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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, these amendments would make modifications to the procedure for authorising the issue of a notice by a constable under new Section 21B of the 1989 Act. As the Bill stands, the issue of such a notice must be authorised by an inspector. As the noble Lord said, Amendment No. 37 is a rather more sophisticated version of Amendment No. 38, which requires that all such notices be authorised by a magistrate's warrant.
I have dealt with these amendments very simply. I cannot recommend either of them--that is, neither the sophisticated nor the less sophisticated version--to your Lordships' House. I trust, therefore, that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, disappointed as I am at not having convinced the Minister of the validity of our suggestion, I do not propose at this hour, and after the history of our consideration of all these matters, to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
In those circumstances it seems to us that if a magistrate can be persuaded to sit at a port or airport during busy times--we have in mind stipendiary magistrates--that would speed up the process. Towards the end of our deliberations last night the Minister made some slightly sympathetic remarks on the idea that a magistrates' court might, at least at busy times, sit at ports. My noble friend Lord Astor borrowed a copy of that part of Hansard which was not printed last night from the Library for me to verify precisely what the Minister had said. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the only copy and he had to return it rather smartly. Therefore, I have been unable to verify the precise terms used. However, the Minister appeared to be slightly sympathetic to the idea of
Lord Bach: My Lords, we are sympathetic but we cannot accept the amendment. Amendment No. 40 would require that the hearing which follows within 24 hours of the issue of a new Section 21B notice shall take place at the port or airport where the notice was issued, if it was issued at a port or airport. We are not clear that this is either necessary or even particularly helpful.
We have taken steps to ensure that court hearings will be facilitated within the demanding time-scale set by the Bill. But to require on the face of the statute that they be held at an airport seems a recipe for administrative difficulty, if not chaos. There are perfectly good magistrates' court premises within easy striking distance of most major ports or airports. It would be no significant added burden on the person who has received the notice to ask him to attend there. He will not in most cases choose to spend the period of up to 24 hours between being stopped and the hearing within the confines of the airport or seaport.
Rejecting the amendment would certainly not preclude the possibility of holding hearings at seaports or airports if that seemed appropriate. Surely it is the test of appropriateness that matters here. However, we do not think that it would be wise or particularly helpful for us to provide that this should happen on every occasion. With that explanation I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I hope that when people are stopped at an airport it will, generally speaking, be much less than 24 hours before they appear before a magistrate. Twenty-four hours is not the desirable length of time, it is the maximum. The whole point of having a stipendiary magistrate at an airport is to allow the process to take place within a few minutes, or certainly half an hour or an hour. Far from causing an added burden, that would relieve the burden on the individual concerned, particularly if the magistrate decided against making a banning order and the person was able to continue his journey having been subjected to a delay of only an hour or two. However, I appreciate that the amendment seeks an automatic provision which may be overdoing things a little. In view of the slightly sympathetic way in which the Minister referred to the possibility of magistrates sitting at ports and airports on some occasions, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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Here we have a procedure which is said by the Government to be civil. They have said over and over again that this is not a criminal matter, although it can impose a severe penalty on someone. They intend taking powers under proposed new Sections 21A and 21B to stop someone at a port or airport and to confine that person, if necessary, for up to 24 hours before bringing him before a magistrates' court. The magistrates' court will then have the power to remand that person in custody, presumably, until sufficient evidence has been gathered to allow the magistrates' court to proceed on the basis of proposed new Section 14B. There can be no other basis on which they can be kept in custody; either there can be proceedings under proposed new Section 14B or, if there is not sufficient evidence, then the person can be remanded in custody. There is no time limit to the remand in custody. One imagines that a matter of several weeks is in contemplation. If a person is to be remanded in custody at all, it is likely to be for a period of a week or two.
What concerns me is that we are here taking away someone's liberty--someone who is not only not accused of anything but is never going to be accused of anything. The Government know that this is an innocent person; they know that this is someone who has not committed a crime; there is nothing to charge him with. They have a suspicion that he may be going to do something abroad--which is not a crime in the United Kingdom--and in order to prevent the possibility that the person may do something undesirable abroad they are going to deprive of him of his liberty on no evidence whatever.
If there was evidence, a banning order could be made under proposed new Section 14B. It is only when there is no evidence that the person has committed a crime that they can be held in prison pending further trial. This is not the right way to construe the basic principles of English justice. This person has been detained on the basis that the police have some kind of evidence and he has to meet some very gentle tests in order to come before the magistrates; there merely has to be proof under proposed new Section 14B(2) that he has in some way been involved in violence or disorder. If the police do not have that proof, they have no business detaining him under proposed new Section 21 anyway, and presumably that is that.
There has to be sufficient evidence to show that the magistrates have reasonable grounds for belief that it may be helpful to the maintenance of order at this foreign football match that the person is not permitted to go there--but not much evidence is required to do that. Either the police have that evidence, in which event the case should proceed and the banning order should be made, or they do not have that evidence and
It may be all right in the case of a crime, but here, as the Government have said, there is absolutely no crime. We should not treat any citizen in that way. Whatever suspicions the Government may have about a person, unless they can produce the modicum of evidence required under proposed new Section 14B(4), they should not retain the person in custody. I beg to move.
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