JCHR Press Notice 03-04 No. 21

Session 2003-04                                        13 May 2004

Forthcoming Evidence Session

Counter-Terrorism Powers Review and
Evidence from the Director of Public Prosecutions

In February, the Home Secretary published a discussion paper on Counter-Terrorism Powers: Reconciling Security and Liberty in an Open Society (Cm 6147).

The Joint Committee on Human Rights intends to respond to this paper in a report which will be published before Parliament rises for the summer. The Committee commented on a number of the issues which are raised in the discussion paper in its Sixth Report of this Session, Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act: Statutory Review and Continuance of Part 4, House of Lords Paper 38/House of Commons Paper 381.

The inquiry will focus on potential alternatives to Part 4 of the 2001 Act (which makes provision for detention without trial of suspected international terrorists). It will be looking at some of the proposals of the Privy Counsellor Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Newton of Braintree, which published its report in December last year. In particular, that report considered the more effective use of the existing criminal law, the creation of new criminal offences, the potential use of intelligence intercept material in trials and the use of an inquisitorial judge system on the French model.

The JCHR will be considering these and other options for enabling security to be maintained in the UK without the need for continuing the derogation from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, currently made necessary by Part 4 of the 2001 Act.

The Committee will also be considering, from a human rights perspective, whether the current anti-terrorism laws are discriminatory in their application and, if so, what alternatives to them would be less so.

The Committee would welcome written submissions from any person or organisation on these matters. They should arrive by the 18 June. They should be addressed to  Paul Evans, Commons Clerk of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA.  Electronic submission is acceptable to meet the closing date, but a signed hard copy should also be sent. In any event, witnesses are asked wherever possible to accompany hard copy by an electronic version, preferably in Word  format.

Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed or circulated by the Committee at any stage.  You may publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee.  Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract Parliamentary privilege.

Public Evidence Session

As a first stage in this inquiry, the Committee will be taking evidence from the Director of Public Prosecutions on Wednesday 19 May on the problems of prosecuting terrorist offences.

The evidence session will also cover prosecutions in connection with deaths in state custody, in connection with the Committee's ongoing inquiry into this topic, and prosecution policy in relation to assaults on children by parents in view of the possible abolition of the defence of "reasonable chastisement", in connection with the Committee's current examination of the Children Bill in the light of its report last year on the UK's implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Tenth Report of Session 2002-03).

Details of this public evidence session are as follows:

DateWednesday 19 May 2004

Time:  4.30 pm

WitnessMr Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions

LocationCommittee Room 5

The above meeting  is  open to members of the public.  It is advisable to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security checks.  There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in Committee Rooms.  Members of the public enter Parliament via St Stephens entrance of the House of Commons.

Further public evidence sessions in relation to the review of counter-terrorism powers, deaths in custody and the Children Bill will be announced in due course.