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Lord McNally: My Lords, the noble Lord need give no apologies for going into such detail. The need to respond to various acts of terrorism over the years has produced various pieces of anti-terrorist legislation which has given concern that the ratchet on the civil liberties of us all has turned in the wrong direction.
The object of us all is to try to reach a time when such special powers are not needed and the various activities can be covered by the normal criminal law. Alas, as the Minister pointed out, we have not yet reached that stage and reluctantly we must continue to give special powers to our authorities.
There is also the fact that, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, will confirm, many terrorist organisations seem to have slipped very easily into organised crime so that the overlap between any politically-motivated activities and purely criminal activities has long since become blurred.
Therefore, we welcome the time that the Minister took to explain the Government's attitude and also the points he made that, where possible, the powers would lapse if circumstances changed. In that spirit, we give a warm welcome to the measures.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I too welcome the draft orders in so far as they apply to Northern Ireland. It does not take much reading of the affairs of Northern Ireland to recognise the totally different atmosphere which prevails there at present. In the past month, there have been 40 pipe bombs, which are very easily made and can be extremely destructive, thrown into the homes of innocent people because of their religion. That has happened particularly in Larne and Lurgan.
It is right that the Government should retain the powers that they have at the moment to try to combat that outburst of terrorism. In doing so, I recognise that, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said, there are some regulations which will never be acceptable to some people in Northern Ireland because they are engaged in a Mafia-type activity. That has been going on now for many years. The Minister should recognise that it will take a long time before we can eradicate that scourge of activity from the political face of Northern Ireland.
I welcome the proposals in a very personal sense. When I was Member of Parliament for West Belfast, there was a great deal of terrorist activity going on. There were many people, innocent people, who lived in what could be classified as nationalist areas; in other words, Catholic areas. From my everyday work as a Member of Parliament in my advice centre, I know that many innocent people were taken to the interrogation centres and badly treated. Time and time again I made representations to various Ministers to prevent such things happening.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, mentioned this matter a few days ago. If one gives way to such things, it simply helps the terrorists. The terrorists were able to exploit the situation in which young innocent people were ill treated in the interrogation centres. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, may remember that in February 1979, when the previous Labour government were in power, the then Chief Constable of Northern Ireland was an Englishman, Kenneth Newman. Allegations were made and there was such fear and hysteria in nationalist areas about young people in particular being ill treated in interrogation centres that the then Labour government set up what became known as the Bennett inquiry. A report was issued in February 1979 and although it said that there was no evidence on which to lay the blame on any particular policeman, one had only to read the conclusions of that report to realise that serious malpractice had been perpetrated by the police in those interrogation centres.
In many ways the issues raised following the publication of that report, having regard to the way in which it highlighted the malpractice, led to the defeat of that Labour government two months after the report was published. In 1979 in my constituency in West Belfast, there was absolute hysteria about what was happening in those interrogation centres--I speak with knowledge of West Belfast, but it was happening elsewhere in Northern Ireland--so I found it impossible to vote with the government in a vote of confidence.
For those reasons I welcome the codes of practice. I believe that they will do a great deal to instil confidence into those who will have to accept the continuation of interrogation centres, because they may not disappear overnight. One hopes that they will not last long and that the codes of practice may be unnecessary.
