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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I must confess that it is not thought that that will be a major problem or issue. The noble Baroness will know of the limits that apply when we make rules that are referable to England and Wales. She has raised an interesting issue, and I will write to her about it. I do not think that it will be a problem, but, if it is, I shall look into the matter and reply. I shall place a copy of any appropriate letter in the Library.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8 May 2003 : Column 1280

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 93:


    Page 69, line 21, leave out from "matters" to end of line 22.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 94 to 100:


    Page 69, line 24, at end insert—


"(6A) Subsection (1) does not apply to a report which contains only one or more of the following matters—
(a) the identity of the court and the names of the justices;
(b) the names, ages, home addresses and occupations of the accused and witnesses;
(c) the offence or offences, or a summary of them, with which the accused or any of the accused are charged;
(d) the names of counsel and solicitors in the proceedings;
(e) where the proceedings are adjourned, the date and place to which they are adjourned;
(f) any arrangements as to bail;
(g) whether a right to representation funded by the Legal Services Commission as part of the Criminal Defence Service was granted to the accused or any of the accused.
(6B) The addresses that may be included in a report by virtue of subsection (6A) are addresses—
(a) at any relevant time, and
(b) at the time of their inclusion in the publication.
(6C) In subsection (6B), "relevant time" means a time when events giving rise to the charges to which the proceedings relate are alleged to have occurred."


    Page 69, line 26, leave out from first "on" to end of line 27 and insert "the publication of a report of any matter"


    Page 69, line 29, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—


"(a) references to publication of a report of matters falling within subsection (2)—
(i) include references to inclusion of those matters in any speech, writing, relevant programme or other communication in whatever form which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public (and for this purpose every relevant programme is to be taken to be so addressed), but
(ii) do not include references to inclusion of those matters in a document prepared for use in particular legal proceedings;"


    Page 69, line 37, leave out "or included in a relevant programme"


    Page 69, line 40, leave out "written"


    Page 69, line 43, leave out paragraph (b)


    Page 70, line 4, at end insert—


"( ) in the case of any other publication, any person publishing it.
(1A) If an offence under this section committed by a body corporate is proved—
(a) to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or
(b) to be attributable to any neglect on the part of,
an officer, the officer as well as the body corporate is guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
(1B) In subsection (1A), "officer" means a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body, or a person purporting to act in any such capacity.

8 May 2003 : Column 1281


(1C) If the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its members, "director" in subsection (1B) means a member of that body."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

Clause 41 [Power to transfer criminal cases]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 102:


    Page 19, line 35, leave out "again."" and insert "again.


(4) The power of the court under this section to transfer any matter must be exercised in accordance with any directions given under section 25(2) of the Courts Act 2003.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 43 [Power to transfer civil proceedings (other than family proceedings)]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 103:


    Page 20, line 22, leave out "proceedings."" and insert "proceedings.


(4) The power of the court under this section to transfer a hearing must be exercised in accordance with any directions given under section 25(2) of the Courts Act 2003.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 46 [Court security officers]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 104:


    Page 22, line 18, leave out "arrangements made by him under" and insert "a contract made by virtue of"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hunt of Wirral moved Amendment No. 105:


    Page 22, line 19, at end insert—


"(1A) Anyone appointed or designated under subsection (1) must be a person who has been subject to and passed a police check."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now move to consider some the issues that we dealt with in Committee relating to court security officers. I shall speak only to Amendment No. 105, as my noble friend Lord Swinfen wishes to speak to Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 in their place on the Marshalled List.

Amendment No. 105 would insert a provision to ensure that anyone appointed or designated as a court security officer must be,


    "a person who has been subject to and passed a police check".

In Committee, we tabled an amendment to probe the nature of the conditions that will have to be met before a person can be appointed as a court security officer. I recall that, although the Minister said that it would be unhelpful to state specifically in the Bill exactly what qualities would be required for the role, he also said:


    "The role carries significant responsibility, so it is crucial that a certain standard should be met before a person can become a court security officer".

In particular, the noble Lord stated:


    "it is envisaged that there will be a full criminal records check to make sure that applicants are of good character".—[Official Report, 11/2/03; col. 592.]

