Clause 40

Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 13th May 2008.

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Exclusion of Offences dealt with by Service Courts

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome

I can see what the clause says and can conceive of circumstances in which someone could be before a service court for an offence with a terrorist connection, particularly with the training of individuals or supply of armaments—the army rifle off the back of a lorry syndrome. I would be interested to know why it was felt necessary to have this specific exclusion.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office

Notification requirements would apply only to those convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offences, as the rest of the clauses make clear. It is not anticipated that a terrorism or terrorism-related offence would ever be dealt with exclusively by a service court because a terrorism-related case would be transferred to a civilian court, given its seriousness. Almost without reservation, I do not think there is any ambiguity there. As such, it is not necessary for these notification requirements to be made to work for offences dealt with by service courts, and so these are excluded from this part of the Bill. The clause defines service courts, in subsections (2) and (3), both in their present guise, and when the relevant provisions of the Armed Forces Act 2006—already passed—come into force. I think it is relatively straightforward. It was a perfectly reasonable question, but I beg to move that clause 40 stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have limited experience of service courts in Germany, and I think it is a question of jurisdiction here. I am not sure that a serviceman under a status of forces agreement in Germany who is then charged with an offence under this would either have a choice of being dealt with by a service court or being dealt with by a German court, and that is where the jurisdictional debate would lie. I am not entirely sure that there is the option then of bringing someone back to a civil court in the United Kingdom in those circumstances.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing), Home Office

The broad sweep of this terrorism legislation and others already on the books do make, as I understand it, for the jurisdiction issue of UK citizens to run nationally and internationally. I do not think that case would prevail. The broader point, about whether to be tried in a German or UK court for serious terrorism offences, does not tie in to the point the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made about service courts being excluded. There might be issues there but I do not think that is germane to the point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome

I am most grateful to the Minister. Of course I understand that, in almost all circumstances, a case of this kind would be transferred to a normal criminal jurisdiction. I just cannot entirely see why it is necessary to exclude a service court for the odd circumstance of perhaps late evidence in the progress of a trial in a service court, which has led to a suggestion of an aggravated offence by reason of connection with terrorism—why should the case then have to be abandoned in order to put it before an ordinary criminal court? I do not understand why the service court needs to be excluded, if the circumstances are such that it simply would not apply.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 40 ordered to stand part of the Bill.