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Lord Swinfen: I would be grateful if the noble Lord would consider this matter seriously. Clause 47(2) limits the ability of a security officer to search someone. The Minister will have seen films and plays in which unmarried actresses are shown looking fairly heavily pregnant and slim actors looking quite rotund. If that can be achieved by the acting profession and good props departments it can be achieved by the terrorist as well. By leaving subsection (2) in the Bill the Minister restricts security at courts. I believe that he should seriously reconsider this point. I shall not ask him to answer the matter in detail at this stage, but I believe that he should give an undertaking to reconsider it.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: We take the matter seriously. I am happy to give an undertaking that we shall consider the wording to ensure that it is adequate. In most circumstances, the degree of search envisaged by the subsection will be adequate. I take on board the noble Lord's point that there may be a time and circumstances in which we may need to go further. It is for those reasons that places such as the supreme court are afforded the protection that they have for serious cases. The noble Lord makes a good descriptive point.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: We have had a valuable debatevaluable in every possible sense. Not only are noble Lords aware of the serious problems faced by court security, but there is also a feeling that we want to ensure that our courts are safe. Referring to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, we want an assurance that there will be safety in our courts.
In another sense this has been a valuable discussion. We have explored a number of possibilities and we shall want time to reflect on them. I have one or two other points that I want to raise under clause stand part, but for now I thank noble Lords for participating
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I have two points. The first is that references were made to search mechanics. The Minister sought to reassure the Committee that metal detectors would secure the safety of all who use the buildings. One of my noble friends has pointed out that recent experience shows that such metal detectors do not pick up certain types of explosive and other dangerous materials and that a silicon detector is required. I shall not go into the various sophisticated methods, but it is vitally important that we keep in step with the latest technology .
As we consider the extensive search powers being authorised under this clause, my second point is who will pay for it? We shall debate that point later when we come to the clauses that seek to give the Lord Chancellor power to ensure that court fees cover a range of activities. It would be helpful if the Minister could assure the Committee that the extra security measures suggested in his comments would not be a burden on the court fees, and that extra resources will be made available to cover the important duty on the Government to ensure that we have safety in our courts. It would be helpful if the Minister could so indicate. We would also like to hear more on the statistics of confiscated items and the extent to which such problems are on the increase, which may give us additional cause for concern.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: Subsection (2) is ethnocentric in that it refers only to standard western dress. From time to time the courts are frequented by people in voluminous, ethnic dress. I see the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon is in his place and of course I consider kilts to be ethnic dress. Perhaps the list is drawn too narrowly.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raises a useful point about technology and the levels of sophistication that some people will use in order to enter a court or court buildings and cause mayhem. We are aware of that. It would be negligent if we were not aware of changes and improvements that we might require occasionally. We have sufficient cover for that. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor and his department to ensure that we have an adequate budget to meet new and higher standards of security that might be necessary to protect court hearings. That is a very important duty which is placed upon the Lord Chancellor.
Lord Borrie: I ask my noble friend whether, in the light of this discussion and the extremely important points made, first, by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and then more colourfully by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, perhaps an amendment to delete subsection (2) would be the best way forward.
Lord Morris of Aberavon: I apologise that I was not able to hear the earlier part of the debate. I repeat the point that I made previously in another context regarding over-particularising. Why do we need words such as a hat, a coat and so on? Surely, if there is a general duty to maintain safety in the courts the clause goes about it the wrong way by setting out in such detail these particular searches.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Before we get too carried away, we need to remind ourselves of Article 8. I referred to it earlier. It requires that any interference must pursue a legitimate aim. In a democratic society that means that it must fulfil a pressing social need and be proportionate to the aim relied upon. In this instance, the prevention of disorder or crime and the protection of the rights and freedom of others are the legitimate aims that we seek to pursue. It cannot be argued that the need to maintain security at courts and to protect the safety of the judiciary, court staff and other court users is not a pressing social need.
Proportionality is very important in these circumstances. It should be noted that the extent of any search carried out under Clause 47 is expressly limited by subsection (2), which prevents a court security officer from requesting the removal of any other clothing. However, having said that, we need to take account of the risks at any given time. So we need to be careful.
I shall deal with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the breakdown of items which appear to have been confiscated by court security officers. We shall look to see whether we have any further and better data. The point deserves to be answered if possible and if it can be done at reasonable cost.
Therefore, I think we have the matter right. We must be proportionate in the exercise of the duty. We need to keep fully abreast of any developments, technological or otherwise, that make the task for those carrying out the important work of keeping our courts secure as easy, effective and as simple as we possibly can.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: These debates on clause stand part give us an opportunity to reflect on the position from time to time. I did not want to interrupt the Minister again, but I asked him about cost. Perhaps he will respond to my questions on cost in his response to Clause 48 stand part.
My second point is whether there are any statistics on the number of people who have been excluded, removed or restrained, so that we can see whether this isas many of us suspectan increasing problem or one of small proportions. I have much sympathy with those noble Lords who regard this as a serious problem which may well be intensifying.
Thirdly, I want to make the point that as we proceed with these clauses on court security I detect increasing concern among noble Lords that we may be moving down the wrong route. I quite understand why the Government have introduced these clauses. As the Auld review pointed out, there is a disparity of security provision and powers between the magistrates' courts and the Crown Court. Only in the magistrates' courts is there statutory provision for court security. That involves a mix of in-house officers employed by magistrates' courts committees and contract officers who are procured through service contracts with private agencies.
There are no legislative provisions for security in the remaining courts. Therefore, I start with immediate sympathy for Ministers in seeking to ensure that there is a common theme in the powers and responsibilities for guards employed in all courts. But I hope that Ministers are aware that as we proceed there is increasing concern that this may not be the most appropriate way forward. A number of noble Lords will want to reflect whether there is a better way. Meanwhile, perhaps the Minister can deal with the specific points that I have raised, and those which other noble Lords may wish to raise, on Clause 48 stand part.
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