Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: As I understand it, a terrorist offence is an act designed to influence a government or intimidate the public and made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause. What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said was compelling. Serious, horrible and dreadful though rape is, it is difficult to see how it can be said to be perpetrated for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause. I hope the Minister will carefully consider the suggestion that rape does not fit in with the other offences mentioned in the clause.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for raising these issues. By homing in on a specific issue, he has enabled the Committee to look at the broader picture. Paragraph 117 of the Explanatory Notes, refers to the specific offences listed in new Section 63B(2) and goes on to say:

that is the framework directive. The noble and learned Lord has asked how accurate that reflection is. I wanted to ask the Minister the same question, so that he could put on the record the Government's interpretation of the reflection of Article 1 of the framework directive.

The noble and learned Lord posed a second vital question. Are we adopting belt and braces unnecessarily? Are we already compliant? In the language that the Government have used on the Floor of the House on the Courts Bill, what is the added value of having this extra compliance? The Government need to persuade us that we are not already compliant before we add this.

The noble and learned Lord returned to the intriguing point that he made on Second Reading, which found much favour on the Floor of the House. He said that there should be a clear and plain schedule of terrorist offences to which everyone can find ready reference. I should be interested if the Minister could put on the record any further reflections that the Government have had since Second Reading.

28 Jan 2003 : Column GC170

I am aware that the habit of the Minister will be to write to the noble and learned Lord. Other noble Lords will not have seen that letter. If it exists, perhaps there have been discussions. It would be helpful to the Committee if information about that could be given so that others, such as me, could consider what approach we might take to these matters on Report.

Finally, I come to the kernel of the issue. The noble and learned Lord has hung the amendment on rape—I am mixing my metaphors. I find this a difficult issue to tackle. A couple of years ago, in a debate on the Floor of the House about asylum and some of the methods used in countries around Bosnia and Serbia, questions were raised about how rape was used as a weapon against specific communities. I was helpfully briefed by the Black Women's Rape Action Project. That certainly focused my mind carefully on whether rape could be a terrorist offence. My noble friend Lord Carlisle said that he can envisage the first ground of it being satisfied, but how can it then be linked to whether it is being used for the promotion of a religious ideology?

As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, there may be some circumstances in which people of a particular religious persuasion perceive rape as a way of terrorising some members of a community in order to force them to change their religion, or at least to stop practising their current religion. I believe that may be the case in some communities in the Indian sub-continent.

Although I had some briefing on the issue two years ago, I have been unable to obtain any current briefing for the Bill. That is a problem because there are organisations outwith the House which I believe should have interested themselves in this matter. I suspect that they will do so now because of the service that the noble and learned Lord has done the Committee, by raising the issue. It is important that we have a full response from the Minister, so that we can obtain opinions from those who are active in these matters outside the House. I hope that we shall be able to consider the issue further on Report.

3.45 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, signalled, he spoke eloquently on those points at Second Reading. After Second Reading, it was very useful to the Government to have lengthy discussions with him to explore the issues, to ensure that we understood fully his argumentation and to reflect on it. However, I believe that the noble and learned Lord will know from the tenor of that discussion and our subsequent reflections that the Government are still of the view, as we set out on Second Reading, that we have positioned this correctly. I shall explain why.

Initially, I address the question of whether it is right to include rape under specific offences. It is our judgment that we would be unable to fulfil the requirement of Article 1 of the framework decision, which states that we must include offences that are

28 Jan 2003 : Column GC171

classified as attacks upon the physical integrity of a person. In our view, it is clear that the offence of rape falls within this category.

I hoped that I should not be pressed to go further, given how particularly unpleasant this matter is as a topic. But, in a sense, the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, challenged me to articulate circumstances in which it would be a terrorist offence. Members of the Committee will recollect the Iranian Embassy siege involving the SAS. At one point, the terrorists demonstrated their determination to achieve their aims by killing someone and throwing them out of the door. If the police constable concerned in that situation had been female, I believe that it would have been conceivable that the threat or the actuality of rape could have been used to demonstrate the seriousness of the terrorists' demands. Some might say, horrific though rape is, that it would be less bad than murdering a policewoman. In that circumstance, rape would have been terrorist rape and would have been carried out for a terrorist purpose. Therefore, although it is a horrific thought, I do not believe that it is inconceivable that rape could be a terrorist offence. I hope that illustration makes the point.

I also believe that example illustrates a further reason why the current situation is correct. As I said on Second Reading, the essence of our interpretation of terrorist offences is that they are acts or threats that are defined as terrorist by the context and the motive. The example of the Iranian siege illustrates that neatly. While one would not normally consider rape a terrorist offence, in that particular example it clearly would have been had it taken place.

Therefore, how are terrorist offences defined in that situation in order to encapsulate all the circumstances when the context and the motive—peculiar though they might be—together with the act or the threat, combine to make a terrorist act rather than a simple criminal offence? That is one—if not the only—reason why we believe that the current thrust of legislation is right.

I shall go into a little more detail. The purpose for which acts are carried out determines whether they are terrorist acts. The pragmatic point, which is not irrelevant, is that current legislation works well. The scope of the powers is well understood by the police and the security and intelligence agencies. To dismantle such legislation would be impractical, costly and time-consuming. Therefore, we do not see the benefit of doing so. We are not aware of the mischief to which this amendment would be a remedy. I do not think that when the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, carried out his important and valuable review of terrorist legislation, he highlighted that this was a problem. Maybe I am wrong on that.

Noble Lords: Wrong Carlisle!

Lord Filkin: I was referring to what I thought was the recent review by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew.

The clauses currently make it clear exactly which offences we seek to take extra-territorial jurisdiction for. United Kingdom legislation is the most practical

28 Jan 2003 : Column GC172

and appropriate means of ensuring that we can prosecute those involved in terrorist activity. To list or attempt to list all crimes that could be committed by terrorists in counter-terrorism legislation is not necessary or desirable.

I turn now to specifics. When we were reflecting on the offences found in Article 1, we listed all those offences in normal criminal law which could be covered by the framework decision. In general, there are no exclusively terrorist offences under United Kingdom law. Therefore, we had to interpret the offences listed in the framework decision. The Suppression of Terrorism Act concerns extra-territorial jurisdiction over offences carried out in states who are signatories to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. Those clauses cover acts outside European states by and against UK nationals or residents.

The language used is standard to that used to take extra-territorial jurisdiction. Similar language is used in the Terrorism Act 2000 and other legislation. It gives jurisdiction to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland if the act committed would have been an offence there.

Finally, is there a real difference between UK tourists being attacked and physically assaulted in order to deter their presence in a foreign state or to make a point to the local government and the same terrorists conducting a campaign against UK tourists to achieve the same end? We believe that situation is unlikely, but possible.

For these reasons, we do not believe that there is a significant problem. Therefore, there is no need to change. For the reasons given, we believe that rape can be a terrorist offence. Therefore, with regret, we resist the argumentation put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page