8 May 2003 : Column 1282

Like other noble Lords, I have reflected on the Minister's words and have taken advice elsewhere. The Minister will be aware that there are now tighter controls on private security staff, wheel clampers, bouncers and so on. The Security Industry Authority regulates the industry and makes it compulsory to obtain a licence. Those who wish to obtain a licence must prove that they have had no involvement in any sort in crime for up to five years.

Exactly what checks on applicants for the position of court security officer will the Minister commit the Government to? The Law Society has expressed its concern on this matter and has stated that,


    "where any civilian exercises powers usually only exercised by the police, it is important to ensure that these powers are properly regulated and that those exercising them are accountable".

It would be helpful if the Minister would clarify whether court security officers will come under the bracket of private security staff. If not, will they face the same checks as those who come under that category? In that context, I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I have no doubt that in a moment or two my noble friend the Minister will give the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the reassurances that he seeks. But when I looked at the amendment and Clause 46(2) to which he referred, I saw no case for the amendment. Clause 46(2) refers to regulations to provide the conditions to be met before anyone can be designated a court security officer. What case can there be for particularising one condition and setting it forth in the Bill when other conditions are to be set out in regulations? I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has made a case for that. I suppose that he is probing further than at the earlier stage in order to get the Minister to talk more about it. If that is the case, that is splendid, but there really is no case for having this on the face of the Bill.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I should like to confirm what my noble friend Lord Hunt said. I shall speak to my two amendments separately and not conjoined with this one.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I was intending to deal with both Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 because they are grouped together.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, Amendment No. 106 is paving to Amendment No. 107.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, in that case I shall try to deal with just Amendment No. 105. Clause 46 deals with the appointment and designation of court security officers. Under the current system of court security, the only courts in which there is statutory provision for a court security officer are the magistrates' courts. Although there is some security provided in other courts, as I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, the standard and rigour vary considerably and the number of security-related incidents in courts is rising. As we discussed in Committee, this is an issue

8 May 2003 : Column 1283

of concern. For that reason the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has made a commitment to improve court security across the system. The creation of the role of court security officer should begin to equalise the security provisions across all courts and combat the rise in incidents involving violence or threatened violence.

The proposition moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is to add to the Bill that anyone appointed or designated by the Lord Chancellor as a court security officer must first have been subject to and passed a "police check". I presume that this is meant in the sense of a check on an individual's criminal record, although that is not made clear in the amendment. The Government understand the importance of ensuring that court security officers have passed appropriate background security checks prior to designation or appointment. We are grateful to the noble Lord for raising this very important point.

The noble Lord was right to remind me of my words in Committee. But I am advised that access is limited to police records and that no routine procedures exist by which an external party can instigate a "police security check" of the nature envisaged by the noble Lord. Where checks are carried out, they tend to be on an occasional basis as a result of a reciprocal agreement generally between the police and the local court managers. To require the police to carry out such checks for every person designated or appointed would be very resource intensive for the police. We argue that it could seriously detract from their other important statutory duties.

However, prior to appointment, several different methods of carrying out background checks can be used. The department is aiming to use the basic disclosure service offered by the Criminal Records Bureau which, as noble Lords know, was recently established, but which currently and famously is working on its backlog. Once that service becomes available, it will provide a criminal record check incorporating several levels of disclosure for different types of employment. Indeed, that is the basis on which it has been established.

In the meantime, the Lord Chancellor's Department carries out checks on all service contractors and court service staff, including in-house security guards. All employees and contractors must be subject to the basic check which verifies the identity of the person concerned. The counter-terrorist check must be carried out for all first and second tier Crown Courts, although in practice it is carried out for all courts. It includes both a criminal record check and verification with the security services. In addition, the two security companies with which the Court Service works are affiliated to the British Security Industry Association and, as a consequence, are required to complete a 10-year employment history for all employees, together with a formal declaration of criminal records. Those background investigations are extensive.

I hope it will be apparent that the current checks undertaken by the Lord Chancellor's Department in relation to all security staff go some way beyond the

8 May 2003 : Column 1284

level of detail provided by occasional police checks. Because of the importance of the issue raised by the noble Lord, this regime will continue and it will certainly be the case when the current procedures give way to access to the Criminal Records Bureau once the service is fully operational.

I hope that my detailed explanation, along with a clear statement that we are going well beyond what was envisaged by the noble Lord, will enable him to feel confident about withdrawing his amendment.


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