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

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 4:45 pm, 8th March 2001

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that because it is an important point that relates to the amendments. I shall return to it.

Part of the purpose of the Government amendments to PACE made in this part of the Bill is to recognise the increasingly international nature of much criminal activity. That is common ground on both sides of the Committee. We are seeking to do that in every sphere. We want to give the police clear statutory powers to co-operate fully with police forces in other countries or—to take a current and relevant case—with international war crimes prosecutors. In such cases, crimes that have been committed outside the UK might not constitute an offence in English criminal law. That is why we want to make the change, which the amendment would prevent.

If a request for information comes from a foreign police force and is supported by Interpol and NCIS, we do not think that the conduct being investigated should have to correspond exactly to an offence under English law. Achieving exact correspondence, and the arguments that would take place in the process, would inhibit the authorities' ability to build the international relations about which we have spoken. I acknowledge that Interpol and NCIS—the gateway to the process—will need to make the judgments on crimes that do not exactly correspond to UK law but would be considered crimes nevertheless. That is the reason for assessing the information that is received from foreign police forces. That assurance might help my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe).

That is an important issue, but to go the other way and support the amendment would remove a significant power that the police need to deal with some international crimes—I cite the international war crimes issues that are in the news. The precise types of offences for which people are being tried and for which many modern techniques are being used might not exactly correspond to offences in UK law, and we do not want the police's ability to use those techniques to be impaired by debilitating legal arguments.