Clause 21

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:45 pm on 18th January 2007.

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Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office 1:45 pm, 18th January 2007

On the hon. Lady’s first question, the powers are not conferred on an off-duty solder by this piece of legislation. An off-duty soldier would, of course, have the power of citizen’s arrest, in as much as any other member of the public would have that power if something were happening and they were the closest person to the situation, but they would not have the powers conferred under the Bill. Soldiers would have those powers only when they were on duty. I hope that that clarifies the position. In reality, there would, of course, be an ongoing Army operation to deal with a major security threat or serious incident, which would obviously include only soldiers who were on duty.

Both the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Tewkesbury have mentioned subsection (2). When the police make an arrest, they have to give reasons for doing so. They have to say that there is a suspicion that the person being arrested has been involved in the commission of an offence. The police have to give that information to the person whom they are arresting, which they are trained to do with great care.

The Army is not trained to do that. We therefore propose that it is sufficient for members of Her Majesty’s forces who make arrests simply to state that they are doing so as members of Her Majesty’s forces, which is a simple, straightforward line that they will all be in a position to use. That provision will empower them to detain the person for up to four hours. Of course, if the police arrest that person, that person must be given reasons. If that person is then rearrested and detained for other reasons, they must be given those reasons, too. However, because members of Her Majesty’s forces are not trained for that, because there is no need to train them for that, all they have to do is say that the arrest is being made by a member of Her Majesty’s forces, which is sufficient for the powers conferred under the clause.