Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Richard: My Lords, I have not participated in the debate on the Bill up until now because, I confess, I did not particularly like it. However, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Onslow, has convinced me that I should vote for the Government on the amendment.

The noble Lord spoke of internment. I looked at the Bill to see where is the Maze; when do the doors open; for how long will someone be locked up--but I find that it seeks to stop someone going to a football match.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, a person can be locked up under proposed new Section 21B and he can be banned under this proposed new section. The noble Lord is a lawyer.

Lord Richard: My Lords, the proposed new Section 14B is a banning order. In my ignorance, I looked to

25 Jul 2000 : Column 347

see what a banning order means. Inflamed by the oratory of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I looked to see what terrible fate would befall those people who were subject to a banning order. What did I find? I found that a banning order means,


    "an order made by the court ... which ... in relation to regulated football matches...prohibits the person who is subject to the order from entering any premises for the purpose of attending such matches".

To talk of that type of penalty in the same breath as internment in Northern Ireland is frankly ludicrous.

I make merely one other point to the noble Earl, Lord Russell. I listened to his speech, as I always do, with great care and attention, and I had the Bill in front of me as he made it. He made a great point about the obligation of the courts to make a banning order; that he and his party do not like the fact that the word "must" is there and not the word "may". I should like to test that by inserting "may" where "must" appears in line 43.

The Bill states:


    "The application is to be made by complaint to a magistrates' court ... if"--

the first condition--


    "it is proved on the application that the condition in subsection (2) above is met"--

and the noble Earl made his points about causing or contributing to any violence or disorder. That is an entirely different point. I heard what he said about that and one could argue about it for a long time.

The second condition that has to be satisfied is,


    "and the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds"--

there must be "reasonable grounds" and the court has to be satisfied, so there is an immense discretion there in the way in which the court approaches a particular defendant in particular circumstances--


    "to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder ... the court must make a banning order in respect of the respondent".

Perhaps the noble Earl can help me: can he envisage any set of normal circumstances in which, if the court was satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder, they should not make that banning order? If the two conditions are satisfied--particularly having regard to the fact that there is a discretion in proposed new Section 14B(4)(b) on the reasonable grounds argument--once a court had got to the stage of saying "Yes, there are reasonable grounds" and "Yes, we are satisfied that subsection (2) is met", I find it very hard to envisage circumstances in which it would not be right for the court to make the order. In which case, it seems to me, a large part of the noble Earl's argument goes.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, for making his point so clearly. Perhaps I may say to him, first--and this is a preliminary to an answer--that I cannot imagine

25 Jul 2000 : Column 348

grounds on which the court can be so satisfied. If the noble Lord could give me such grounds I could answer him more clearly.

Secondly, supposing hypothetically that the court was so satisfied, imagine that the person was going to a European town in which his mother was dying; imagine that he was going to a European town which was the place of his regular employment. I do not say that in either case the person should go without penalty, but I do say that the court may wish to consider the possibility of an alternative penalty.

Lord Richard: My Lords, with respect, if one looks at the definition of a banning order, it deals precisely with the point made by the noble Earl. A banning order prohibits the person not from going to a town where his father is dying but from entering any premises for the purpose of attending a football match. It seems a little fanciful to argue that someone is going to Charleroi or wherever for the purpose of seeing his father who is on his deathbed, if the person has a ticket for the west stand for the England v. Belgium game taking place in that city on that day. One has heard it often in the case of grandparents' funerals and the office boy, but the short answer to the noble Earl's point is that the person does not get banned from going to Charleroi; he gets banned from the ground.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am going to be a spoilsport, I am afraid. This exchange is amusing the House, of course; but this is Report stage. The noble Earl will have the chance to reply to my noble friend in due course--no doubt he will do so extremely adequately--but I do not think we should allow the exchange to develop any further.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, before my noble friend responds to the amendment, I rise, very briefly, to support the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I do not see why the court should be regarded as a cipher any more than should civil servants. The whole burden of the argument adduced by certain members of the Opposition is that the court would have no option but to act in a certain way. I do not think that. The court will have a duty to listen carefully to what the officer has to say. The officer is defined as,


    "the chief officer of police for the area in which the person resides or appears to reside".

