Clause 1 — Power to destroy or otherwise dispose of property

Part of Mental Health (Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 30th November 2012.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 10:30 am, 30th November 2012

I was misguided in thinking that my hon. Friend momentarily wanted to intervene, but he did not. He has obviously been so persuaded by my case that he could not think of anything in amendment 4 to disagree with, as he could with amendment 3.

Proposed new section 42A of the Prison Act 1952, in clause 1, deals with

“Disposal of unauthorised or unattributable property”.

Where an article is being used for any of the purposes set out in subsection (3), it is not authorised. Those purposes include

“concealing an article which a prisoner is not authorised to have in his or her possession…causing harm to the prisoner or others…prejudicing the security or operation of the prison.”

My amendment 4 would add another category, in proposed new subsection (3)(d), which reads:

“for any unauthorised or unlawful purpose.”

Again, the amendment is designed to strengthen the reasons in the Bill for which property may be confiscated and destroyed. Perhaps it is too restricting simply to use the criteria currently set out in subsection (3). There could be circumstances where property was being used for another unlawful or unauthorised purpose, which would not be covered without my amendment. Surely we are not talking just about things that cause harm to the prisoner or prejudice the security or operation of the prison. Subsection (3)(a) refers to

“concealing an article which a prisoner is not authorised to have”,

but what if someone is caught red handed with an article that they are not concealing, but brandishing openly in front of everybody? Would we then find ourselves in the ridiculous situation where if a prisoner was hiding the article, that would be covered, but if they were brandishing it openly, that would not?

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey is satisfied that everything is covered by the Bill. However, there is certainly no harm in the belt-and-braces approach adopted by my amendment. For example, what if an item was being used to facilitate the taking of drugs? That would not necessarily fall under either “concealing” an item or

“causing harm to the prisoner or others”,

nor would it be

“prejudicing the security or operation of the prison”,

yet I am sure we would all want to ensure that those things were covered. My amendment would introduce a catch-all element to ensure that any property associated with any unauthorised or unlawful use could be seized and disposed of.

Amendment 5 would insert at the words

“recycling it or donating it to any charity” at the end of proposed new section 42A(5)(c) of the 1952 Act, as set out in clause 1. Again, I guess—[ Interruption. ] I am pleased to see the return of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North, because this might be another area where he can help out, with his undoubted expertise on legal matters. As the Bill stands, proposed new subsection (5) says:

“In this section…references to disposing of an article include selling it”,

but I do not know whether the Bill is trying to say, “You can do that if you want to,” or whether that is the preferred way of dealing with such articles. In any case, if references to the disposal of an item are to include selling it, it seems perfectly worthwhile to include other options, including recycling things or donating them to any charity. If items could only be either destroyed or sold, that would leave out some of the things that most people would consider to be the most appropriate ways of disposing of them. If we were talking about things of particular use to a charity or things that could be recycled, why would we not want to do that?