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Legal Advice And Assistance (Scope) (Amendment) Regulations 2001
23 January 2001
Volume 621

7.41 p.m.

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rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 11th December be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these regulations will extend the assistance by way of representation scheme to cover applications to a judicial authority for an extension of detention under the Terrorism Act 2000. The Government are making this change to the scheme in order to ensure that appropriate representation is available to detained individuals when these applications are heard.

Before explaining the amendments in a little more detail, I should first give some background on the procedure to which they relate. A person suspected to be a terrorist may be arrested and held for up to 48 hours by the police under powers contained in the Terrorism Act. During this time the detained person is entitled to consult a solicitor for advice at any time unless a senior police officer authorises a delay in such a consultation. Where permission is given to consult a solicitor, help will be available under the existing police station duty solicitor scheme for the detained person to consult either a quality assured solicitor of his or her own choice or the solicitor on duty at the time. Such help is available without reference to the means of the detained person. I should make it clear that free legal advice in these circumstances is provided under the arrangements as they exist now without the need for any amendment to the scheme.

Where the police wish to extend the period of detention of a terrorist suspect an application must be made to a judicial authority for a warrant of further detention. In England and Wales the application will be made to the senior district judge, or chief magistrate or her deputy, or any other district judge (magistrates' courts) designated for the purpose by the Lord Chancellor. Such a warrant, or an extension of it, will authorise further detention for a specified period of time not exceeding seven days.

This is a new procedure and so we have looked carefully at the form of legal help that should be provided. The hearings for an extension of detention under the Terrorism Act may well take place at very short notice and so it will be essential that help is available without any avoidable delay. For these cases we are therefore proposing that a solicitor will be able to give assistance by way of representation without the need for approval by the Legal Services Commission, or anyone else, and without the need to assess the detained person's means. This means that in these particular circumstances a solicitor acting for the detained person will be able to provide advice and representation straightaway.

This form of help is already available to a person in connection with an application to a magistrates' court for a warrant of further detention under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The new regulations effectively extend these current arrangements so that they will also cover applications to a judicial authority under the Terrorism Act. The regulations are compatible with the rights conferred by the European Convention on Human Rights. I commend this instrument to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 11th December be approved [ 2nd Report from the Joint Committee].—( Lord Bach.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.