perhaps I may give an example. I ask your Lordships to consider what happens when a child is missing. The main effort in the early stages of police involvement in such a case is to find the child. It may be, as everyone in these cases hopes, that the child will be found unharmed and will merely have strayed. But from the first moment that the police are involved they will be looking for any hint or possible evidence that a crime has been committed. I am not sure whether that counts as "investigating" within the terms being inserted by the amendments. At that stage the nature of the crime that may have been committed will be completely unknown. It could be murder, abduction, sexual offences or all sorts of other crimes. The police are likely to say that they hope that no crime has been committed; but at the same time it will be in the forefront of their minds, and they will be actively looking for any indication of that as part of their investigation. Does that mean that, from the moment a child goes missing, the police should be considered to be investigating an alleged offence to see whether a person unknown should be charged with it, or is there a window

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for reporting between the disappearance of the child and the criminal investigation being thought to have commenced?

Amendment No. 67 introduces the question of the police investigation. It refers to,

    "persons charged with the duty of investigating".
I realise that that is intended to include in the definition Customs and Excise and various authorities mentioned in Committee which might also be investigating in a particular case. However, the phrase might also be held to cover private detectives. It would not be very satisfactory if only private detectives were involved. How would any authority know, and hence how on earth could the press be expected to know, that a private investigator was investigating what might turn out to be a crime? I have therefore suggested in Amendment No. 67A that the words "by law" should be inserted, so that the provision would read, "other persons charged by law with the duty of investigating offences." That might confine the provision to the official investigating authorities, the police, Customs and others.

The later amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 69 to 70 and Amendment No. 120 were suggested to my noble friend Lord Astor and myself by representatives of the news media. They are worth consideration. The concern remains that the same event triggers a ban on the alleged offender, the victim and any witnesses being identified. The provision is broad. I am glad to hear from the Minister that he is continuing to discuss it with the news media.

There remains some awkwardness in the wording. We are agreed in all parts of the House that an extension of the reporting restrictions is desirable but, as the Minister acknowledged, definition is difficult. We are all struggling to find the right words in which to phrase the matter in law so that there are no unreasonable difficulties placed in the way of the news media. The news media are one of the bulwarks of the freedom of our society. They should not be unreasonably restrained by the law from reporting things which are of public interest. That is public interest in the sense of the interests of the public and also in the sense that the public are interested in such matters. One has more sympathy with the former than the latter; nevertheless they both have their importance.

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