New clause 42 - Powers of authorised officers executing warrants

Part of Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 6th July 2004.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 2:30 pm, 6th July 2004

First, it would be useful to address the point about data sharing and the data disclosure order, which the hon. Lady raised. She made a reasonable point about the act of demanding rather than simply requesting. As I have said, I do not think that the data disclosure order will be required frequently, because I hope that through discussions and persuasive means we can get

the consent of different public and private organisations to share data on the limited basis that we are talking about—using the national insurance number, address, name or date of birth for the purposes of preventing crime and ensuring that sentences are upheld. Where those orders need to be made—I can envisage such circumstances—we will have the coercive power to ensure that that data is relinquished to the court. That is justifiable.

Some may have asked whether the provision is compatible with general human rights such as the right to privacy; in a sense, the hon. Lady's point touches on those issues. However, the provision is justified for the sake of preventing crime. The need to uphold the deterrent effect of sentences and sanctions gives us a justification for stepping into the realm of private data. That is part of the data protection arrangements that are already well entrenched.

The hon. Lady may not be familiar with this, but a pilot is taking place in south Yorkshire under provisions in the Courts Act 2003 for a register of judgments to be set up. Fines would be put on a register available to financial institutions. That would be an additional deterrent for individuals and would ensure that they paid their fines when they were due. We are testing that principle in the field to see how it works. It has received a lot of publicity, and many people who have felt that their credit rating may be affected by defaulting on criminal fines have been persuaded to pay them more readily. That is a perfectly legitimate incentive to give someone convicted of a criminal offence, to ensure that they pay their fine. I take on board the point that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham asked about, but as we need to ensure that the courts have the information to pursue enforcement, the provision is warranted and reasonable.