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9 Dec 2002 : Column 49—continued

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I believe that clause 78 in part 2 deals with double jeopardy. The Government are about to change the law on it in this country. Will the Extradition Bill match the Criminal Justice Bill, or will the Government produce two conflicting measures on double jeopardy?

Mr. Denham: The hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point, which I was about to tackle. He is

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right that we will need to match the relevant provisions of both Bills so that they make coherent sense. Although the Extradition Bill simply provides that no one will be extradited if double jeopardy comes into play, as the measure progresses through Parliament, we will try to provide for the possibility of extraditing somebody from a country that took the approach that we hope to effect in the Criminal Justice Bill.

In other words, if another country had a judicial process that was akin to the ability that we propose for the Court of Appeal to set aside an existing judgment and thus enable a case to be retried, extradition could be allowed from this country. Our ability to extradite someone who, in a classic case, had been identified through DNA evidence, from another country would depend on its domestic law. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point, because this is not what the legislation says, as it stands, and nor is it quite what the Criminal Justice Bill says. It will be important that both pieces of legislation are worked together as we go through them. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for ensuring that we did not go past this point in the debate without my having the opportunity to say that.

Mr. Garnier: I am always grateful for flattery, from whichever quarter it comes, but the House is entitled to know which is the lead Bill. Is it the Extradition Bill or the Criminal Justice Bill? Both cannot be discussed at once on the Floor of the House, and both may yet get Royal Assent on the same day. It is important for the public, as well as for practitioners and for potential victims—if I can use that expression—of either Bill, to understand precisely how the Government are going to order their priorities. That is wholly unclear at the moment.

Mr. Denham: We will need to keep discussions open on the way in which this is to be dealt with, through the usual channels. To some degree, that will depend on the rate of progress of Bills through this place. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point, and I do not dismiss it out of hand. I hope that he will accept my assurance that we recognise the validity and importance of the issue that he has raised, and the need to be as clear as we can with those outside—as well as with right hon. and hon. Members and Members of another place—about how we intend to mesh the two Bills carefully together.

I want to say a little more about part 2. I should make the point that a district judge will be explicitly required to consider whether extradition would be compatible with a fugitive's rights under the European convention on human rights. I am sure that there will be further discussion on this, but article 6.2 of the convention states that:

That relates to a point that was raised a few moments ago.

In addition, most countries in part 2 will, as now, continue to have to provide prima facie evidence to accompany their extradition requests. However, as I have already explained, under current arrangements the non-EU members of the Council of Europe do not have

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to provide prima facie evidence, and that will remain the case. The Government believe that there is a case, as we said in the March 2001 consultation paper, for removing the prima facie requirement from certain key Commonwealth and bilateral partners. We have not sought prima facie evidence from European countries for more than a decade, so why should countries such as Australia and Canada continue to be subject to that requirement? For countries of that kind, questions of guilt or innocence should be matters for the court of trial in the requesting country. The Bill therefore allows for orders to be made removing the prima facie requirement from certain part 2 countries. The Bill also enables a strict timetable for part 2 cases to be put in place. Notwithstanding the significant safeguards for fugitives that will exist, we believe that it should generally take no more than six months for one of these cases to be completed, which will represent a significant speeding up of the process.

Part 3 deals with outgoing extradition requests. Our existing legislation is largely silent on this issue, and we have relied mainly on the use of the royal prerogative. The Bill sets out who will be able to apply for European arrest warrants in this country, how, and for what offences. Part 4 sets out the powers available to the police in extradition cases. It had always been assumed that the powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 applied in extradition cases, but a legal ruling in a particular case cast doubt on that. We are therefore taking the opportunity to bring a measure of certainty to the matter. Let me stress that the powers that the Bill creates are closely modelled on those in PACE. Finally, Part 5 covers miscellaneous and general matters. The Bill runs to some 208 clauses. Its length reflects the consultation earlier this year, as well as the decisions to include provisions on outgoing requests and police powers, and to make the law as accessible and clear as possible.

The case for reform of our extradition laws is clear. There is no other area of law in which people can raise the same, often spurious, points, time and again, simply as a means of delaying proceedings. The Bill will modernise our extradition procedures, while retaining the important and necessary safeguards for those who are the subject of an extradition request.

Organised and international crime is, as my hon. Friends have said, a sad feature of life in the 21st century. We need an extradition system that enables us to meet that challenge. The Bill will provide that and I commend—

Lady Hermon (North Down): I am grateful to the Minister for giving way so close to the conclusion of his remarks. Will he confirm that those Irish citizens who have committed acts of terrorism, which is a conduct listed in the relevant provisions, and who have gone on the run to the Republic of Ireland, will now be extradited?

Mr. Denham: The hon. Lady intervened during the last sentence of what I admit was a rather low-key peroration, but a peroration none the less. There is certainly nothing in the Bill to put any obstacles in the way of extradition. As I said earlier when detailing the history of the Bill, it long predates the many new

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terrorism measures introduced after 11 September. However, the hon. Lady is quite right to say that terrorist offences are covered by it.

I commend the Bill to the House.

5.11 pm

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): I begin by sending—on behalf of the whole House, I am sure—our best wishes to the Home Secretary for his speedy recovery.

The bulk—by volume, as opposed to importance—of the Bill is not highly contentious. Parts 2, 3 and 5 will no doubt repay attention in Committee but do not involve vast matters of principle. Part 4 contains some worrying elements—for example, clause 160(3)(b), which, if I understand it correctly, allows the police to search premises if they have Xreason to believe" that a warrant will in due course be issued in some other country. That does not fill me with enthusiasm. We will have to look closely at part 4 and the powers contained therein, but by and large I do not think that it contains matters that need detain us long—they did not detain the Minister during his opening remarks.

Part 1 is a wholly different matter. There are four problems with this part, which deals with the European arrest warrant. The first problem is that the part does not say what the Minister says it means. The second problem is that what the Minister says part 1 means is not acceptable. The third problem is that we do not need part 1 in any event, because part 2 would do the trick perfectly well. The fourth problem is that the only reason for having part 1 is a reason that we do not accept. Other than that, there are no objections to part 1. [Laughter.]

Let me explore the first of those four objections—that the part does not say what the Minister says it means—and give some examples. In clause 2(3)(a), the definition of the scope of the warrant is given. We are told that the arrest warrant must contain a statement that

The Minister told us that that is meant to mean that the offence itself must be committed in the territory in which the warrant has been issued. I believe that that is what the Minister means it to mean, but the English language has a stubborn habit of carrying its own meanings, and the words printed do not mean what the Minister says. The words printed mean that the person in respect of whom the warrant is issued has to have been accused in that territory of the commission of an offence; the offence may actually, within the meaning of subsection (3)(a), have been committed in this country or some other country.

Let me give a second example. The Minister told us that there was no intention whatever of allowing anyone other than an English law enforcement officer, however defined—I accept that it might be an officer of Customs and Excise rather than the police—to execute the warrant. Clause 3(3), however, defines an Xappropriate person" who may be allowed by the Secretary of State to make an arrest by means of the warrant dealt with in subsection (2) as

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In other words, the Bill does not mean what the Minister wants it to mean. It means that the Minister can decide that absolutely anybody is an appropriate person, including a policeman from a different jurisdiction.

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