That being the case, why should the court have any obligation to listen only to that officer?

That is not what proposed new Section 14B states. The court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help. That gives the court sufficient power to look at the whole situation described by the officer. I do not think that my noble friend would dissent from that. That is the burden of the argument properly adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, this has been a lively and entertaining debate. It has been a better debate this evening than the one yesterday. Certainly for our part it has been much easier to follow.

25 Jul 2000 : Column 349

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord would delete proposed new Section 14B from the Bill altogether; it would take a fundamental part out of the Bill. I wish to demonstrate that that would be a very grave mistake. The section which has become proposed new Section 14B has a long and, some may say, controversial history. It has gestated rather well over its lifetime. It was first introduced by Sir Norman Fowler in the debates on the Crime and Disorder Bill in 1998; it certainly attracted a lively debate the following year when the Football (Offences and Disorder Bill) was going through its paces in the House with government support. The Government made clear that they were sympathetic to the principle that banning orders should be capable of being imposed otherwise than as a punishment for football-related offences. But in the light of opposition to the measure among some members of the other place, principally but not entirely on the Opposition side, it was decided not to proceed with the measure at that time, but to wait and see how effective the other measures contained in the 1999 Act would turn out to be.

We now know the result of that wait-and-see strategy. Euro 2000 has demonstrated that we cannot rely on the measures contained in the 1999 Act to prevent further disgraceful outbreaks of the kind that many of us have described during the long course of our debates and deliberations. The frequently quoted statistics--just a handful of people subject to domestic banning orders, and no one subject to an international banning order, among those who came to notice in Belgium--show that we cannot rely on a strategy which confines its attention to those people on whom bans can currently be imposed. The police need to look at the much wider group of people who have been involved in violence or disorder. They need to make a judgment on whether a football banning order in respect of any such person would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with regulated football matches. The police will be able to make that judgment through their use of intelligence, their observation of the people concerned, video evidence, both from the UK and overseas, and no doubt many other sources of information.

Noble Lords opposite have claimed that the procedure we envisage is in all its essentials criminal and that we are designating it as civil only in order to benefit from a lower standard of proof. That is incorrect. To be the recipient of a banning order on complaint does not create a criminal record. The procedure will be civil, and the burden of proof which applies will be the balance of probabilities. Because the procedure is civil, the use of evidence obtained before the Act came into force will not, we believe, be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The procedure, as we have emphasised, resembles that in force for anti-social behaviour orders. We make no apology for using the resources of the civil as well as the criminal law in appropriate cases to prevent people from behaving in loutish and disorderly ways.

25 Jul 2000 : Column 350

The fact that we introduced a sunset clause must be of considerable reassurance to noble Lords who have concerns about aspects of new Section 14B. That power, like the powers in new Sections 21A and 21B, will not continue beyond year one if the House does not pass an affirmative resolution to that effect. In any event, the case will lapse when the sunset clauses come to a conclusion.

Unless one takes the extreme view that the UK Government and criminal justice system should take no interest whatever in disorder committed by their citizens abroad, then I would suggest that one has some responsibility to look for proactive, protective ways of preventing such outbursts of hooliganism. New Section 14B offers a procedure which is both fair and likely to be effective, both in its own right and as the essential follow-up to the exercise of the summary powers in new Section 21B. To remove it from the Bill would emasculate the whole measure.

I heard the interpretation of the measure from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. We had a bitingly effective analysis from the noble Lord, Lord Richard. There is now a widespread understanding in your Lordships' House of the measure and why it is needed. All the arguments during the debate point to the need for a measure which will be both effective and publicly welcomed.

7.30 p.m.

Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down and before I reply to him, perhaps he will answer my question. I asked whether he would give me an explanation of how the court will recognise the people whose presence would be likely to lead to violence and disorder?


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page