I welcome these orders. However, the paramilitaries will be opposed to them. They do not find any police activity acceptable. They do not want a police force. That is clear, as they refuse to accept the new police force. In this situation, the orders are to be welcomed. The Government are to be congratulated on bringing these matters forward. We now have a Chief Constable in Northern Ireland who is from Belfast. He understands the sensitivities in relation to the interrogation centres and the allegations that are made. I believe that the codes of practice will make it impossible for such allegations to be made against the police in the months ahead.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, following the fine contributions from the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Fitt, I have little to add. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has mentioned the increasing move into organised crime by the terrorists. With the ever-increasing sophistication of terrorism and, sadly, given the terrorist situation in various parts of the UK, we on these Benches are satisfied that these orders strike the correct balance between making the Act effective and respect for the individual. We support them.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, on the Code of Practice for Examining Officers who will work at ports, an interview of nearly an hour may, in certain circumstances, cause a completely innocent person to miss their flight or boat or connection at the far end of their journey. Therefore, I believe that it would be helpful if the Minister made it clear that the powers will be used only where there is real suspicion against a particular individual. In the past, as I am sure he knows, there have been many complaints about officers taking people in on the off-chance because they do not like a person's face. That is unhelpful and counter-productive. I hope that that does not happen now or in the future.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I welcome the warm words of support from all sides of the House for these four orders. Any government are greatly helped when there is a broad range of support as that
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, of course we appreciate that the powers need to be used with the utmost sensitivity. The intention is not to irritate passengers or to inconvenience them unnecessarily. Of course, the code reminds officers who deal with such sensitive matters of those important points. We need to secure public support for the measures, and the way in which they are operated will encourage that support. We entirely respect the point made by the noble Lord and we shall maintain that spirit.
I spoke of the orders as they relate to Scotland and the circumstances in which solicitors would have access to their clients. I believe that that is a testament of the careful way in which we have approached this legislation, not least because I believe that it strengthens the position of the person being detained in a way that was not present before and because it modernises--a word that is not always popular in your Lordships' House--the way in which the anti-terrorism legislation works in the United Kingdom.
We have tried to reflect on past practice, to improve procedure, to aid and abet transparency, and to improve the quality of primary and secondary legislation. That has been our objective. I believe that the orders give good effect to that. I am grateful for the encouragement and support of the House and for the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I trust that the orders will have the full confidence of everyone.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this order I shall speak also to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Code of Practice on Video Recording of Interviews) (Northern Ireland) Order 2001. On the code of practice on video recording of interviews, we have already considered various UK-wide codes of practice to be made under the Terrorism Act 2000 and which are due to take effect on 19th February when the Act is commenced. No doubt your Lordships will recall from the excellent debates during the consideration of the Act that two further codes, specific to Northern Ireland, are to be made. The first is for police interviews with terrorist suspects to be video recorded with sound and for the video recording arrangements to be governed by a code of practice. The sound and vision code, if I may refer to it as such, will replace the existing system of silent video
As I have said, this code replaces an existing code of practice governing the silent video recording of interviews with terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland. The difference is that the new code requires video recording with sound. I hope that your Lordships will welcome this significant and positive development, which improves upon the existing silent video recording arrangements. Sound and vision provides additional protection for the detainee, guards against unrecorded interviews or verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment and helps to guard the police against unfounded allegations and complaints.
The introduction of sound and vision recording of interviews with terrorist suspects has long been advocated by the current and previous Independent Commissioners for the Holding Centres. The Chief Constable of the RUC also fully supports this measure. Through this order and its related code, the Government are pleased to facilitate the system of sound and vision video recording.
The draft code covers a range of issues that must apply when interviews with terrorist suspects are video recorded. The code also contains guidance for police officers and others on the application and interpretation of the code. Briefly, the code is in nine sections: general; obligation to video record interviews; objections by the detained person; requirements relating to video recording; the interview; after the interview; master tape security and access; copying of master tapes; and master tape destruction.
I deal briefly with the consultation process that took place before the publication of the code. The publication of the draft code was announced on Monday, 6th November. The code was sent to a wide range of interested organisations and was made available on the Northern Ireland Office website. There followed an eight-week consultation period, ending on 29th December.
Useful comments were received from a range of organisations. I am pleased to announce that the code has been modified to incorporate those. At paragraph 1.1, the code will be made available in Braille, in large print format and on audio cassette. Paragraph 3.4 advises that, where a person wishes to discuss matters unconnected with the investigation, the police should, where practicable, seek a medical opinion if they have concerns about an individual's capacity to elect for that discussion to be unrecorded. Paragraph 9.2 has been redrafted to make it clear that all tapes must be kept for at least six years. Some tapes will be kept for longer periods--for example, in the case of a prison sentence that exceeds six years. In addition, the language of the code has been made gender neutral.
