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In Schedule 2 to the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, at the end there shall be inserted—
"Section 103(1) to (3) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) as amended by section 49(1) of the Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30).""

The noble Lord said: I discovered some time ago on a visit to Northern Ireland that the police there had no powers to arrest disqualified drivers. I found that a most surprising and disturbing bit of information, because there is a high accident rate in Northern Ireland. There are relatively more road deaths in Northern Ireland than here on the mainland. The police in England, Wales and Scotland do have those powers. My amendment would give the police in Northern Ireland the powers to arrest disqualified motorists.

From the soundings that I have taken, my proposition is well supported. Indeed, I understand that the police in Northern Ireland would welcome a change in the law giving them more powers. The Government are very sympathetic, as are the opposition parties. The only possible opponents are the disqualified drivers themselves. If ever there were an amendment to the Bill that would command universal assent, I have produced it here and now. The only issue is whether this amendment has been appropriately worded—I understand the argument about amendments being technically defective.

Perhaps the more important argument is whether this Bill is the right vehicle for such an amendment. If there is a different solution I am sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench will indicate what it is. I hope that she will give the proposition and the wish to give the police these powers her full support. It would then be just a matter of whether this Bill or another one is the best place for the provision and how quickly the matter can be resolved. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: I rise to commend the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on having identified this loophole. He will know from my noble friend Lord Glentoran that we strongly support him and now look to the Government to deal with this problem.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hope that I will be able to give a modicum of pleasure to my noble friend Lord Dubs, and I would like to thank him for bringing the anomaly before the House. The Government are aware of concerns on this matter and fully agree with my noble friend that the police service in Northern Ireland should be provided with the power of arrest without warrant for the offence of driving while disqualified, notwithstanding the displeasure that that will cause disqualified drivers.

As my noble friend has already acknowledged, however, the amendment is technically defective. Although the Government agree in principle that this is an oversight in the law of Northern Ireland that must be corrected, we do not believe that the Criminal Justice Bill is the most appropriate vehicle in which to correct it.

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My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is committed to introducing, at the next available legislative opportunity, a provision to give the police the necessary power. With that assurance, I hope that my noble friend will feel content.

Lord Dubs: I thank my noble friend. Of course, I would rather my noble friend had accepted the amendment or said that she would introduce one on Report, but I think that we have the next best thing. I welcome the commitment and hope that it will not be too long before she is successful in seeing such legislation through the House. I am grateful to her for her support and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 284 [Limit on period of detention without charge of suspected terrorists]

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 230B:

    Page 163, line 15, leave out "fourteen" and insert "ten"

The noble Lord said: We now turn to terrorism provisions and to the period of time during which the police are able to hold terrorist suspects without charge. Initially, the period that was thought proper for such detention to take place was 48 hours, with a possible extension of two days, following a report for which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, was responsible. We debated the matter during proceedings for the Terrorism Act 2000, when it was decided that the time could be extended to seven days from four days. Now, only two or three years later, we are told that that is inadequate and that the Government seek to detain suspected terrorists for periods of up to 14 days without charge.

In any event, last year, suspects were held for the full seven days on only 16 occasions. We on these Benches would like to know what evidence there is for the necessity to gain further evidence within a matter of days so that such people could be charged. Did the authorities investigating the offences think that seven, eight, nine or 10 days was necessary? Absolutely no evidence has been produced to justify that. It is said that investigations these days must take into account devices of mass destruction—nuclear, biological and chemical devices—and that the investigation of computer hard disks takes time. Such things could be part of an investigation that would justify holding people without charge.

We should be very wary about holding people for any length of time at all without charging them with a criminal offence. We are prepared to concede that the seven days could be extended to 10 days, but we require justification for the further extension to 14 days. I beg to move.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I am glad to follow my former pupil—a status of which I often remind him. I agree with everything that he said, except that I would

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go further and say that the clause should not stand part of the Bill. The suggested increase from seven to 10 days suffers from the same vice as the Government's proposal.

As the noble Lord said, Clause 284 will extend from seven to 14 days the period during which a terrorist can be held without charge. I will start by thanking the Minister for her great courtesy in writing to me, when she saw the point that I sought to make, and for letting me see the evidence on which the clause was based.

The obligation on the police to charge or release a suspect is one of the cornerstones of the liberty of the subject. I hope that that does not sound too pompous. The length of detention has always, necessarily, been a matter of compromise between, on the one hand, the understandable need of the police to gather as much evidence as they can before charging the suspect and, on the other hand, the insistent demands of human rights. I remind the Committee, as I have often done before, that human rights were not invented at the time of the passage of the Human Rights Act 1998; judges have enforced human rights since the beginning of the common law.

In 1984, when the Police and Criminal Evidence Act was passed, there was an intense debate in Parliament about the appropriate period of detention. It was eventually settled that the suspect could be detained for 36 hours, with a further extension, if authorised by a magistrate, not exceeding four days in all. That is the maximum currently allowed for even the most serious crimes such as conspiracy to import class A drugs, for example. That crime often involves difficult and detailed inquiries here and abroad.

