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The Lord Bishop of Oxford: I rise to support the amendment from my experience of Campsfield House. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, put forward moving examples which are not isolated examples, moving though they are. Well documented evidence, surveys and research have shown the deleterious effect of detention upon the mental health of detainees. The longer they are detained, the worse is the effect on their health.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, emphasised, we are dealing with people whom we must presume innocent. Therefore, if we are to detain them, it is extremely important that the detention should be reviewed regularly.
Lord Clinton-Davis: I support the general tenor of the debate. It is encouraging that all sides of the Committee should express concern about the deprivation of a basic human right. I shall not weary the Committee with my own experiences of dealing with these matters when I was in another place and when I practised as a solicitor in criminal law; suffice it to say that the experiences related by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and referred to by other noble Lords, were commonplace. I am not sure how commonplace they are today.
I hope that in his response my noble friend will give credence to the support that has been expressed. I am sure that the Government are sympathetic to the plight in which these unfortunate people find themselves, largely through no fault of their own. Of course, there are some people who abuse the law. But there is no good reason for keeping them in detention for a long period of time. If they have abused the law, the quicker they are dealt with, the better.
The case that has been made is deserving of close investigation by my noble friend. I am sure that he will reply sympathetically on this point. It is important for the reputation of this country that we deal fairly and
The Earl of Sandwich: Perhaps I may add to the remarks of my noble friends Lord Alton and Lord Hylton. There are cases that stretch the patience of those who work with refugees. Many of those workers are friends of Members of this place. Many people cannot understand why the Home Office has not devised a regime for asylum seekers which is not the same as that for common criminals.
I visited a Roman Catholic priest who had recently been to the centre at Haslar. He was struck by the number of innocent asylum seekers who are overcome by the system and who simply do not fight. They feel lost. He said that there is no concept of how to deal with those people. There is no training within the centres for those who supervise the detention.
In supporting my noble friends, I refer the Committee to Chapter 12 of the White Paper, which emphasises that detention should be at the end of the legal process. Information from Bail for Immigration Detainees and other organisations indicates that the opposite is the case. All these matters are connected. It is a case of looking further into the future, to what will happen in five years' time, rather than merely at what happens today.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Perhaps I may set out our intention in setting time-limits for routine bail hearings and their determination. One element that is lacking in the present system--I do not disagree with what has been said in part--is any degree of certainty or structure with regard to bail hearings. We intend that the first routine bail hearing--to use the word "routine" is not to play down its importance, but to underline the fact that it must be regular--should take place about seven days after the original detention. That timing is to ensure that the court's time is not wasted on dealing with bail in respect of the vast majority of people, who are detained for a few hours or days only, particularly at ports of entry, for the purpose of further examination or removal from the UK. It also gives time for most detainees to go from short-term holding facilities to the immigration service detention centres or discrete holding units. That will mean that the conduct of hearings by designated magistrates' courts close to such centres or units can be carried out by magistrates who will have been trained in that work.
The Government propose that there should be two days either side of the seven-day target to provide flexibility for listing and to take account of weekends and public holidays. That will also allow for arrangements to be made for the escorting of detainees from detention centres to the court.
In order to ensure that the bail hearing is determined by the ninth day, it was necessary to prescribe that the Secretary of State should make his reference to the court no later than the eighth day so as to allow the court time
We aim that the second routine hearing should be heard around 28 days after the first; that is, 35 days after initial detention--again allowing two days either side to provide flexibility for listing. The time-limits for the second reference are such as to ensure that bail is determined by the 37th day at the latest.
The second routine bail hearing could have been timed earlier or later. We thought that 28 days seemed about right in the likelihood of significant changes in circumstances having taken place. For example, a person may well have moved into the appeal process by that stage. Application of a 28-day period avoids an unnecessary volume of bail hearings of people who are likely to have been given temporary admission or release before the 35th day.
I now turn to an important point, and one that has not been made. Detainees will be able to apply for bail between the first and second routine hearings. Detainees who remain in detention after the second routine bail hearing will also be able to reapply for bail, although they will not be able to use the same arguments of fact and law more than twice. That is the same as obtains in the criminal system at present for those who apply for bail on a number of occasions.
Amendment No. 68 appears--although it may be that we are at cross-purposes--to require the Secretary of State to review monthly the case of a person who is refused bail at a routine bail hearing. It may be that the intention of the amendment was to require the court to review the case; we have taken it as requiring the Secretary of State to review the case. I accept that that may simply be a misunderstanding between the drafter of the amendment and those who scrutinised it.
I am happy to tell the Committee that each case where a person is detained is reviewed monthly to ensure that there is a continued need for detention. It is conducted administratively at increasingly higher levels as the period of detention lengthens. There will therefore be regular administrative reviews, two routine bail hearings and a person's intact right to apply for bail. I believe that those circumstances are adequate.
Amendment No. 77 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, would require a bail hearing within three days of the further references proposed in Amendment No. 76. I hope that my explanation shows that neither is necessary.
Amendments Nos. 72 and 74, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, would shorten the time-scale between initial detention and the second routine hearing by about five days. I believe that the safeguards that I have described mean that the amendments are unnecessary.
Amendments Nos. 70 and 75, originally in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Cope and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, would require an initial bail hearing on the day following detention. For those detained at ports of entry, that would hugely increase the number of people entitled to routine bail
Amendments Nos. 70 and 75 would require the training of magistrates in the handling of immigration work at courts adjacent to all the ports and immigration enforcement officers throughout the United Kingdom. We are looking at the possibility of training magistrates to specialise in this work in a small number of designated courts.
In Scotland, the area of interest of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, it is proposed that because of the small number of bail hearings, they should be heard before adjudicators. My advice is that, if these amendments were passed, they could cause severe practical difficulties in transporting detainees from the more remote locations to the adjudicator hearing centres. Such hearings would not be helpful. In Scotland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, most people who are detained are also released within a few hours or days. Unlike criminal offenders, to which reference was made, many inadmissible passengers have no UK address and their identity, nationality and true reason for seeking to enter are not always clear.
I have explained our intention in requiring the first and second routine hearings within those time-scales and the need to allow the courts at least 24 hours in which to set up a routine hearing following a reference. I have also repeated the assurance that a detained person can apply for bail outside those hearings. An administrative review of detention is undertaken by the immigration service, with the frequency I indicated.
Amendments Nos. 77A and 77B are different. They would require the court, when deciding whether to grant bail, to take into account whether the time-limits imposed by the clause had been complied with by the courts or the Secretary of State. I understand the desire to impose a sanction, but I do not believe the amendment is relevant when considering whether to release a person on bail. I suggest that it would be wrong to release a person with a history of absconding purely because the courts failed to determine a routine hearing within the time limits imposed by the clause.
I hope that the explanation is of some comfort to the Committee. I am unable to accept the amendments. Before I leave the subject of bail, quite apart from the first routine hearing and the second routine hearing, Section 23 of the 1971 Act will still provide funding for the other bail applications.
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