HL Deb 19 November 2003 vol 654 cc1940-1

2 Clause 4, Leave out Clause 4

The Commons disagree to this Amendment for the following reason—

2A Because it is appropriate to extend the circumstances in which the telephone may be used in connection with the review of police detention.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 2 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 2A. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4 and 8, to which the Commons have disagreed for the reasons numbered 4A and 8A. I shall speak first to Amendment No. 2.

The deletion of this clause from the Bill places an unnecessary restriction on a practical and efficient way of overcoming some of the resource and logistical problems of arranging reviews. The clause will maintain the application of these important safeguards but broaden the capacity so that telephone reviews can be used where they are considered the most practical and efficient approach. It will provide the review officer with a straightforward alternative of reviewing in person or by telephone. In so doing, however, he must consider each case individually and decide the most appropriate way to conduct the review.

We have made it clear in guidance that specific consideration must be given in the case of vulnerable suspects, including juveniles. The clause follows the recommendation of the joint Home Office and Cabinet Office review of PACE that allowing the use of telephone reviews in a wider set of circumstances would better serve the needs of the police and the rights of suspects.

I shall speak now to Amendment No. 4. At present the law allows the police the discretion to retain the fingerprints and non-intimate samples taken by them during the investigation of an offence of persons suspected of having committed a recordable offence.

This amendment as drafted would not only require the police to destroy the fingerprints and samples taken from persons arrested for a recordable offence and not subsequently charged; it would also put the law back to the position prior to the changes made in 2001. That change to the law has proven to be extremely important.

The custodian of the National DNA Database tells us that there are now approximately 103,000 DNA profiles on the database which would have previously been removed under PACE. Of those, approximately 4,600 profiles of individuals have been linked with crime scene stains involving 4,760 offences. Those offences include 26 murders, 15 attempted murders, 27 rapes, 13 sexual offences, 14 aggravated burglaries and six of the supply of controlled drugs. Those are all offences which were committed after the person had been acquitted of an earlier charge. We therefore ask whether we really want to revert to a situation where the police would be denied this type of crucial intelligence in the investigation of crime.

I turn to Amendment No. 8. As originally drafted, this clause provided for the Secretary of State to alter, by order made by statutory instrument, the minimum age at which persons in police detention may be tested for specified class A drugs—that is, heroin, crack and cocaine. The clause also provided for the order to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. This delegation and level of scrutiny was considered to be appropriate by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. These provisions are to be introduced in limited areas on a pilot basis initially. We maintain that it is important that the Secretary of State should have the ability to change the minimum age, either up or down. It is our intention that any decision to change the minimum age for drug testing will be made only after full consideration of all the available evidence and will take account of the views of relevant bodies. I therefore urge your Lordships not to insist on your Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 8.

Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 2 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 2A.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.