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Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 167B:


The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 167C:


    Page 52, line 10, leave out from ("it") to end of line 14 and insert--


("( ) For the purposes of this section a person shall be taken to have shown that he was not in possession of a key to protected information at a particular time if--
(a) sufficient evidence of that fact is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it; and
(b) the contrary is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.").

The noble Lord said: I have spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 167D:


    Page 52, line 16, leave out from ("defence") to end of line 31 and insert ("for that person to show--


(a) that it was not reasonably practicable for him to make the disclosure required by virtue of the giving of the section 46 notice before the time by which he was required, in accordance with that notice, to make it; but
(b) that he did make that disclosure as soon after that time as it was reasonably practicable for him to do so").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment, to which I have already spoken.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 168 to 169 not moved.]

Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Thornton moved Amendment No. 169A:


    After Clause 49, insert the following new clause--

REGISTER OF OFFENDERS

(" .--(1) Where a person is found guilty of an offence under section 49 this fact shall be recorded on a register which the Secretary of State shall establish and maintain in such manner as will afford convenient and rapid access to anyone with a material interest in knowing whether or not a person has been found guilty of an offence under section 49.
(2) Pursuant to subsection (1) the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament within three months of Royal Assent to this Act his directions as to how the register shall be established and maintained, and the circumstances in which, and by whom, it may be accessed and at what cost.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to establish a register of offenders convicted for not handing over their encryption key or clear text. It has the support of all the UK's major children's charities: NCH Action for Children; the NSPCC; Barnardo's; Childline; the Children's Society; the National Children's Bureau; and the National Council for Voluntary Child Care Organisations. That is an indication of the seriousness with which those organisations regard this issue, which was also raised in another place.

The purpose of the amendment is to establish a register of anyone and everyone who is convicted for refusing to hand over their key so that prospective employers, on discovering that a job applicant has such a conviction, can at least ask the person concerned to explain the circumstances which led to the conviction. It does not mean that anyone convicted will necessarily be assumed to be a child pornographer, a paedophile, or anything else for that matter; but an employer would at least be alerted to the fact that the

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person dabbled with or used encryption software and refused to assist the police when asked, even to the point of receiving a conviction for the refusal.

This provision is particularly important for the children's charities (and many educational institutions), which routinely refer to List 99 and the Sex Offenders Register for many categories of jobs that they advertise. The amendment would establish one more register that it would be essential for them to refer to. The extra administrative burden for them would be tiny in comparison with the comfort that they would obtain from having done this check.

If someone was convicted for refusing to hand over the key and escaped going on one of the existing registers, they could then in theory secure a job working with children. Who wants to take the responsibility for the tragic consequences for a child or children if that happened?

Someone who has evidence of serious offences encrypted and installed on their machines would be sorely tempted not to hand over the key and risk conviction for the lesser offence, carrying a maximum sentence of two years. The Guardian and other newspapers have lamented the existence of that obvious escape route, but I see no immediate or clear way around it.

I make no apology for reminding the Committee of the case of Mr. Gary Glitter, who, had he encrypted the images on his PC, would probably never have been arrested in the first place. But if he had been, and had refused to hand over his key, he would never have been convicted of the offence of possessing child pornography and would never have suffered the opprobrium that went with it. He would also have escaped being on the sex offenders' register, and at least in theory, although it might be unlikely in his case, would then have been free to apply for work in a residential children's' home.

There is clearly a real need for the Government to address this issue. I am encouraged by my observation that my noble friend the Minister has heeded the justified concerns of the industry and civil liberties organisations. I hope that he will give similar consideration to the organisations that have expressed their concerns about the matter. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I regret to say that I must oppose the amendment. I appreciate the way in which it was put forward. I understand the reasons for it and have every sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said about the children's charities that she mentioned. I suppose that I should declare an interest and say that I act for some of them.

The way in which the amendment is drafted does not confine it to children; it gives anyone with a material interest in knowing previous convictions a right to have access to the register. It blows a hole in the fundamental principle of British justice that convictions are not public knowledge, willy-nilly, and that anybody tried for an offence is not to have, as I put it earlier, a label round their neck saying "Previous

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convictions: 1,2,3,4,5". If the proposal came anywhere near satisfying the basic, traditional protection of people in civil society, it would have to be much more narrowly drafted. Therefore, I must oppose it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I find myself, not in great difficulty, but in sympathy with the spirit of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Thornton and somewhat perplexed that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, does not think that its subject matter is an issue in the way in which it has been set out. He probably recognises that there is an issue but does not believe that it should be pressed in this way.

The amendment offers a fairly imaginative way around some of the problems that we have identified in the past. It is welcome that the child-caring charities, those concerned with the issue, have lent a measure of support to my noble friend in bringing the amendment forward. However, I have one or two concerns and questions about it, not least because we have to contemplate the circumstances in which individuals are convicted of offences. At its heart, the amendment suggests that offenders be placed on a register. I have no great difficulty with that principle, but I question the use to which the register might be put. I suppose that it could be asked whether it would be available for those who would employ people who cared for children. If so, there must be a variety of possibilities as to why people might offend under Clause 49. Not all such cases may arise from the possession of paedophile or similar material. That is perhaps one of the deficiencies of the clause as drafted.

There is a possibility that a register brands others who have offended, perhaps through a misplaced notion of civil liberties, by intentionally withholding information when served with a Clause 46 notice. I do not think that the amendment does the job, and it may be a dangerous path to follow. There is some light on the issue. As I understand it, registers are already in existence which provide a measure of comfort. The DfEE runs a register called List 99. I do not fully understand what it means, but that is its title. That register is compiled under the Education Reform Act 1988, Section 218(6) of which gives the Secretary of State power to give a personal direction that an individual be prohibited from employment which also involves access to children.

In relation to this debate, a person need not necessarily have a conviction for a sex offence for the Secretary of State to give such a direction. It may appear to be a draconian power, but I believe that it is equal to the problem. However, sufficient grounds must be provided about the position of the individual so that his name can be added to the register. Of course, that relies on good intelligence about the person's involvement in paedophile behaviour which cannot go before a court. The Department of Health also has a list based on similar principles.

While I fully understand the motives behind the amendment--I appreciate the ingenuity of my noble friend in moving it--in all likelihood the best way forward at this stage is to have continuing dialogue on

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the subject to see whether we can be helpful. The case of Gary Glitter is a lesson to us all. I do not quite see the problem to which my noble friend refers, but perhaps we need to devote further time to it. I give an undertaking to keep the situation under review. It may serve us all if further discussions take place between noble Lords with an interest in this matter and officials who have responsibility for this area of policy. With that, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.


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