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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, your Lordships will recall that in Committee I tabled an amendment to extend the seven-day period to 10 days but withdrew it on the basis that it was merely a very ineffective compromise. We have reflected furtherwe have, of course, borne in mind the powerful speech of my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew on the previous occasionand have come to the conclusion that we will support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I very much regret that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, has not had a copy of the letter. I have received a letter. It states in the last paragraph that the letter has been copied to myself and to the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Thomas, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Carlile. I am happy to hand the noble Lord my copy of the letter here and now. It will not help him very much.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, it is not an unusual situation for someone to hand me a document while I am on my feet. I am informed from behind by those instructing me that it is a very long letter. Perhaps I should reserve further comment until I have read it.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I rise briefly to express the views of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral. He apologises that he has had to leave. As noble Lords are aware, we had anticipated finishing this business slightly earlier. I share my noble friend's views entirely and so I have no problem in relaying them.
My noble friend makes the point that we share the Government's determination to deal effectively with the threat of terrorism. In Committee, we listened very carefully to all the views put forward. As a result, we have been persuaded by the arguments of the Minister, in part, and, in particular, by the arguments put forward in the very important contribution, as my noble friend puts it, of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, the statutory independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act 2000. We therefore do not support the amendment.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hope to help the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, with my comments. I shall try not to repeat everything I saidI know that noble Lords will take that as givenand I do not resile from any of those comments.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, is right. Amendment No. 238 would strike out the provision in its entirety from the Bill. It would keep at seven the maximum number of days that a terrorist suspect can be held in detention without charge while investigations continue. That would prevent the police having the long-term counter-terrorism provision they consider essential based on their experience of the practicalities of dealing with suspected criminals.
I listened with great care to the recitation given quite properly by the noble and learned Lord of the difficulties of terrorism that we have faced over the past five years. However, the noble and learned Lord identified the issues upon which we then concentrated when dealing with the acts of terrorism which came primarily from the IRA campaign and which continued throughout that period. It is clear that we were not as successful as we would have liked because the deaths and injuries referred to by the noble and learned Lord occurred. I know the noble and learned Lord will agree that for the individuals and families concerned they were great tragedies indeed. We do not say that the provisions are not necessary to face that form of terrorism, but we abide by the statements we have made before about the need to go further.
The last IRA bombing was in November 2001. Bombs exploded in Henley, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush and Ealing. The terrorism we face is different. The bombs do not necessarily have to kill to have a serious effect on the life and economy of the country.
There are no other incidents, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, rightly saidand we will and do say that that is because the efforts of our security services have been successful. That does not prove that the additional issues are not necessary, because the security services are struggling against great odds. I almost wonder whether the noble and learned Lord is saying that, if we had had a slip between cup and lip and there had been a monstrous incident, we could now justify a further extension. We do not believe that there needs to be that slip between cup and lip before one understands, appreciates or does something about the fact that the ever-present danger has become heightened, graver and more difficult to deal with.
I spoke on a previous occasion about the complexity of the cases, and I shall summarise them quickly. The complexity stems, among other things, from the retrieval and analysis of substances for searches. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said about that, but, as your Lordships know, we do not agree. It stems, too, from the requisition and analysis of the hard drives of PCs, in particular, and from mobile phone use and swapping of techniques of whole phones and phone parts such as SIM cards. All those issues continue.
There is a fundamental difference between investigation of international terrorism and investigation of suspects involved with terrorism related to the affairs of Northern Ireland. We know far less about those new people in general, and often know literally nothing on a specific basis when suspects are resident illegally in the United Kingdom. The situation is exacerbated when the case is composed of complex strands of investigation, such as those to which I have referred, making it difficult to complete an inquiry and gather sufficient evidence in the allotted time. But I emphasise again that there are few cases to which that would apply. Those cases will be serious and complex
Complex cases are also sophisticated cases, and the police investigation needs to be correspondingly more sophisticated and wide-ranging to analyse and cross-reference the evidence available. That is what creates a different investigative playing field and justifies the need to allow the police an extended period to put the information together when circumstances make that necessary.
The last time that we discussed the matter, I undertook to ascertain from the members of the judiciary involved in the review and approval of extension of detention what those processes are and the level of scrutiny that they involve. I have received a response from the district judge concerned, Judge Timothy Workman, who is the senior district judge and chief magistrate at Bow Street Magistrates' Court, on behalf of his colleagues.
