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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his reply. It is somewhat different from that which he gave in Grand Committee and—from the perspective of our amendment—more helpful. In the circumstances, while the Minister's reply does not go so far as does our amendment, it certainly goes some way towards it. I recognise that there are circumstances in which the amendment could not be used. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 [Seized evidence]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 25:


The noble Baroness said: I tabled the amendment in response to our debate in Grand Committee on Clause 16 at cols. GC 79 to 80.

The Explanatory Notes explain that the clause deals with the treatment of any evidence seized under the procedures set out in Clauses 16 to 18. The evidence is to be sent directly to the overseas authority that made the request. That meets the requirements of Article 6 of MLAC, which is in itself a departure from the procedure established by the 1990 Act. We all hope that that will speed up the provision of evidence by cutting out central involvement once evidence has been obtained. But surely one useful element of central involvement would be the setting of a time limit by the Secretary of State to ensure good practice across the system nationally. My amendment would require that any evidence seized by a constable by virtue of the provisions in Clauses 16, 17 and 18 would have to be delivered to the court or authority that made the request for assistance within such time as the Secretary of State may by order prescribe.

As ever, I am wary of giving the Secretary of State more powers, but in this context it seems reasonable to do so to ensure that the system works effectively and efficiently. In rebutting the need for my amendment, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, said that the 1990 Act did not contain a time limit and that, because he thought there had been no problems in practice, he did not want a time limit now. However, my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out that the Bill represents an extension of procedures. As he said,


    "The kind of proceedings that we must envisage are entirely new situations so far as concerns this country".

He then said that he believed that it was worth including the expression:


    "within such times as the Secretary of State may by order prescribe".

It will come as no surprise to the House that I agree with my noble friend. As he said:


    "I do not consider that we can simply live optimistically in relation to the matter. We must ensure against unnecessary delays".—[Official Report, 23/1/03; col. GC 80.]

25 Feb 2003 : Column 167

My noble friend then asked the noble and learned Lord to consider the matter further between Committee and Report. I have tabled the amendment so that I can ask the Minister whether he has done so, and, if so, with what result. Of course, I appreciate that the Government took the views of noble Lords on board with regard to another time limit and have tabled their own amendment. I hope that we may have success with this one, too, I beg to move.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I support the amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling it. Under Clause 19, if evidence were seized by a constable but not used within a reasonable time, that could lead to injustice. Delays are always a nuisance, especially in the administration of criminal law. I suppose that whether the amendment is the best way to prevent that is a matter of argument, but I think that it is a good, effective way to do so. I hope that the Government will consider it carefully. Something must be done about the provision for seized evidence in Clause 11. The amendment provides a sensible way of handling the matter.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I have no doubt that something will be done with seized evidence. It is of no value to those who seize other than as something to be forwarded to those who requested it. But there is no obligation on the United Kingdom to return evidence within a specific time limit. As the noble Baroness reminded us, current legislation does not include time limits. It will certainly be a matter of good practice that evidence is generally returned as soon as possible. In practice, police tend to transmit such evidence almost immediately.

However, we can think of cases where it would not be best practice to return evidence immediately, or where that may not happen for other reasons. For example, a request may involve multiple searches. It may be practical and sensible, in such cases, to wait for all of the searches to be conducted, gather the material together, consolidate it and send it on to the relevant authority, rather than sending pieces of information back at different times.

Another situation that has occurred in practice arises with an application for judicial review or some other judicial intervention before the evidence is transmitted. In those circumstances, one either ends up with a period that, in order to allow for that possibility, is so long that it does not achieve the objective of speeding up the process or so short that it creates a problem by putting someone in breach of a statutory provision or a provision in an order when it makes good sense not to send the information back at that stage or it is not possible to do so because of judicial review.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken. I hope that they do not doubt the desirability of quick transmission of such material. However, it is not necessary to put it in the Bill.

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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, it is open to the defence to be involved in the process as well, is it not? The defence may have some reason that I cannot think of at the moment not to embark on the course that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is disposed to do. Is that right?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, thinking on my feet, I am not sure exactly what my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis has in mind. I agree that there may be circumstances—judicial review would be an example—in which the defence or the people who held the evidence could be involved in trying to affect the order that had been made. I agree with my noble friend that there could be circumstances in which the material could not be transmitted immediately because of something that had been done by or on behalf of the defendant or someone who is holding the material.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I shall read Hansard carefully tomorrow to follow exactly what the noble and learned Lord said. I am trying to understand what he said, especially in his opening phrases. He gave me the impression that something must be done in order to ensure that we do not have indefinite delays in such matters. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will consider the matter further.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, it is not a question of "Something must be done": something will be done. The police will send the material back. They have no need for it, and it is there only for the purpose of responding to the request. As a matter of fact at the moment, they send it back fairly quickly, and I have no doubt that, as a matter of good practice, they will. However, for the reasons that I gave, I will resist the suggestion that we should put a time limit or a power to set one into the Bill.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for his support and for that intervention. I took a note of the noble and learned Lord's words when he said that something will be done. The question of what is to be done is at the heart of the questions that we have asked. The noble and learned Lord said that it would be a matter of good practice. What is good practice? Before he intervenes again, I can tell the noble and learned Lord that he has persuaded me that good practice may encompass such a range of time limits for different purposes that it might be unwieldy to have in the Bill a provision that there should be particular time limits.

The Minister's answers, particularly his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, deserve closer attention than one can give them now. Between now and Third Reading I shall read what he has said. I am convinced that the approach that I took today is not, perhaps, the most appropriate. I was particularly interested in what he said about the impact of applications for judicial review and the delays that might occur as a result.

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I will read Hansard carefully between now and Third Reading on 17th March. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Clause 21 [Considering the order]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 26:


    Page 13, line 11, at end insert—


"(5A) The first condition is that, if the person whose conduct is in question were charged in any part of the United Kingdom with an offence equivalent to the offence to which the overseas freezing order relates, he would be entitled to be discharged under any rule of law in that part of the United Kingdom relating to previous acquittal or conviction."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 26, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 27 and 30, in my name, and Amendments Nos. 28 and 29, which are in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin. I thank the Government for responding to the amendments that I tabled in Committee with the amendments tabled today. They cover the issue of the rules on double jeopardy that should apply.

In Grand Committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, said:


    "it should be possible to refuse cases in which prosecution would violate our own rules on double jeopardy and we will further consider bringing forward our own amendment to provide for refusal in cases in which prosecution would violate United Kingdom rules of double jeopardy".—[Official Report, 23/01/03; col. GC 88.]

The noble and learned Lord objected to my drafting. Today, again, I must accept that the Government's drafting is better than mine and achieves the objective that I sought to achieve.

To some extent, I am rubber-stamping the Government's amendments today, but I look forward to hearing the noble and learned Lord give a full explanation of how and why they arrived at their particular drafting solution. I beg to move.


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