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 Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 6:45 pm, 25th October 1984

I understand that, even before we came to debate this Bill, the power of the police to require a search to be carried out already existed. That may well be a common law power, and the hon. Gentleman might wish to comment on that point later.

The amendment will allow a search for items that can cause injury to the person concerned or to others in his vicinity. Without going into distasteful detail, I point out that it is extraordinary to note the remarkable collection of items that have been carried in the body orifices. I shall not go into detail, save to mention two examples. In one case, a man was found outside a police station with a listening device within his body. He was listening to an interrogation that was going on in the police station.

I must mention another case, because we are living in the aftermath of the terrible events in Brighton. It is not uncommon for microdetonators to be carried within the body. No one can exclude the possibility of terrorists carrying in their bodies the microdetonators or radio timing devices that can be used to trigger explosions. I know that hon. Members do not lke to hear about those matters, but they are the facts of the modern technological age, and the police service must cope with them. It is right to have this power to cause a search to take place if there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person is carrying items that can damage himself or those within his immediate vicinity. I am glad that the Government have included this measure in the Bill.

I am sorry that hon. Members were not able to dispose of the drugs matter on Report. I moved an amendment to that effect, but at that stage the measure was not favoured by the Government. I am pleased that the other place has been more persuasive than I was. I have two questions to ask, one of which has been asked already by the hon. Member for Erdington. I do not understand the logic of the class A drugs list. I do not believe that all the drugs on that list are addictive. Having read what the British Medical Association said, I am inclined to feel that my opinion is correct.

8.15 pm

If the class A list does not hang together because the items on it are addictive, what is the peculiar justification of that classification? I regard other class B drugs as damaging. I certainly do not think that people should traffic in those drugs in this country, but they are to be excluded. As the hon. Member for Erdington said, no police officer, when he requires a search to take place, can possibly tell the type of drug he is searching for. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about how police officers can tell the type of drug for which they are searching is that they do not know. In practice, the police turn over any evidence of drugs of that type to the forensic department. The police require the forensic department to determine what the particular drug is.

There is a danger with this practice. Suppose there is good reason to believe that a person is a trafficker in these terrible things which place children in the most appalling danger and is carrying such drugs and a search is made and the forensic people determine that the drug found is not class A but class B. The police have a certain amount of humour. One police office said to me, "I suppose that if it is a class B drug, they have to put it back". That is preposterous. No one imagines for one moment that that would happen. There must be a more logical explanation—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will provide it—why the classification of class A is appropriate. No doubt at some stage this measure will be embodied in force orders so that the forensic people will know how to handle the drugs.

The BMA lectured the Committee about how we should conduct our business. I, among others, asked the BMA to meet us and explain its difficulties. I do not know why the BMA did not do so. Perhaps it was frightened that its case was not very good. I do not believe that the BMA's professional performance in advising Parliament on this Bill has been very good. Moreover, there is no evidence that the BMA speaks for the Association of Police Surgeons of Great Britain. The police surgeons have their own professional body. I should be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister of State—if not now, perhaps on some other occasion—whether the Association of Police Surgeons, which is separate from the BMA, has a considered view.

I believe that the Government have got the amendments right. They should be passed. They will assist in the fight against terrorism and hard drugs.