Clause 50 - Entry and search of premises for human remains or material relating to human remains

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 27th May 2021.

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

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 51 stand part.

That schedule 6 be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Clause 52 stand part.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Very quickly, I just want to put on the record a point about clauses 50, 51 and 52, and schedule 6. Their background is, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said on Second Reading, the horrific case of Keith Bennett and the Moors murderers, which brought to light the need for new powers to search for material that may relate to the location of human remains.

In 2017, the police believed that they had a further lead to assist Keith’s family in finding his body, when it was discovered that Ian Brady had committed papers to secure storage before his death. However, the existing law would not allow the police to obtain a search warrant to seize the papers, because there was no prospect of them being used in criminal proceedings, as Brady was dead.

These new powers will build on the existing law and enable officers to seize material that may help them to locate human remains outside criminal proceedings. As well as cases such as Keith’s, where a homicide suspect has been identified but cannot be prosecuted, these powers could be useful for the police in missing persons cases, or suicides where there is no indication that criminal behaviour has taken place.

These are terrible circumstances that lead to the need for this law, but we very much hope that passing these measures will bring a small crumb of closure and comfort to the Bennett family and others.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office)

The Opposition support these clauses, for exactly the reasons the Minister has outlined. The case of Keith Bennett was incredibly awful. Today we saw the news about the ongoing search for remains in a Gloucester café. Mary Bastholm was 15 when she went missing in 1968. She is a suspected victim of Fred West. That search, for various legal reasons, was able to go ahead. Unfortunately, the police have today said that they have not found any human remains, so for Mary’s family the ordeal goes on, to try and get some kind of closure. However, for that family at least we were able to look for remains, but in the case of Keith Bennett the law did not allow the police to look. Therefore, it is absolutely right that we correct the law.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 50 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 51 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.