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Lord Astor of Hever: I am grateful for the support that the amendment has received from all corners of the Committee. However, I am particularly grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his very positive response, which we very much welcome. We look forward to the amendment that he said he would bring forward, we hope on Report. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 agreed to.

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 435:

(1) A relevant offender may be required by the police to attend a police station in his local police area as specified by the police and to answer questions for the purposes of a risk assessment of the relevant offender.
(2) A risk assessment for the purposes of subsection (1) shall include an assessment for the purposes of determining whether a chief officer of police will apply for an order under section 103(5) or 110(1)."

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The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 435 I shall also speak to Amendment No. 438. My noble friend Lady Noakes and I have tabled these amendments in response to representations from the Metropolitan Police. It is important when scrutinising this legislation not just to focus on the nature of the offence and the penalty; we must strive to draft the law in terms of facilitating convictions, allowing straightforward practical enforcement and enabling the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to do their jobs efficiently. My noble friend Lady Noakes mentioned that point on the first day of Committee when she talked about workability. My sympathy in tabling these amendments lies with the police, who have the task of monitoring those on the sex offenders register, overseeing and enforcing notification procedures and specifically assessing risk.

Amendment No. 435 proposes a new clause stating that any person subject to notification requirements should make himself or herself available to the police at a reasonable time to assess the risk posed. At present the police are expected to manage the risk by subjects on the sex offenders register together with partner agencies. Part of that risk assessment and management involves the police visiting and speaking to the individual. If he or she refuses to speak to the police, currently they have no power to proceed any further, thus making management difficult. The inclusion of this requirement as proposed in the new clause would allow the police to make an informed assessment. Breach of this clause will be treated as a breach of the notification requirement. I look forward to hearing the Minister's views on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We do not think that this is an appropriate amendment for the following reasons. First, we have already put in place through the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 a duty on chief officers of police and probation to make arrangements to assess and manage the risks posed by registered sex offenders. That is done through the multi-agency public protection arrangements. All registered sex offenders are subject to those arrangements, and the higher-risk offenders will be subject to consideration by a multi-agency panel, which will look in detail at the risks they pose. The arrangements also mean, for example, that those sex offenders who are leaving prison or beginning a community sentence are already required to attend appointments with a probation officer where a wide-ranging risk assessment is carried out covering all aspects of their offending behaviour and lifestyle.

Secondly, it is not always necessary for the offender to be present for a risk assessment to be completed. This is mainly done using actuarial tools. I would also be concerned if the risk assessment were undertaken by any police officer, as many are not trained to undertake or interpret the results of such an assessment.

Thirdly, we are already introducing as part of the Bill a new requirement for offenders to go to their police station annually to confirm their notified details. This should provide the police with an

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opportunity to discuss any issues about the offender's behaviour if they have not already done so as part of a home visit.

Finally, the amendment proposes that the risk assessment the new clause provides for could be used to inform a decision about whether a chief officer of police will apply for a sexual offences prevention order or a risk of sexual harm order. In either case a risk assessment alone would be insufficient to apply for an order, let alone to obtain one.

In the case of a sexual offences prevention order, an application must be based primarily on evidence that the offender has behaved in a way which indicates that an order is necessary to prevent the public from serious sexual harm. In the case of a risk of sexual harm order, the offender must have communicated with or acted towards a child in a sexual way on at least two occasions.

A risk assessment may inform a court's consideration in this respect, but an application could not rest on that information alone. It would be of concern if the police knew so little about the offenders in their area that they needed to call them in for questioning before deciding to apply for an order. I am sure it is not the case, as the many successful applications for sex offender orders already show.

We discussed the proposed power with the police and probation service and neither believes it is needed, although I note that the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, said the proposal was motivated by the Metropolitan Police. There are already measures in place to help assess and manage the risks posed by sex offenders and 97 per cent of registered sex offenders already comply with the requirements placed upon them. This new power would be a step too far. It would provide no additional benefits for public protection and it risks making the requirements placed on offenders so onerous that some of them would no longer bother to comply. Though I recognise the legitimate purpose for which it is moved, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Astor of Hever: I am grateful to the Minister for his very full explanation of why the Government cannot accept these amendments on risk assessment. We will read Hansard very carefully and discuss it with the Metropolitan Police. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 89 [Method of notification and related matters]:

[Amendment No. 436 not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 436A:

    Page 43, line 43, at end insert "retinal prints, palm prints, voice print or a sample of cellular material for the purpose of DNA profiling, or a record of any other feature useful in identification"

The noble Lord said: Under Clause 89(4) the police are allowed to take fingerprints and/or photograph any part of an offender. That strikes me as a limited collection of data in this day and age. There are many other ways in which it may be useful to have a record

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of someone who is subject to notification. For the sake of illustration, I have stuck some in the amendments. However, this seems far too limited to me. I beg to move.

Baroness Walmsley: I put my name to this amendment because I think it brings the Bill into the 21st century. We have had a lot of technological advances since the unique nature of fingerprints was discovered. If the purpose of this is to identify somebody unequivocally on the register, we should use whatever technological advances we have at our disposal.

Baroness Blatch: There must an all-embracing term, such as "latest available technology" that would do this. Otherwise, if identification is garnered by some other means, it would fall outside of the Bill because it is not included.

12.30 a.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The amendment is not necessary. Clause 89 provides the police with a power to fingerprint and photograph the offender when he makes various notifications. Palm-prints are already covered by the definition of fingerprints and are taken by the police as a matter of routine. The phrase "photograph any part of him" used here is wide enough to allow the use of iris scans. We have already signalled our intention to consider how that technology might be used in relation to sex offenders in the future. It will also allow for photographs to be taken of any distinguishing marks that the offender may have, such as tattoos.

Although it is not part of the notification requirements, the police already have the power to take non-intimate DNA samples from all those charged with, informed that they will be reported for or convicted of a recordable offence. Recordable offences include all those punishable by imprisonment, including all the sexual offences for which a person may be made subject to the notification requirements. The police may also take samples from those in police detention suspected of a recordable offence, if there are grounds to believe that a sample will confirm or disprove the suspect's involvement. DNA can, of course, be taken with consent, in any case. The Criminal Evidence (Amendment) Act 1997 also enables non-intimate samples to be taken from sex offenders convicted before 10th April, 1995, or imprisoned or detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. Under proposed new powers to be introduced in the Criminal Justice Bill, the police have the power to take a DNA sample from any person arrested for a recordable offence—that is, pre-charge.

That provides sufficient power for the police, and there is no need for the additional provisions in the amendment that would enable DNA samples to be taken from all offenders, subject to the notification requirements. It would be unjustified to do so in the case of offenders who are not serving their sentence for a sex offence and have not been arrested for or are not under suspicion of having committed a sex offence.

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I turn to the issue of retinal prints and voice prints. It is not clear to me what the purpose of a retinal print is or how it would be used to establish the identity of an offender. As I mentioned, the current provisions covering photographs include iris scans, which are likely to be the main way of establishing identity in the future. I understand that voice prints are more an investigative tool than a general means of establishing identity. It would be inappropriate to include them as part of the notification requirement. We have already put in place sufficient means to confirm the identity of registered sex offenders, and the current provisions are flexible enough to encompass new biometric technologies, such as iris scanning, where they are appropriate.

Finally, there is the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we should put in something that would allow the police to identify a person by any means that new technology allowed. That is going too far. The provisions that we have give sufficient protection, and we must justify each move forward. We should remember that, primarily, the matter is identification.

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