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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 am mindful of the fact that I do not wish to complicate matters that do not need to be complicated. The Minister makes a perfectly valid point: the period provided for is short, so an appeal process to the Crown court might not be the right approach. However, if the Government are so certain that the substantial power in the clause will not cause loss to individuals, they should put it in the Bill that, if, when the documents are returned, somebody can demonstrate a loss, the Government will pay compensation and damages to those who have suffered it—I notice the permanent officials if not blanching, looking askance. However, we have had this before in criminal justice legislation.

I want to reconsider the whole architecture of the clause, which is why I intend to withdraw the amendment. It is important that the police have  the necessary powers to prevent terrorism through the seizure of such documents and that people do not have unreasonable rights to interfere and ask for documents to be returned, or even for photocopies to be made. However, the logical conclusion of interfering in such a private right is that provision ought to be made to pay compensation, in the extraordinary circumstance that the interference leads to a person suffering loss.

I normally accept that principle over resorting to litigation under the ECHR, which might otherwise be the solution. In a sense, the idea of putting in an appeal procedure was to avoid that. With a quick appeal procedure, someone could go to a judge and say, “Look, you have got this terribly wrong, and my interpreter can show to you immediately that this is what it is and that I need it by 12 o’clock today.” That would ensure that such problems do not occur. I accept that those circumstances are likely to be very unusual, but nevertheless history shows that unusual things happen. Having said that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.