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The noble Lord said: I have tabled a query in the form of an amendment. Clause 15 provides for the offence of fund-raising for terrorism or for terrorist groups, which is an extremely serious offence. Subsection (4) provides that it is an offence to provide money to terrorists even in exchange for consideration.
Members of the Committee will be well aware that terrorist organisations all over the world and on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland provide all kinds of services in apparent exchange for money. Sometimes protection is described as insurance and it is a form of service. In that case, the service may be a lack of beatings. The question is whether such a lack of action is covered by the word "consideration". Is it valid that consideration includes the giving of a service?
There are many other rackets in Northern Ireland. Black taxis, drinking clubs and so forth come to mind. They are valuable sources of money for the terrorist organisations concerned and I believe that such financial considerations there and in other parts of the world are part of the momentum of terrorism.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his query and I am sure that I can help him. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary. Clause 15 sets out offences of inviting another to provide money or other property, receiving money or other property, and providing money or other property, for the purposes of terrorism. Subsection (4) clarifies that the provision of money or other property includes it being given, lent or otherwise made available, whether or not for consideration.
The expression "whether or not for consideration" is taken from the corresponding provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. It means that if someone is accused of, for example, lending money for the purposes of terrorism, it does not matter whether the supposed terrorist was expected to pay interest on the loan.
Of course, "consideration" could be in the conventional form of interest payable on a loan or it could be in the form of services rendered. If I were to lend the noble Lord, Lord Cope, an umbrella or a coat on condition that he carry my bag, I am sure that would count as a consideration. I do not see any need
Lord Cope of Berkeley: The next time I am caught in the rain I shall look out for the Minister in the hope of being able to borrow an umbrella! In the light of his explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Avebury: Perhaps I may comment on Clause 16 and refer to the parallel position in Clause 15. In both clauses an offence is created by the mere intention to do something. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has written to us stating that that constitutes a form of thought crime. One is saying that if a person at any moment intends to do something, he is committing an offence at that moment notwithstanding the fact that the intention is never carried into effect. The offence resembles a class of offences known as inchoate offences, all of which were repealed in the late 1970s. I refer in particular to the offence of sus, where someone was suspected of being about to commit an offence and could be prosecuted and sent to prison. After a substantial public opinion campaign, the Government agreed to withdraw it on the ground that what was in a person's mind could not constitute an offence unless it were carried into effect.
In this Bill, we are reintroducing a form of sus--a form of inchoate offence--which is never carried into effect. The intention may long have disappeared, long before the case gets to court. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is right to have drawn our attention to the provision and I hope that the Minister will consider it before the Report stage. I have not had time to formulate an amendment, but I am giving the Minister notice that if he does not do something about it before the Report stage, we certainly shall.
Earl Russell: Perhaps I may make a brief comment in support of my noble friend. Some of us probably remember the old fashioned telephone boxes with button A and button B. I once heard of a case in a juvenile court where people were prosecuted for loitering with intent to press button B. The magistrates threw it out. Perhaps we should follow their example.
I understand the anxieties of those who, like us in government, are properly concerned about human rights issues. But terrorism is about serious offences and for that reason the term "intended" appears in Clause 16. The offences in that clause are based on those in Sections 9(1)(c) and 10(1)(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and we believe--and other governments have believed--that they are essential to our aim of depriving terrorists of their funds, property and means to carry out their trade.
Lord Avebury: As the Minister has mentioned a similar provision in the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, can he say how many prosecutions have been successfully brought under that provision?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I should like to be able to give the noble Lord that information this afternoon but am unable to do so. I believe that it is worth repeating what I said earlier with regard to this particular subsection being relied upon only in extreme situations. Terrorism is an extreme activity and, of course, the power would be used only when appropriate.
I believe that the way in which the legislation has been monitored and reported upon in the past has, by and large, satisfied Members of your Lordships' House. We intend to continue fully to satisfy inspections and to monitor the legislation closely. I understand the noble Lord's concern about intention. However, we rely on the argument that these types of power and provision are essential for the effective operation of the legislation.
I have now been passed a useful paper concerning the offence to which I believe the noble Lord draws our attention; that is, making available money or property for use in connection with terrorism. A total of seven charges have been raised under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts 1984 and 1989. Four cases were not proceeded with and in three the defendants were found guilty. One of the sentences was suspended and in two cases imprisonment was effected for over one year and up to five years. Therefore, the legislation has played a significant and important part, thankfully in very few and restricted circumstances, in much the same way as I have described to the noble Lord in the past few minutes.
Lord Avebury: I am most grateful to the Minister for giving those figures. I believe that they help the Committee in its consideration of these particular provisions. What he has just told the Committee is that people have been convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act not for the intention of transferring money to terrorists but for actually transferring money to terrorists. I have no quarrel with that. If one gives money to terrorist organisations, one must be liable to prosecution. However, this Bill states that it is a crime
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I well understand the point that the noble Lord makes. However, if we simply wait until an act has been carried out and then seek to prevent it, we shall be in a rather ludicrous situation. Therefore, intention is important, as is a reasonable cause for suspicion, also referred to in Clause 16(2)(b). We believe that those matters are and have been essential in preventing the very acts of terrorism. In order to prevent things, one must understand people's intention. We consider that to be extremely important. Therefore, the clause has, and will continue to have, a value.
With regard to the legislation and the way in which it has worked, the cases that I have described in which a person has been caught making money available are, thankfully, narrow and limited in number. However, we believe that it is essential that the powers are in place so that we can prevent terrorism. After all, it is much better to prevent terrorism than to try to chase after terrorists after they have committed some awful act.