Clause 112 - Foreign travel orders: applications and grounds

Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 14th October 2003.

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Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:30 pm, 14th October 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 254, in

clause 112, page 59, line 8, leave out from 'way' to end of line 10 and insert

'that there will be a substantial risk to children outside the UK unless an order is made.'.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 256, in

clause 121, page 63, line 31, leave out from 'acts,' to end of line 32 and insert

'there will be a substantial risk to children unless an order is made.'.

Amendment No. 258, in

clause 124, page 65, line 41, leave out 'just to do so,' and insert

'necessary for the purpose of protection'.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I shall not pursue the wording of the amendment. Nevertheless, the Under-Secretary himself said earlier that banning someone from leaving the country is a serious step. For that reason I feel that we should debate that matter during Committee. I am not happy with the substituted wording that I put forward, but we should scrutinise it and consider whether the words ''reasonable cause'' provide an apposite standby. I shall not pursue amendment No. 256, because we shall consider and debate clause 121 later, at which time some general points will be picked up.

Amendment No. 258 deals with something that was picked up by the Select Committee on Home Affairs. It refers to clause 24 and would replace the words ''just to do so'' with

''necessary for the purpose of protection''.

The Home Affairs Committee said that the Joint Committee on Human Rights

''has also expressed concern about the criteria for making an interim order, which does not require the court to satisfy itself that 'it is necessary to make such an order for the purpose of protection' ''—

hence the suggestion that those words be included at this stage. The Home Affairs Committee concluded:

''We also believe that the grounds for making an interim RSHO should match more closely the grounds for a full order''.

It suggested that some amendment be made—something along the lines of mine. I moved the amendment in order to hear what the Minister has to say on those two issues.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Lady moved amendment No. 254. As the amendment suggests, there should be a substantial risk to children, and I hope that I can reassure her that the Bill provides all the tests that she requires. The police must have reasonable cause, based on the defendant's behaviour since his conviction for a sexual offence, to believe that it is necessary for a foreign travel order to be made. The hon. Lady may care to look at subsection (3)(b), which clearly says:

''the defendant's behaviour since the appropriate date makes it necessary to make such an order, for the purpose of protecting children generally or any child from serious sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.''

The test that the amendment would insert is already provided for in the Bill. The same applies to amendment No. 256.

On amendment No. 258, it is difficult to balance the need for something immediate, in cases where there is an immediate threat to the welfare of a child, with the obvious need for firm proof in relation to a long-term order. The problem with using the test of necessity when seeking to make an interim order is that the test

may be too difficult to prove. That would mean a delay in obtaining the order, which might expose a child or children to risk from that offender in the intervening period. The purpose of the interim order, which has the lower test, is to provide us with power and protection immediately, so that we can go on to make the long-term order, which requires the higher test, later. I hope that the Committee will agree that the balanced approach of a slightly lower test for the interim order but a more rigorous test for the long-term order strikes the right balance between justice for the person involved and protection for children and the wider community.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I thank the Under-Secretary for his comments. I will withdraw the amendments. On his last point, it is difficult to find a balance, because there is still stigmatising involved with an interim order, and there could be fears that such an order could be implemented without that stricter test. However, I have had some reassurance from the Under-Secretary. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 112 ordered to stand part of the Bill.