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Lord Lucas: Had the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, proposed the amendments, I should not have risen to ask my question. That is because the noble Lord resembles at all times a gentle and bucolic farmer, full of reasonableness and sunny weather. On the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, resembles nothing so much as his noble friend's half-demented sheepdog, ever ready to go for one's ankles. I ask the noble Lord, therefore, whether he has anything to declare as regards these amendments. Will the amendments spare him from attention under this part of the Bill?
Lord Bach: I do not know where to begin. At this hour of the night I have no intention of biting the noble Lord's ankles--or those of anyone else, for that matter. I have nothing to declare here. What was it that Oscar Wilde said? "I have nothing to declare" at all.
Lord Lucas: Amendment No. 25, tabled in my name on the same subject, is not nearly so well drafted as Amendment No. 24. Perhaps I may say only that I entirely support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. His amendment receives my backing.
As regards my other amendments in the grouping, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, knows that I shall speak to them individually, although it may be that one or two have already been covered and so I shall not need to move them. They embrace too many different subjects for my brain to encompass at this time of night. I promise to be as quick as possible when we reach them.
Lord Monson: Except for the "super alert", it is difficult to get one's priorities right at this time of night--or rather, this time of morning. However, it seems to me that Amendment No. 24 and alternative
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has had to leave and he asked if I would speak to Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 on his behalf. I am happy to do so. The wording of the amendments is admirably clear. I do not propose to enlarge on either of the subsections that he suggests should be added to the Bill. The second of his amendments is largely technical.
I have added my name to Amendment No. 37 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord McNally. The amendment is unhappily grouped with Amendment No. 24, which requires a conviction in order that a complaint can be laid under proposed new Section 14B as opposed to the present provision which we have debated ad nauseam.
If Amendment No. 24 is accepted, it will remedy the principal and major defect of proposed new Section 14B. As that stands at the heart of the Bill, there is no more important amendment than Amendment No. 24. If, however, the Government are not minded to accepted Amendment No. 24, and if when it comes to the showdown tomorrow--or rather, today--the vote on Amendment No. 24 is lost, my amendment, which is of lesser consequence to proposed Section 14B, comes into relevance.
I have drawn the points in Amendment No. 37 from the Public Order Act 1986, which gives the respondent who is in effect charged with disorderly or violent conduct in circumstances where there has been no conviction a defence or defences as set out on the grounds that: he had no reason to believe that there was anyone who was likely to be caused offence, alarm or hurt; that his conduct was reasonable; and similarly, that there was intent. As proposed new Section 14B stands, there is no requirement for intent any more than there is a requirement for proof of conduct beyond reasonable doubt. I am sorry to have to complicate my explanation of Amendment No. 34, but it is inevitable in the light of its being grouped with Amendment No. 24.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: Before my noble friend the Minister responds to Amendment No. 24, will he confirm that I am right in thinking that this would mean that some of the hooligans we saw heaving tables and chairs during the European championships in Brussels and Charleroi who would not suffer a conviction could not, therefore, have evidence brought to bear on whether they were regarded as able to have a complaint brought against them? That would seem to be a staggering consequence of that amendment. I cannot possibly believe that it would be the intention. That is probably the most blatant thing that the public would expect us to grapple with.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: Perhaps I may respond to the query raised by the noble Lord. New Section 14B(2) specifies a condition subject to which a complaint can be lodged. Under subsection (4)(b), once a complaint has been lodged, a judgment must be made by the court as to whether a banning order should be made. Those are two quite different matters. New Section 14B(2), which would be amended by Amendment No. 24, would be changed in such a way that if somebody was seen on television to be throwing tables, chairs and stones, a complaint could not be lodged so that at least a court could decide whether such a person would cause disorder. That seems to me to be an extraordinary result.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I do not believe that the court would have all that much to consider in such a case. If there was clear evidence that an individual had been throwing chairs or stones, he would certainly fall within the first of the conditions, essentially new Section 14B(2). It would have to be proved that he was the person in question. Provided that the court was so satisfied, he would easily fall foul--I was going to say "clear the hurdle"--of subsection (2). The other condition in subsection (4)(b) would also have to be satisfied. That seems to me to be the more difficult condition in this Bill. This whole series of amendments seeks to tighten the wording in one or other of the provisions of new Section 14B, although one or two refer to subsequent matters. For the most part, these amendments tighten the wording of one or other test in new Section 14B.
The Committee must decide whether it believes that the conditions are too weak. The first is extremely weak, and the second will be difficult to satisfy. That is the one to which we should give closest attention. Anyone who has been proved to be throwing chairs about should be considered in this respect, and to that extent I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer.
Lord Monson: Before the noble Lord, Lord Cope, sits down, does he agree that in some cases the video evidence of what happened at Charleroi may be wholly reliable so that identification is unambiguous but that in other cases it may not be? In the absence of any other confirming evidence, it may well be that two people of similar appearance are confused and, therefore, that the wrong person is banned.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: The noble Lord is quite right. It is for the court to decide whether it believes, on the balance of probabilities, that the respondent was the individual in question. That is something which courts must decide all day and every day, as it were.
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