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Clause 1

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 29th April 2008.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office 11:00 am, 29th April 2008

Because it relies on the word “reasonable”. Hon. Members can work this out for themselves. It is not in all circumstances reasonable to say that because the constable cannot ascertain the contents of a document for whatever reason—different language, runes, hieroglyphics or whatever—by definition it must be reasonable to seize that document lawfully. It could be an “Encyclopaedia Britannica”, but in Arabic or French rather than English. That is not meant to demean our officers: they do a splendid job, but are not multilingual.

All that this set of clauses does is set parameters within the rule of law that state that the police should be afforded at least some time—in this case, 48 hours, but that can potentially be extended to 96 hours—to explore lawfully whether there is anything in the  content that might give them reasonable suspicion to seize it, and then they will keep it. If that is not the case, it should quite rightly go back. I will resist the amendment, but it has been a useful exploration of the thrust and substance behind the clause.