New Clause 45 — Limit on Period of Detention Without Charge of Suspected Terrorists

Part of Criminal Justice Bill — [3rd Alloted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 20th May 2003.

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Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism) 5:57 pm, 20th May 2003

Yes, Lord Carlile, who is the independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act 2000, has been consulted. He has been fully briefed and he has had an extended meeting with officials. He has raised no concerns with us about the proposal and its provisions.

In dealing with some of the examples that the police are encountering, in particular and increasingly frequently there may be occasions when it is necessary to examine substances that are thought to be dangerous, and which are found on or with detained individuals, to determine whether they are chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear. This is a very time-consuming process that needs to be carried out with particular attention, and often in stages. As hon. Members will appreciate, the substances have to be retrieved in accordance with forensic procedures. Very detailed health and safety provisions exist to protect the people doing that work. I am told that the forensic retrieval itself can take up to five days. Clinical procedures then have to be applied to the analysis. This often involves a staged process, in which one stage of the analysis has to be completed and the results obtained before a decision can be taken on the further direction of the analysis, in order to determine what the substance might be. The issue of dangerous substances provides a powerful example, and I readily appreciate the arguments that the police are using as to why extended periods beyond seven days might be necessary.

Another example that the police are dealing with concerns the use of personal computers and the requisition of hard drives, after searches of premises and arrests have been made. It can take several days for material from a hard drive to be extracted, analysed and used in the questioning of a suspect. As Members will readily appreciate, in the case of a network of computers or computers that have been used to communicate with each other, the process of analysing the content of several hard drives and cross-referencing and matching communications before such information can be used in the questioning of suspects takes time.