When I wrote my terrorism report in 1996, I received much evidence from the Metropolitan Police, backed up by case studies and detailed figures, that, in terrorist cases, four days were not long enough. The facts and figures that were put before me are set out in paragraph 9.10 of my report. I was persuaded that, in terrorist cases, the existing limit of seven days was justified, even though a period of seven days greatly exceeded the period allowed under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and, more importantly, the four days allowed under Article 5.3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as indicated in the case of Brogan. The fact that the period went beyond what was permissible under the convention did not matter. We had already derogated from the convention on the ground that, in Northern Ireland, we were, so it was said, facing a crisis that threatened the life of the nation.

When the Terrorism Act 2000 was passed, Parliament accepted that seven days was the correct compromise and ought to be sufficient to enable the police to carry out their inquiries. Now, scarcely three years later, we are asked to double the limit. We should do so only if the Government can make a very good case for it.

The extension is justified on three grounds. The first is that police inquiries may involve analysis of chemical substances and that the analysis of such substances takes time. The second is that there is a

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need to extract information from computers. The third relates to the problem of translation from foreign languages. Those are the three grounds specifically relied on by the Minister in her letter to me dated 23rd July, 2003.

There is nothing new in any of those grounds. They all existed in 2000, and they all existed when I wrote my report in 1996. Moreover, there is nothing unique about terrorism in respect of those three grounds. The grounds are common to other crimes and, in particular, to the importation of class A drugs, which, as I said, frequently involves international aspects, including the translation of documents, and the extraction of information from computers. On their own, the three grounds do not justify the increase that we are asked to make.

Then, it is said that terrorism is different from other serious crimes. It is, it is said, a "uniquely serious" crime, words that became familiar to us yesterday when we discussed earlier parts of the Bill. I question whether terrorism is, in any real sense, uniquely serious. The harm so far done by terrorism in this country, at any rate, is far less than the harm done by, for example, the spread of class A drugs.

Will the Minister remind us when the last serious terrorist incident occurred in this country? She will say that terrorist incidents in this country have been so few because of the success of the anti-terrorist squad. I am glad to concede that point, and I have nothing but admiration for David Veness, who helped me greatly when I wrote my report, and for the anti-terrorist squad in general. However, if the Minister says that, so far, the system has worked, she will undermine her main point: if a seven-day limit has been sufficient to keep us safe, why do we suddenly need more time now?

The police will always ask for more time. I do not criticise them for that, but they are not the only judges of what is acceptable in a free society. Our job, in Parliament, is to make sure that they are not asking for too much. I have seen the evidence that the police put before the Minister to justify the increase. Obviously, I cannot comment on the extent or detail of the evidence, but I can say that there is nothing new in it and nothing that begins to justify an increase from seven to 14 days or the more modest increase for which the Liberal Democrats ask. I am not persuaded that 10 days is right, and I am even less satisfied by the proposal by the main opposition party that the matter could be resolved by having a sunset clause. Although we are all rightly concerned by the threat of terrorism—none more so than I—the liberty of the subject still counts for something.

4 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: I shall speak to Amendment No. 252BA. I share the concerns raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the number of attacks, fortunately, has been comparatively few. I, too, join the tribute to the outstanding police officer, David Veness. On looking back over terrorist attacks, one

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must take into account not only the number of attacks but also their severity and their impact. Otherwise, I am very much in agreement with the points raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who rightly referred to this amendment as being the sunset clause.

We share the Government's resolve to deal with the threat of terrorism. That is why we do not completely oppose the clause, but it appears to be overtly draconian. I hope that the Minister may give additional information along the lines requested by the noble and learned Lord. It is well recognised that we face a serious terrorist threat. Presumably, that is why the Government are suggesting such an unprecedented period of detention—namely, keeping a person for 14 days without charge. As has been pointed out, that is a very serious matter indeed.

However, as requested by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, the Government should provide examples from past investigations where the police thought that the seven-day rule was not sufficient and that a longer period of detention was necessary to secure evidence and to carry out chemical or biological tests. I believe that the request was made in the other place. As yet, no such information has been forthcoming, but I hope that it will be introduced by the noble Baroness in this debate.

As we understand it, the statistics in the 10th Annual Report of the Independent Commissioner for Northern Ireland, published in 2003, show that out of a total of 236 suspected terrorists in Northern Ireland, only two were detained for more than five days. That does not demonstrate an urgent need for doubling the detention period without charge from seven to 14 days.

Another point is the anxiety that the noble and learned Lord mentioned about evidence and the Human Rights Act. The longer a person is detained, surely, the more worrying the weight and reliability of any evidence obtained from that person. For example, if a confession were to be obtained on the thirteenth day of being held without charge, would that evidence risk being excluded as unsafe? That is why we have proposed a sunset amendment to Clause 284, to which I now speak, which would give the Government three years' grace. That period could be utilised to monitor how effective the power is and whether it is necessary. On that basis, I shall move the amendment at the appropriate time.

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