Clause 1

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down 4:45 pm, 16th January 2007

I beg to move amendment No. 25, in clause 1, page 2, line 19, leave out paragraph (b).

The amendment relates to a curious part of the clause. Although we were defeated on the last amendment, we have not given up on our efforts to improve the Bill. We are here jointly, no matter which party we represent, to make sure that this is a good Bill for the people of Northern Ireland.

The construction of the clause is interesting. Subsection (9) includes a definition of a proscribed organisation. As we know from our earlier discussions, the DPP has to be satisfied of two things, including one of the four conditions outlined in the clause. The first three conditions make reference to the defendant’s connection to a proscribed organisation. Condition 1 is that the defendant is a member or past member of a proscribed organisation. Condition 2 is that the offence was committed on behalf of a proscribed organisation. Condition 3 is that an attempt has been made on behalf of a proscribed organisation to prejudice the investigation or prosecution. Interestingly, the fourth condition makes no reference to a proscribed organisation. It concerns

“a result of, in connection with or in response to religious or political hostility of one person or group of persons towards another person or group of persons.”

I have tabled the amendment to give the Minister an opportunity to explain the construction of the clause and why one of the four conditions, the last of which makes no reference to a proscribed organisation, must be satisfied, along with the condition that the DPP must be satisfied that there is a risk to the administration of justice. Will the Minister give examples of circumstances in which he thinks there will be a non-jury trial, not under the 2003 Act but under this Bill, where there is no connection with a proscribed organisation?

The amendment relates specifically to the deletion of subsection (9)(b), which defines a proscribed organisation. Hon. Members will be familiar with the definition in the Terrorism Act 2000. Having taken advantage of modern technology, I have a lengthy, up-to-date list of the all the organisations proscribed under the Act. I will not name them all; al-Qaeda is obviously on the list, but some of them have extremely odd titles. I am sure that the Minister is familiar with them—for example, the 17 November Revolutionary Organisation is listed. At the end of the list are the proscribed Irish groups, which include the Continuity Army Council, the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Commando, the Red Hand Defenders, the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Volunteer Force, to name but a few.

I would like the Minister to explain the reason for subsection 9(b), which curiously adds the condition that, in addition to the defendant being a member or a past member of a proscribed organisation under the definition in the 2000 Act, the organisation’s

“activities are (or were at the time of his membership) connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland”.

Let me give an example, which the Minister can address in his response.

If an organisation that falls within the definition of a proscribed organisation were to be responsible for a major bank robbery—I shall not mention the Northern  bank, which has already been the subject of many jokes—would it be sufficient that the bank was in Northern Ireland? Would that be sufficient to meet the test in clause 1(9)(b), under which the activities of the organisation are

“connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland”?

What does it mean to be connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland? Would a bank robbery qualify, if it took place there?