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Lord Dholakia: Will the individual assisting the police be subject to any discipline, and will the matter of discipline be the responsibility of the police accompanying the individual? If that is the case—the Minister said that from time to time the police are unable to keep an eye on what is going on—what will happen to the individual if he crosses the boundary of

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his particular responsibility, because there could be heated circumstances? Who will be responsible for the individual and what will be his or her accountability?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: When the noble Lord first spoke, he raised an important issue. As I said, we shall require civilians to have the flexibility to work without a constable constantly looking over their shoulder. They will need to use their initiative in helping and supporting the activity of searching premises for particular things. I understand the concerns of the noble Lord, but it must be remembered that the conditions of employment of civilians are very important in this regard. They must conform to proper procedures. They must conform to what is set out in their contract about what they can and cannot do. Subsequently, if they are found to be in breach of it, that is a serious disciplinary offence in itself. As I carefully explained, the line of accountability and responsibility is such that there remains that civil liability right up to the level of chief constable.

If the noble Lord is still unclear about how that will work, we shall ensure that by the time we reach Report it will be set out more clearly in writing how we see those disciplinary responsibilities working. It is an area of concern which we want to ensure we get right. Obviously, I shall share the correspondence with all Members of the Committee.

Lord Elton: I am glad that I shall be copied in, because I, too, have the same anxiety that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, expressed. In his reply, when the Minister brought before us the possibility of a civilian assistant crossing the grounds of propriety, he said that that would be a very serious disciplinary offence, but as the civilian is not within the disciplinary system, that does not seem to be more than a matter of interest. What we want to know is what would be the effect.

That was not actually the point which I wished to raise, but it is tangential to it. The picture in our minds is the searching of a small premises where the constable may be in the hall and the assistant may be in the study. But what if it is a factory on several floors? Surely, in that situation, the matter of carrying personal identification is important. Equally important for the assistant is the willingness and readiness to exhibit it, rather than throwing one's weight around and generally causing anxiety. It really is necessary for these people to be caught within a proper code of conduct which bites on them, as opposed to merely meeting with reproval if it does not succeed.

My final question is rather bigger. I understand new subsection (2A)(a), which reads,


    "the execution of the warrant".

But why is it necessary for these people to have the power of seizure? Surely the constable can do the seizure. That would considerably limit the extension of power asked for under the Bill. Of course, the limitation of the extension of power is something on which we should be keen.

Lord Hylton: Before the Minister replies, I noticed that he said that the present arrangements worked

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satisfactorily. Will the Government consider what has happened and is liable to happen in deportation cases—whether involving convicted criminals, overstayers or illegal immigrants? There seems to be plenty of scope for official parties to go to the wrong address or person, perhaps mistaking or confusing their name. Out of this, not only can aggravation occur to individuals, but there can also be considerable repercussions for race relations in the area in question.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I understand his nervousness—in particular, given his comments when we discussed the earlier amendment. The noble Lord has practical experience of introducing legislation which for many people was very controversial. Back in 1984, when the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of which the codes were part, was introduced, there was great concern. There had been an earlier reliance on judges' orders and so forth, but the PACE code was considered to be a very big leap of faith. Those of us—including myself—who argued against PACE and the way in which it was going to work were wrong. It has done a great deal to protect the liberties of the individual. It set clear lines for the police for the operation of legislation. It has worked in the interests of the police and the policed.

We want to ensure that that important tradition continues. For that reason, any changes must be very carefully thought through—a view obviously supported and well appreciated. So, yes, this is an important extension. The noble Lord said that he could see an important way in which it could be constrained by taking away from civilians the power of seizure. However, we take the view that seizure powers exercised by civilians will be important because they give necessary operational flexibility. It may—it probably will—be exercised only in the following way. From time to time, a civilian individual will see something which he or she knows to be of relevance and significance to the investigation which is in hand, acquires—seizes—it and passes it to the constable saying, "Look, this is germane to our inquiry. It clearly is part of what we are after. Here it is. This is the documentation or disk that you will require for the furtherance of this investigation". Seizure will probably be in those terms in most instances. I hope that that gives a reasonable example of how we see this working.

I have nothing further I can usefully add to the debate, which has been helpful. The reflections of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, were helpful in that regard too.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful for the contributions of all Members of the Committee, which have drawn out some of the remaining concerns which we will need to resolve between now and Report. I am also grateful to the Minister for saying that he will write in detail to Members of the Committee with regard to the important matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia; that is, the disciplinary system to which civilians should be subject. It is important that that is considered before the next stage.