As required under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, I can also confirm that an assessment of the impact of this code has been carried out. The Secretary of State is satisfied that the new code contains sufficient safeguard provisions to avoid an adverse impact on any of the nine equality groups in the Northern Ireland Office's equality scheme.
I turn to the order dealing with the code of practice on the exercise of police powers. Section 99 of the Terrorism Act 2000 makes provision for the exercise of police powers to be covered by a code. The purpose of the code of practice on the exercise of police powers order is to bring into force the code of practice under the Terrorism Act governing the detention, treatment and questioning of detained persons and the identification of persons by police officers in relation to terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland. The order to give effect to the code is made under paragraph 101(4) of the Terrorism Act and was, as I have said, laid on 16th January.
I should outline some of the detail. The code runs to 85 pages. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I give only the flavour of the content. The police code will apply only to the police in Northern Ireland. On 19th February it will replace the code currently in force under Section 61 of the Emergency Provisions Act 1996. The new code is modelled as closely as possible on the PACE codes of practice. In the light of helpful responses from the public consultation exercise, we have made improvements to the original draft. I should also say that the Home Office plans to review the PACE code. As a result of that review, additional changes to this code may be needed in due course.
The code is in two parts. Part I covers the detention, treatment and questioning of detained persons. That part of the code applies to an interview, or any part of an interview, carried out by a police officer of a person detained under Section 41 or Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act after midnight on 18th February 2001, where the interview takes place in a police station. Part II covers the identification of persons by police officers. This part of the code applies to any identification carried out by a police officer, at a police station, of a person detained under Section 41 or Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act after midnight on 18th February 2001.
Like the PACE codes, the police code is extremely detailed and comprehensive and contains thorough guidance for police officers and others on its application and interpretation. It features significant safeguards throughout. It should be welcomed as a continuation of, and improvement to, the existing safeguards that are in place via the EPA code. To mention three key features, the code provides, first, for the detainee's rights to be explained to him or her by the custody officer; secondly, it sets out the arrangements for access to medical attention; and, thirdly, it ensures that the need for detention is subject to regular review.
The code was published in draft on Monday, 30th October. It was sent to a wide range of interested organisations and was made available on the Northern Ireland Office website. There was an eight-week consultation period, which ended on 22nd December. We received eight substantive responses, which covered a wide range of issues. A total of 96 distinct groups of issues were identified, and 36 substantive amendments were made to the code. In addition, the code will be made available in Braille, in large print format and on audio cassette. The language of the code has been made gender neutral.
Further amendments may be made in due course. Some submissions raised issues which essentially read across to PACE. As I have already said, the PACE codes are due to be reviewed. To give just one example, some comments were made about the appropriate adult arrangements in this code and it is planned to revisit this in the light of the PACE review. Your Lordships will also want to note that a new caution to reflect the European Court of Human Rights judgments in the cases of Murray, Averill and Magee will need to be added, as will a caution in respect of Section 109 of the Act. The new caution to reflect the Murray, Averill and Magee judgments is likely to be a key feature of the PACE codes review.
As required under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, I can also confirm that an assessment of the impact of the code has been carried out. Again, the Secretary of State was satisfied that the new code contained sufficient safeguard provisions to avoid an adverse impact on any of the nine equality groups.
In conclusion, the Government's aim is to ensure that the treatment of persons detained in police custody in connection with terrorist crime is fair, professional, transparent and accountable. We also want to see proper safeguards in place to protect the police from unjustified complaints. These new codes of practice are key to that aim.
The range of safeguards contained in these codes of practice demonstrates that the Government continue to attach the greatest importance to the protection of the rights of all, including those in police custody. I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in relation to the previous orders: it is essential that the process of detention is properly governed. I believe that the measures make a substantial contribution to that. I commend the order to the House.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th January be approved [4th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)
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