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Lord Windlesham: My Lords, I also took part in the debate in Committee on reporting restrictions. I am pleased to see the changes that the Government have tabled as a result of the discussion we had on a whole series of amendments at that stage.

My noble friends Lord Cope and Lord Astor have received representations from the news media. However, the standpoint from which I spoke, as the Minister will recall, was that of the organisations, Justice and the NSPCC. Of course, the news media have a very important role in reporting what will now be criminal incidents, although not according to the first amendment tabled at Report stage. The news media also have an important role in the paramount interests of the child. From that viewpoint, Amendment No. 65 put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn,

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inserts a specific obligation on the court when considering whether to lift reporting restrictions. It states that:

    "when deciding whether to make such an order dispensing (to any extent) with the restrictions imposed by subsection (2) in relation to a person, the court shall have regard to the welfare of that person".
It seems to me that the addition of that wording to the Bill more accurately reflects the international obligations to which I referred in Committee than the Bill as originally drafted. It should be welcomed accordingly.

Viscount Brentford: My Lords, can the Minister clarify a question which was partly raised by my noble friend Lord Cope? The situation of a child going missing would not initially come under Clause 43 because there would not necessarily be any offence committed and no criminal investigation. There would be a search for the missing child. However, at a later stage it could become a criminal investigation if the search were abortive and it became the view, presumably of the police, that a criminal offence had occurred. In the first part, presumably, there would be no restriction on the media reporting the missing child. They could publish photographs of the child which would undoubtedly be helpful so that the public could look for him or her. However, presumably at some stage it would become a criminal investigation, there would be an offence, and restrictions would be imposed. Can the Minister clarify how it would work out in practice on the present basis?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the response, not least that of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. His earlier intervention was a useful trigger to see whether we had got the balance right. It is a balance. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, that the press is a bulwark of freedom and one cannot simply pay lip service to it and say, "Oh, by the way, but." I hope we are demonstrating that we want everyone's interests borne in mind.

The question of the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, overlaps with that raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. It concerns the situation of a missing child. At that stage the child could have run off, fallen asleep in a garden shed or whatever. Both noble Lords are right. At that stage it is a search for a missing child. There is no indication or presupposition that an offence has occurred. It is not until it is clear that an offence has taken place that the new provision starts to bite. Obviously, if the help of the press is required in the early stages, then the powers within the clause to lift reporting restrictions can be employed. There will be a point at which perhaps there is a degree of uncertainty, where the press are regularly genuinely helpful in assisting in the context of young children who have gone missing.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked about the definition of,

    "persons charged with the duty of investigating offences".
That does not include private detectives. They have no duty to investigate offences. It comes from precedent and is intended to include law enforcement agencies, as

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the noble Lord rightly surmised, other than the police. It is taken from Section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. What we have tried to do is tighten up the circumstances to refer to a criminal investigation so that those in the press have a greater opportunity of certainty as to what they can print and what they are in danger of printing unlawfully. I am obliged for the contributions that have been made and commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 63 to 65:

Page 30, line 32, leave out ("that a") and insert ("an alleged").
Page 30, line 33, leave out ("has been").
Page 31, line 21, at end insert--
("( ) However, when deciding whether to make such an order dispensing (to any extent) with the restrictions imposed by subsection (2) in relation to a person, the court shall have regard to the welfare of that person.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 66:

Page 31, line 31, at end insert--
("( ) In the case of a decision of a magistrates' court in England and Wales, or a court of summary jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, to make or refuse to make an order under subsection (6), the following persons, namely--
(a) any person who was a party to the proceedings on the application for the order, and
(b) with the leave of the Crown Court, any other person,
may, in accordance with rules of court, appeal to the Crown Court against that decision or appear or be represented at the hearing of such an appeal.
( ) On such an appeal the Crown Court--
(a) may make such order as is necessary to give effect to its determination of the appeal; and
(b) may also make such incidental or consequential orders as appear to it to be just.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is to deal with the concerns of the media who have represented to me their anxiety that the clause as drafted would prevent them properly reporting events of potentially national significance. They have given examples which they recognise as high profile cases such as the Dunblane tragedy or the events and the heroic conduct of the nursery nurse, Lisa Potts.

