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Lord Hylton: Will the Government consider requiring the approval of a magistrate for an extension from 24 hours to 36 hours? Surely that would be very easily done in places where there were stipendiary magistrates. As has been mentioned, it happens in a number of other common-law jurisdictions. It would be a useful safeguard to have.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Has the Minister yet been able to discover whether the present arrangement derives from the recommendation of the Philips Royal Commission? I ask that because she will find, in the introduction to its report, one of the finest expositions of the balance that has to be struck between administrative and security convenience on one hand and preserving the liberty of the citizen on the other. I happen to remember many conversations with Sir Cyril Philips in which it was perfectly clear how important he regarded the maintenance, within practical limits, of the liberty of the citizen.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Let me deal first with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. I tried to give the practical examples not because we suggest for a moment that the rights of the individual should be suborned for simple administrative convenience. There is a balance between the needs of maintaining a person's individual liberty and the societal needs of having offences that have been committed interviewed properly, sought properly and charged properly if appropriate. Those are balancing issues of equal importance. The one does not expunge the other.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, to date it has been thought more appropriate for the flexibility of the procedure to be dealt with by a superintendent, particularly bearing in mind the speed with which that must be done. The noble Lord said that it could be done by what used to be a stipendiary magistratea district judgebut he will know that the numbers of district judges are far outweighed by the lay magistracy. We have taken the view to date that that is most appropriately done by a very senior officer, who will be able to assess what the operation demands and can judge whether the officers involved in undertaking the investigation really are proceeding with the matter expeditiously and dealing with matters in a way that is in accordance with good practice or, to put it colloquially, whether they are swinging the lead. It is often the practitioner who has had the day-to-day management of such cases who is much more able to question the officer about whether he has done that which he should have done in order to ensure that the
Speaking for myself, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, was right in his comments on the route from which the approach came. I have not been able to get confirmation in this regard. Like the noble and learned Lord, I should be relying on my memory. I hope that it is not faulty but one cannot rely on it in this regard when one speaks for the Government. I undertake to look at the matter.
The noble and learned Lord was absolutely right to say that a balancing exercise was involved. Our argument takes into account what the balance now is and gives voice in relation to the relevant cases. We do not suggest that a plethora of cases will be extended; a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said that for the greater majority of cases, 24 hours more than suffices and does not cause difficulties; the police are well able to manage cases within that time frame.
We seek flexibility for the exercise of discretion in relation to the small number of cases that are outside the norm. If we did otherwiseif we agreed to the suggestions in the amendmentwe should have a much blunter instrument. One would catch many more offences unnecessarily. The provision allows the superintendent to have the flexibility to target only those cases, in relation to the different species of robbery and other issues, which are needful of this provision. We should be very reluctant indeed to say that the broad swathe of cases should simply be converted from arrestable offences to serious arrestable offences. That would send the wrong message: one that is directly opposed to what I believe noble Lords opposite say they want; they want the arrangement to be targeted, not extended.
We have given the matter much thought. Obviously, we will consider further everything that has been said in Committee. We still believe that this provision will enable us to have the lightest possible touch in order to deliver on those small number of cases in which the approach is needed but it will not so pollute the rest of the pool and put everyone in a very difficult position.
The Earl of Listowel: Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, I thank the Minister for her full replies. Perhaps I missed her response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, on extending bail. What was her response?
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We have had a full debate. The Minister will therefore be delighted to hear that I will follow her invitation and resist the temptation to speak separately to the Question whether Clause 5 should stand part.
The Minister began and ended by discussing the need for increased flexibility. The difficulty is that life is not very flexible when one is in a police cell. The clause is about increasing detention by up to 50 per cent.
I shall consider very carefully between now and Report the full information that the Minister gave in her attempt to counter the very powerful arguments that were advanced from all sides of the Committee. I do not believe that she met those arguments. It would be wrong to pick out some from so many because we should move on. However, I must point out that the situation regarding children has not been resolved. I believe that the time between now and Report could usefully be used to carry out further consultation and, if the Minister agrees, to have a meeting with her and her officials on that matter. We might be able to take matters further. She mentioned the question of guidancethat word returns again. Can she tell us whether the House will be able to see guidance on children at least before Third Reading?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am not able to comment specifically on that. I should be more than happy to discuss these issues between Committee stage and Report, and not simply in relation to the issues involving children; I should be happy to cover significant matters of concern to noble Lords. The
I shall do whatever is possible in relation to guidance and I certainly undertake to notify the noble Baroness as to the earliest possible point at which we may be able to put drafts before the House or Members of the Committee.