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Clause 6

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 29th April 2008.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 12:30 pm, 29th April 2008

I beg to move amendment No. 59, in clause 6, page 5, line 5, at end insert—

‘( ) An appeal against any refusal of access to a document may be made to a judge of the crown court.’.

Although I have already touched on the lack of a system of appeal, it is right to highlight it. I fully accept that 96 hours is a short time and the Minister is right that, generally, it is difficult to think that anybody will be deeply inconvenienced by losing documents for that time. But is it right as a matter of principle that there should not be liberty to apply to the court? That is a powerful interference with private rights—for a good reason, but an interference nevertheless. If that right were to be abused or used frivolously, having a system by which an appeal could be raised seems sensible.

I specifically chose the Crown court rather than the High Court because the matter could probably be dealt with speedily there. That would not provide for an emergency application at a weekend, but on any weekday there would be Crown court judges around who could take a view as to what the problem was. That would also help to resolve the problem posed by somebody saying, “Actually, you have taken away the contract document that I require to conclude a contract on which I am going to make a profit of £50,000 and which I need for tomorrow morning. What are you going to do about it?” The danger that I perceive is that if such an event were to take place and the documents were retained, there would be fertile area for lawyers bringing claims for damages. It would be wise for the Government to put in a system for protecting themselves against that—I admit, remote—contingency. That is what the amendment is about.