Clause 81 - Restriction on use and destruction of fingerprints and samples

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:45 pm, 8th March 2001

My hon. Friend is right. There is no doubt that, by his attacks on my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire, the Minister stands condemned. Most of his attacks were directed towards my right hon. and learned Friend's quite proper scrutiny of clauses that have now been withdrawn.

I am glad that, at least on the present occasion, the Minister, despite his often expressed anti-lawyer prejudice, concedes the importance of the issue that I now want to return to. I agree. It is one of the most important passages of the Bill. Improvements and changes are needed. One of our suggested safeguards is amendment No. 276, which bears directly on the matter to which the House of Lords has been giving such detailed scrutiny in the appeal decision to which I referred.

The matter is entirely to do with the liberty of the subject, and I imagine that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey will have something to say about it. Perhaps, like me, he has had professional experience of cases that depend on forensic scientific evidence. In my years in practice at the Bar, I had enormous respect for the work of forensic scientists. I am saddened by the frequency with which Members of Parliament without the relevant practical experience refer to forensic matters, thinking that the word ``forensic'' refers to the scientific side of things. Of course we should always use the term ``forensic science''. The use of the word ``forensic'' denotes the relationship of the science to the court—the forens—to be pedantic for a moment.

Amendments Nos. 277 and 278 may at first sight appear to be merely drafting matters, but they are matters of substance and they operate together. My argument comes back to the point made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey in his last contribution to the previous debate. As he said, we need to ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent the appalling abuses being committed by the present dictatorship in Zimbabwe. What would be the position if a country where human rights were not being observed were to make a request? We believe that safeguards are needed.

I do not wish to detain the Committee unduly but, because the matter is so serious, the Government must consider the matter carefully. If they cannot accept our amendments, I hope that that they will at least concede that the question should be reconsidered between now and Report. The fact that the Minister intervened on me to agree that those matters are important, and that paragraph 186 and two other paragraphs of the explanatory notes dealing with part IV include a lot of detail about various cases, including the one that I referred to that had then been decided only by the Court of Appeal, a decision later reversed by the House of Lords, reinforces the seriousness of the matter.