Initimate Searches

Part of Orders of the Day — Police and Criminal Evidence Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 25th October 1984.

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Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett , Birmingham, Erdington 6:45 pm, 25th October 1984

The House will be grateful to the Minister for dealing with the amendments at some length. There is concern in every part of the House about the explosion in the trafficking and use of drugs such as heroin. It is a scar on many of our inner city areas. I say quite frankly to the Minister that a contribution to that has been the reduction in Customs and Excise staff at ports of entry. It has been estimated that at the major ports of Dover and Heathrow millions of pounds worth of heroin are smuggled into the country. The Minister may be interested to know that recently a member of the Customs and Excise staff told me that at an airport outside London at certain times of the day and night—and I am being careful not to mention the exact times—it is not possible to man even the red channel, let alone the green channel with its random searches.

We are now discussing intimate body searches and the possibility of their being carried out under compulsion. The Minister does not need me to remind him that the Opposition find that an offensive principle, and we have opposed it throughout the lengthy passage of the Bill. However, I am pleased that the Government now accept that such searches should be carried out only by a suitably qualified person, only at a hospital or similar premises, and that they will not, in any circumstances, be carried out by other people.

7.45 pm

I listened carefully to the Minister's argument in favour of changing the status of a suitable person from a registered medical practitioner to suitably qualified persons, such as nurses and midwives. I was glad that he made it clear that it would not be just any old body who had taken a first-aid course.

I grudgingly welcome the fact that under no circumstances will a constable be allowed to carry out intimate searches for drugs. For the life of me, I cannot foresee any circumstances in which, when an intimate search is required, it will prove impossible to find someone suitably qualified. It is going too far even to envisage circumstances in which, on the authority of a superintendent or senior police officer, a constable could be asked to carry out the search.