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I was also struck that after the Minister spoke about civilians needing some freedom of action, he said that they would be under general direction; that they would want to use their initiative; and that it would be important for them to exercise their imagination. All of that made me think more carefully about the points made by my noble friend Lady Carnegy about the importance of guidance and training. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will give further thought to the issue of training. I hope that he will consider that between now and Report. He might include something on the matter in his letter and consult the police as to how that might be approached.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Yes, that is something which should be spelt out more clearly. We want to get this right. We are grateful for the support for how the clause will be exercised. I am particularly appreciative of the understanding of the noble Baroness of what we are trying to achieve and what it will add to the way in which police investigations are carried out. I am more than happy to give a commitment to cover issues relating not just to civilian discipline but to training.

4 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I welcome that commitment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 5 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) moved Amendment No. 6:


    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


"ARRESTABLE OFFENCES
(1) Schedule 1A to the 1984 Act (specific offences which are arrestable offences) is amended as follows.
(2) After paragraph 2 there is inserted—
"Criminal Justice Act 1925
2A An offence under section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 (untrue statement for procuring a passport)."
(3) After paragraph 6 there is inserted—
"Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
6A An offence under section 5(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (having possession of a controlled drug) in respect of a class C drug (within the meaning of that Act)."
(4) After paragraph 17 there is inserted—
"17A An offence under section 174 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (false statements and withholding material information).""

The noble Baroness said: The proposed new clause would amend Schedule 1A to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 so that fraudulently obtaining a passport or a driving licence and possession of a class C drug were arrestable offences.

Turning first to the provisions on identity fraud, which are contained in subsections (2) and (4) of the new clause, we know that organised criminals and terrorists rely on documents such as passports and driving licences in order to operate and access financial

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services and that obtaining these documents is a gateway to numerous other offences. At present, anyone suspected of such offences would be summonsed to attend court at a later date. Regrettably, it is our experience that terrorists and organised criminals are unlikely to respond to a summons. If we are to target these dangerous groups we need to give the police the power to do so by making these offences arrestable.

In addition to terrorism, ID fraud—which is often manifested in the use of false passports and driving licences—is an enabler for many offences and has a significant role in illegal immigration and organised crime. Under the current law the police are unable to take immediate action against those suspected of fraudulently obtaining passports or driving licences. The provision contained in the new clause strengthens the law so that the police will be able to arrest such people, who are then less likely to disappear before they are due to appear in court or to destroy the evidence on which the police may later seek to rely. By making the offence arrestable, the police will also be able to search for evidence related to that or another arrestable offence which is connected with or similar to that offence.

Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause replicates exactly the position currently contained in Clause 11. The two provisions have been put together for drafting reasons. It makes sense that provisions relating to the conferring of a new power of arrest should be in a single place in the Bill.

The subsection extends the application of Section 24 of PACE to provide the police with the power of summary arrest in respect of offences of possession of those drugs which are classified as class C drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It achieves this by adding such offences to the specific offences listed as arrestable in Schedule 1A to PACE.

In July last year my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced his intention to bring forward proposals to Parliament to reclassify cannabis from a Class B to a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. In conjunction with this he also announced that the police would continue to be able to arrest persons for offences of possession of cannabis where public order is threatened. Currently, the possession of cannabis is an arrestable offence under Section 24(1) of PACE by virtue of the fact that it carries a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment. Reclassification, however, would mean that possession of cannabis would carry a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and therefore it would no longer be an arrestable offence under Section 24(1). In order to preserve the power of arrest it is necessary to make specific legislative provision to add possession of a class C drug to the list of specific arrestable offences contained in Schedule 1A to PACE. The list was formerly contained in Section 24(2) of PACE.

By retaining the power of arrest we are not only maintaining the status quo, there will be a presumption against arrest except where specific factors exist—for example, where public order is at

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risk; where a person deliberately blows smoke into the face of a police officer; where a person repeatedly flouts the law; or where children are put at risk—for instance, where a person is in possession of cannabis near a school.

Under guidance to police forces which the Association of Chief Police Officers is developing, the power of arrest should be used only in such exceptional circumstances. This will greatly assist the police to keep effective control of our streets. It is proposed that ACPO will publish those guidelines on its website. In the vast majority of cases the police will issue a warning on the street and confiscate the drug. Significant resources should therefore be saved which can be redeployed towards fighting more serious drug crime.

Subsection (3) of the new clause should apply also to offences of possession of class C drugs—that is, anabolic steroids and the benzodiazepines. It would be inconsistent with the principles underlying the three-tier classification structure in the Misuse of Drugs Act to have specific laws which relate only to cannabis. In practice, however, we envisage very few cases where the power of arrest will be used in relation to other class C drugs, but it will be available in individual cases where there are specific factors of the kind I have referred to in respect of cannabis.

I know that amendments have been tabled in relation to the proposed new clause. My explanation will probably suffice at this stage, but I shall be happy to respond to any points that may be made in support of other amendments. I beg to move.


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