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

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:20 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 5:20 pm, 8th March 2001

On article 6, I have already said that the type of evidence that we are discussing is among the most compelling and objective evidence in the fight against crime. That is the central part of our discussion. On one hand, the evidence may conclusively establish involvement in a serious crime; on the other, which is at least as important, it may conclusively exonerate someone who might otherwise have been convicted on the basis of circumstantial or confessional evidence. It is in the interests of justice and the defendant for that evidence to be available to the court. If we take the examples that we discussed earlier, no sensible person would say that an injustice had been done if conclusive evidence of involvement in rape and murder led to his conviction.

Neither the convention nor English law require that evidence that was obtained or held unlawfully is necessarily inadmissible in a trial. The courts will of course retain their discretion under section 78 of PACE to exclude DNA evidence that should have been destroyed under existing law if they believe that it would have a detrimental effect on fairness.

The hon. Gentleman raised article 13. I have already said that the Government do not believe that the substantive provisions in the clause or the amendments in terms of the transitional arrangements give rise to violation of the convention rights. We do not believe, returning to our earlier discussion about rights and liberties, that the current rights given under PACE to destruction of samples are protected by the convention. It follows from that that I do not believe that a separate issue arises under article 13. If an issue of fairness arises as to the admissibility of evidence during a criminal trial, section 78 of PACE provides the court with the means to exclude that evidence. I hope that that addresses the Human Rights Act issues raised by the hon. Gentleman and that the Committee will agree to the amendment.