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Clause 1

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 29th April 2008.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 10:45 am, 29th April 2008

I will try to avoid repeating myself. This amendment deals with the very wide power as it is described in subsection (2) which states:

“A constable who carries out a search to which this section applies may, for the purpose of ascertaining whether a document is one that may be seized, remove the document to another place for examination and retain it there until the examination is completed.”

On the face of it, this is a blanket power for a constable who comes across any document, the contents of which cannot reasonably be ascertained by looking at it immediately. That would include, for example, a document in a foreign language that he cannot read or, for that matter, any document that may be encrypted on a computer. The constable could take it away and retain it until such time as the examination is completed. There  is no time limit and there is no requirement of reasonableness in respect of the seizure actually taking place.

I should therefore be grateful if the Minister could deal specifically with the issue of the reasonable grounds and whether it is required to be put in. Amendment No. 57 would alter subsection (2) to read:

“Where a constable who carries out a search to which this section applies finds a document that he has reasonable grounds for believing is one that may be seized, he may remove the document to another place for the purpose of ascertaining whether the document is one that may be seized and retain it there until the examination is completed.”

I find it difficult to see how the introduction of the notion of reasonable grounds would create problems for the police in such a setting. The police might go along to a house and find a document in Arabic which may be either an al-Qaeda wish list of the things they would wish the individual to do in this country or a bill for a restaurant in Peshawar. If the constable cannot himself read what the document says that must be reasonable grounds for believing that it is one that may be seized. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister would explain why the concept of reasonableness appears to have been taken out of the section.