Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 9th October 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 3:15 pm, 9th October 2008

Currently PACE makes no specific provision for individuals subject to control orders, so such persons are not subject to the same powers and safeguards for the collection and use of fingerprints and non-intimate samples as those who are arrested in connection with a criminal offence. This clause will provide the same powers to the police as well as, importantly, the same level of safeguards to those subject to control orders.

The PACE framework of powers and safeguards is both well established and highly regarded. As such, it provides the most appropriate and obvious structure in which to include provision for the taking of fingerprints and non-intimate samples from controlled individuals.

Control orders are an important tool—just one of many—in our fight against terrorism. Since their introduction in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, they have helped to manage the risk posed to the public by the small number of suspected terrorists whom we can neither prosecute nor deport. Without some disruption of their terrorism-related activity, I have no doubt that these individuals would be free to continue to facilitate or execute acts of terrorism. That is a risk that the Government are not prepared to take.

We are committed to introducing measures that increase our effectiveness in disrupting, preventing and restricting terrorism-related activity, including in relation to control orders, and assist in more general criminal investigations and prevention purposes. Clause 10 will help to deliver this. This clause applies in England and Wales only; similar powers for Scotland and Northern Ireland are in Clauses 11 and 12.

Fingerprints and non-intimate samples can already be taken from individuals subject to control orders if it is necessary and proportionate to do so by including an obligation to this effect in the control order. However, this will be for very limited purposes connected with monitoring compliance of the order. The purpose of the clause is to provide equivalent powers and safeguards in relation to individuals subject to control orders as currently apply when arrests are made under PACE.

By definition, individuals subject to control orders are suspected terrorists. Such individuals should be subject to equivalent powers and safeguards for the routine taking, use, storage and retention of fingerprints and samples as currently apply when arrests are made under PACE. This clause delivers that. It provides the police with a routine power to take fingerprints and samples from controlled individuals, allowing the police to store and retain them and to use them for the wider purposes set out in PACE as amended by other provisions in the Counter-Terrorism Bill. The wider purposes are: serving the interests of national security; the prevention or detection of crime; the investigation of an offence; the conduct of a prosecution; or the identification of a deceased person, as I said previously.

Crucially, the clause also ensures that the same safeguards apply; for example, the samples may be used only for certain defined purposes and a constable is required to inform the individual concerned of the reason for taking the fingerprints or sample without consent before they can be taken. Moreover, the measures set out in the clause will also help in the investigation of criminal activity. By taking and retaining criminals' fingerprints and samples, we strengthen the ability of the police to prevent, detect and investigate crime and increase the chances of such individuals being prosecuted. As a result, these powers may help to get suspected terrorists off control orders and into the Government's preferred route of prosecution, which I know this Chamber supports. Noble Lords will be well aware that, in general terms, there have been many successful prosecutions of serious criminal offences—I have mentioned the numbers—as a result of retaining samples that in the past would have been destroyed.

This is a minor, proportionate amendment to existing PACE powers that will better enable the Government to manage the risk posed to the public by suspected terrorists—we are talking about 16 at the moment. Without these powers, the police would not be able routinely to take, use, store or retain fingerprints and samples of individuals who are suspected of facilitating or executing acts of terrorism and are on a control order but whom we have not been able to arrest or charge. Putting the new powers on an equivalent basis and in the same legislation as existing police powers in relation to fingerprints and samples ensures that the same procedures and safeguards apply.