New Clause 1 — Destruction of samples etc: England and Wales

Part of Commission for the Compact – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 19th May 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alan Campbell Alan Campbell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction) 5:00 pm, 19th May 2009

Of course we consult and take advice. At present, I am not in a position to tell my hon. Friend exactly what that advice is, but I am sure that I will be able to find it and provide it to him in the foreseeable future.

I turn to retention periods. New clause 34 proposes a retention period in respect of those arrested for violent and sexual offences, but only for a period of three years, subject to potential extension for a further two years on application to the Crown court. New clause 32 proposes a residual power on top of that, allowing a chief police officer to apply to a county court to make an order requiring the retention of a sample for up to five years when there is serious risk of harm to the public or when it would inhibit or disrupt the involvement of the person in the commission of a violent or sexual crime. If the provisions in new clause 32 simply relate to arrests, violent and sexual offences would be capable of a five-year retention period under proposals in its new section 64C. If the threshold of arrest is not involved, the criterion proposed is worrying. I assume that what was intended was a criterion of "risk of serious harm", rather than of "serious risk of harm"; otherwise, such an order could be applied in respect of any situation where there was harm or potential harm. In respect of inhibiting, restricting or disrupting the involvement of a person in the commission of one of those offences, the police already have the necessary powers.

I turn to the reasoning behind the retention periods that we propose—six years, or 12 years in the case of serious sexual offences. During the consultation period, we have set out the basis on which we have arrived at those decisions. There are two key aspects at work. Those who commit so-called minor offences also tend to commit more serious offences, and vice versa. Secondly, those arrested and not convicted have a propensity to offend—we did not say "reoffend", as James Brokenshire said we did—comparable to that of those who are arrested and convicted but not given a custodial sentence.

We are emphatically not losing sight of the fact that people are innocent until proven guilty, and we are not saying that people arrested and not convicted will go on to commit offences in future. What we are saying is that our research suggests that some of them—a greater proportion than in the population at large—do tend to go on to commit offences, including serious offences. If we could identify those people at the point of first arrest, life would be easy. But we cannot, and that is why we propose a proportionate retention period based on the individual's propensity to offend.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website