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Clause 18

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 29th April 2008.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 5:15 pm, 29th April 2008

I am sorry if my presentation placed the Minister in difficulty. That was not my intention and I wanted to obtain clarification. As I explained, many of these amendments are probing amendments to enable the Committee to understand what we are being asked to nod through.

May I take the matter a stage further by going back to something that was raised earlier? The Minister will see that in subsection (2)(b) one reason for the  retention of material is the conduct of a prosecution. That raises some practical issues. Normally, DNA or fingerprint material that is used in a prosecution will have been obtained in a statutory standard form through the PACE rules in a police station. I can see that there may be cases in which DNA has also been lifted from the scene of a crime, and a police officer or one of the forensic officers can give evidence in court to say that that is what he did so that there is the match.

If I understand what the Government seek to do in this sharing of data, it is at least to provide for the possibility henceforth that material that has been acquired by the security and intelligence services could also potentially be used for that purpose. I do not think that it needs me to tell the Minister that that raises some potentially rather complicated issues in relation to public interest immunity, and presentation of evidence in court. Is the Minister in a position to comment—or does he wish to comment during the course of the Committee—whether it is likely that material that comes into this category could realistically be used without disclosing how or where it has been obtained because that might cause difficulty in the presentation of the prosecution case? It also raises another issue.

I may have this wrong, but by virtue of being placed in clause 18 in this fashion, it also comes squarely into the category of unused material. We dealt with that when we discussed intercept evidence, which hitherto has been excluded from any consideration in the court process. What will the consequences be if unused material comes into this category? It may also be subject to the public interest immunity and therefore excluded. I just wondered whether that had been thought through by the Government and the various agencies when they drew up the measure. It may be that it provides a very powerful tool for widening the scope of the sort of evidence that may be available to prosecutors. I am not against that. I wonder, however, whether it might have the unintended consequence of creating complications in relation to this material because the material might not readily be usable in court as unused material, thereby creating difficulties. I just wondered whether the Minister could help us on that point. That is the real issue behind the probing amendments.