It is right that I respond to the questions asked of me by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, so that we can share the information more widely. The learned judge, Timothy Workman, said that there are 12 judges in total who have been nominated by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to undertake the work related to extensions of detention under the Terrorism Act 2000. Three of the 12 undertake the work only when there are problems in meeting demand, and are essentially reserve judges, thus retaining a small core of specialist and experienced judges.
The hearings are conducted in private, at a court convenient to the holding police station, and hearings may be conducted by secure video link, when that facility exists. All suspects have the right to attend the hearing, and it is usual that they do so accompanied by their legal representatives. When that right is not exercised, the judge must satisfy himself that the defending lawyers have provided their clients with the statutory notice and grounds for the application being heard.
The application for an extension of detention is made by a senior officer of at least superintendent rank, who submits a document setting out, first, the nature of the inquiry, secondly, the work undertaken and, thirdly, the work still to be undertaken. It also includes the need for the suspect to be detained, the estimated time of the continuing inquiries and, usually, details from the custody log relating to all events affecting the suspects' welfare, including meals, legal visits and medical examination.
As part of the application process, the superintendent will probably be asked to augment the facts in the document. There is a process by which sensitive information can be heard in a protective environment when that is judged appropriate. After hearing the defence representations, the judge must decide whether he is satisfied that the terrorist investigation is being carried out diligently and expeditiously, and that there is a need for further detentions. If satisfied, the length of the continued
I also asked the learned judge for his thoughts on the proposal in Clause 283 to extend the maximum period of detention without charge from seven to 14 days. He says clearly, if I may respectfully say so with propriety, that because the police have to justify their position to the judge only for periods up to the current maximum of seven days, and because there have been relatively few cases in which the full seven days has been allowed, he is not in a position to offer a specific opinion on the proposals in the amendment. I would not have expected him to say otherwise. However, that does not mean that the additional seven daysare unnecessary. The learned judge went on to comment that he has been made aware that the police have had difficulties in converting information and intelligence into evidence and that that has affected whether it has been possible to prefer charges.
That is the very point that I have been trying to make in our debates. The police need the extra time in complex cases in order to obtain sufficient evidence that could result in an appropriate charge. That is what we seek to achieve.
The statistics that I provided in the previous debate referred to cases that had gone to the current maximum of seven days. Those numbered 16 out of 212 in a 15-month period. Judge Workman expands that to information for up to the six-day period. He says that, since 1st October 2002, the courts had received notification of 226 arrests under the Act. Of those individuals, 128 applications for warrants of further detention were made, of which 42 were made the subject of extensions of six days and therefore the subject of two or three applications before the judge.
I respectfully suggest that those statistics demonstrate the points that I have made previously; namely, that maximum detentions are used in very few cases and only where it can be of benefit to the investigation, and that there is scrutiny and monitoring because maximum extensions are not granted on a single application. The court is given the wherewithal to make a judicial determination as to whether expedition has been used with propriety and whether or not this is justified.
Furthermore, there is no indication that the threat from terrorism will decrease in the coming years. Just because there has not been a major incident does not mean that there is no threat. So far, we have had good levels of detection and disruption, but those individuals whose activities have been disrupted need to be investigated before they can be charged and we return to the issue of the time available.
Terrorism investigations, as I said, are unlike criminal investigations. Let us be in no doubt about that. I shall explain why that is the case. In drug trafficking or money laundering cases, for example,
The victim of a terrorist attack equally clearly has no choice. The police, on learning of potential terrorist activity, cannot risk waiting long to build a case. They have no choice but to act to disrupt and detain where that is pressing and then to work further on the prosecution issue. They may have some intelligence-led evidence already but it is essentially at the point of arrest that they can start to investigate thoroughly. Once again I say that this is a balanced judgment. We come down firmly on the basis of extension with the safeguards that I have just mentioned. I emphasise that detaining people, whatever they are suspected of, is a serious matter for a democracy and it is right that such a measure should receive scrutiny. However, at the same time I believe that we have no choice but to give serious consideration to what is being proposed.
Your Lordships will have to decide on balance whether this limitation of liberty is proportionate and justified in a very small number of cases in relation to the potential damage the actions of suspected terrorists could have on our society. We believe that the balance goes in favour of making this extension which will be properly policed by the courts.
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