Amendment No. 66 has therefore been introduced to give an appeal procedure under Clause 43 which would allow any interested party, with the leave of the court, to appeal against the making or the failure to make an order lifting mandatory reporting bans. This would allow a further stage of discussion about whether or not it would be in the interests of justice to lift the reporting restrictions. It applies equally to all involved in the case--any person who is a party to the proceedings on the original application to have the restrictions lifted, although he may appeal. And the Crown Court has the option of allowing any other persons to appeal if they

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have the leave of the court. I hope that your Lordships will agree that the amendment is an important safeguard for the interests of all those involved. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I support the amendment but for the avoidance of doubt I believe that "any other person" could include the news media. I am glad to see that the Minister confirms that from his sedentary position.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, yes. Perhaps I ought to have said that the appeal to the Crown Court offers the opportunity of a speedy appeal, bearing in mind that the media often say, rightly, that news is a fragile and perishable commodity.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 31, line 35, at end insert--
("( ) any reference to a criminal investigation, in relation to an alleged offence, is to an investigation conducted by police officers, or other persons charged with the duty of investigating offences, with a view to it being ascertained whether a person should be charged with the offence;").

[Amendment No. 67A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 67, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 67 agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 68:

Page 31, line 42, at end insert--
("( ) Nothing in this section shall impose any restriction on the police or any prosecuting authority from publishing information in the course of their duties, nor on the reporting of any such publication.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 68 returns us to the position of the police that we discussed briefly at Committee stage. The amendment seeks to give the police permission to release information on their own behalf. The intention of Clause 43 and the clauses that follow is to restrict the publishing activities of the news media, but I believe that they have the additional effect of restricting the activities of the police in their investigations. I am concerned as to what the police are to do when a crime involving a child as either a victim or suspect is under investigation and they need help from the public. One example is the case of a missing child. The Minister has just said that the clauses that restrict the giving of information bite only when a crime is believed to have been committed. However, as I said a few moments ago, I believe that the police will at least be looking out for evidence from the first moment that they come on the scene. There may be some evidence of a possible crime at an early stage which may merely be the circumstances in which the child has disappeared.

As the Bill stands at present, the police would have to go to court to get permission to appeal for public assistance in looking for the child or perhaps to identify the red car which was outside the school at the time of the disappearance, or shortly before it, etc. This can

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occur in all kinds of ways. As it happened, I was with my local police a couple of years ago and found myself involved with them in the search for a missing person in the middle of the night. That case involved an elderly person, not a child, who had suffered memory loss. However, it could presumably have been either. The police encountered a great deal of difficulty in collecting sufficient policemen in a short time to search parkland and woodland to look for the missing person. I am glad to say that the individual turned up on his or her own account satisfactorily before too long. If the police had wanted to make an announcement I do not believe that it would have been desirable if they had had to be distracted by the need to find a court to get permission to seek public assistance.

We all realise--if we do not we were reminded of it the other day--that duty judges and magistrates are available at short notice for these purposes. The Home Secretary made use of that facility the other weekend when seeking an injunction following the leak of the Lawrence report. The delay involved in getting that injunction illustrates very well the problems that may be encountered. The delay was only a few hours but, given the way that it worked, it was important for the newspapers. It had the rather nice effect that we provincials were able to read something of importance in the papers that those in London could not. Looked at solely from that point of view, it was a rather pleasurable experience. If only it had made much better reading on that particular occasion. That turned out to be a somewhat pointless injunction. I do not develop it except to illustrate the fact that it can take time. Perhaps it is only a matter of hours, but that can be important both for newspapers and the investigation if someone is missing or if it involves other types of crime for which the police require assistance.

It is important therefore that whatever restrictions we decide to place on the media, with the various safeguards that are available, we should not place on the police in the course of their duties. I have tried to phrase the amendment, no doubt imperfectly, so that there is no

    "restriction on the police or any prosecuting authority from publishing information in the course of their duties".
It is only in the course of their duties that this applies. It does not give the police carte blanche but it assists them with their duties and it is an important safeguard to place in the Bill at this point. I beg to move.

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