Extradition Bill

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Mr. Carmichael: I apologise to the Committee for having thrown a red herring into the debate on the previous group of amendments. It was my fault that we started talking about the deletion of subsection (2)(c). The benefit is that it allows me to ask the Committee to disregard anything that I said previously.

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I cannot see the need for this provision because it does not leave the arresting officer in any different position. If it did not exist, a European arrest warrant could be exercised and executed in the same way as any other arrest warrant. Why is it necessary to have express provision if the document need not be in the possession of the arresting officer or the person executing the warrant? I do not understand. The Minister will say that greater clarity could have been achieved, if it was needed, by providing that the warrant would be subject to the same law as governs the execution of any other warrant in any jurisdiction in the United Kingdom. I do not see what has been achieved.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Surrey Heath's comment that the only reason the person making the arrest would not have a warrant on them would be incompetence. In my experience, warrants of arrest are often executed when a person comes to the attention of the police or, as it will apparently be, the appropriate person in relation to another matter, which might be something as trivial as a speeding or other traffic offence. At that point, it is routine for the police officer on the beat to radio the station to say, for example, ''We have someone who says that he is Alexander Morrison Carmichael, date of birth 15 July 1965. Can you tell us whether there are any warrants outstanding for his arrest?'' As I am a Liberal, I have no convictions, so it should not be a problem. That was a wee bit subtle, so I will try not to do that again.

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart): Does the hon. Gentleman mean that he is only 37?

Mr. Carmichael: Yes, I am 37.

Mr. Ainsworth: I was going to say that I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman is so young.

Mr. Carmichael: I am touched, although I have now completely lost the thread of what I was saying.

In the circumstances outlined by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, every constable in the Northern constabulary would have to carry round six pages of A4 per European arrest warrant. That would surely cause difficulty as more and more arrest warrants are issued. I do not understand why European arrest warrants should be in a different category from arrest warrants issued by a British court, and I do not see why they need an express provision either.

Mr. Harris: Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me about the comments of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath on the tradition in England, Wales and Scotland of an individual being able to demand an arrest warrant before giving him or herself up to the police? Is it not true that the police have always been able to arrest someone whether or not they have a warrant for their arrest? Although that is not specific to the European arrest warrant, the tradition is not set in stone that the police need to carry an arrest warrant or have one issued before someone is arrested.

Mr. Carmichael: Yes, I agree up to a point. The power of arrest without warrant is old, but there are other requirements. There has to be a reasonable suspicion or belief on the behalf of the arresting constable that the individual has committed a crime.

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The basis of an arrest on warrant has to be that the constable or appropriate person has reasonable cause to believe that a warrant is in existence for that person. That is normally done by the constable radioing back to the station and being told that a warrant is held in the Scottish Criminal Record Office or the English version of it. Once the person is taken back to the police station, they can be shown the warrant then. I do not see why a European arrest warrant should come under a different system.

Mr. Burnett: I should like the Minister to elaborate a little further about how he sees the arrest proceeding. It would also be interesting to hear what legal advice would be available to a person, when it would be available, what duty there is on the state to provide that legal advice, and when the state—

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman's point relates to a separate group of amendments. He will be able to make his points when we reach those amendments.

Mr. Burnett: Thank you, Miss Begg. I asked those questions because they touch on amendment No. 17. An ordinary layperson who is arrested might be ignorant and not alive to the fact that he should see a copy of the warrant. Once he seeks and obtains legal advice he will be probably be advised to get a copy of it.

Mr. Hawkins: I am slightly puzzled because I expected that the hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland would be discussing their amendment No. 129 with amendment No. 130.

Mr. Burnett: I am coming to that.

Mr. Hawkins: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman will be discussing that. I was about to indicate that although it is their amendment, we support it, because we know that it has been put forward by Justice.

Mr. Burnett: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath for his support. Amendment No. 129 is self-explanatory. It would require that when the warrant is produced—I look forward to hearing from the Minister on the matter of legal advice, for the reasons that I have just given—it should be intelligible to the individual concerned, and not just to the legal adviser. Amendment No. 130 would require that the warrant should be made available as soon as practicable not after the individual's request, but after his arrest.

Our views on amendment No. 17 will be conditional on the response we receive from the Minister on the matter of legal advice, and in some respects amendment No. 130 marries up in part with amendment No. 17.

I look forward to hearing from the Minister about the immediacy of the legal advice and his comments on the fact that the warrant must be intelligible to the person arrested, in a language that the arrested person can understand, and that the warrant must be presented to him as soon as practicable after his arrest.

Mr. Ainsworth: In many cases, where a warrant has been issued and communicated to the British authorities and the person's whereabouts are known,

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someone will go out, armed with that warrant, and the person will be shown the warrant at the point of arrest. However, Opposition Members must understand that, as in domestic legislation, there will be circumstances in which police officers will come across people in the normal course of their duties, and will have reasons to phone through to check their whereabouts or the bona fides of the individual concerned because of some other incident that has arisen. While carrying out those checks, they may come across the existence of a domestic warrant and, via the police national computer, the existence of a European arrest warrant.

To ask that every police constable throughout the United Kingdom should carry every European arrest warrant with him at all times is nonsensical. If that is not what is being suggested, effectively we are saying that people who have been accused of serious international crime will be allowed to go free and to disappear. I hope that there is no one in the Committee who would support that. There is little else that needs to be said about the amendment, because that is the effect that it would have.

I am aware that, with regard to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland about whether we could say that this procedure should mirror domestic legislation, I am arguing what I argued earlier the other way around. For the purposes of clarity, the Bill spells out the procedures, and the procedures mirror the domestic arrangements. He says that we should refer to the domestic provisions, and I argue that things are a lot clearer this way round. I am aware of what I said in an earlier debate, but the hon. Gentleman has reversed his position too. The policy is clear and it is clearly drafted. The circumstances are exactly the same. The procedures are sensible, logical and easy to understand. We are following the same procedures with regard to domestic warrants and it is reasonable to act in that way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment, because it is nonsensical and detracts from our ability to tackle crime.

3.30 pm

I turn now to the proposed amendments to clause 4 and the identical amendments to part 2. There is a requirement that a person be shown the warrant if he so requests as soon as possible after his arrest. We must bear in mind that that does not apply where he was shown the warrant at the time of his arrest. If having not seen the warrant on arrest and having been denied the right to see it after requesting it, the person would be entitled to be released. Amendments Nos. 17, 92, 130, 155 and 156 would place the onus of responsibility on the police to show the person the warrant, rather than the person having to ask to see it. That would be a departure from the current arrangements. We do not want extradition practice to be out of line with domestic provision, not least because any inadvertent failure to show the person the warrant would inevitably lead to his discharge.

Mr. Burnett: As the Minister will know, there are few extradition cases every year. They are extremely sensitive and I should have thought that both

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amendments Nos. 129 and 130 are only fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

Mr. Ainsworth: Let me move on to amendment Nos. 129 and 156, which go even further. They require the warrant, when it is shown to the person, to be in a language that he understands. The person would be entitled to legal counsel and, if necessary, to legal aid. He would have access to an interpreter if one were required by virtue of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Under the amendment, it would be fine to show a person an incomprehensible warrant at the time of arrest, but if it were not available at that time, it would have to be translated word for word before it could be shown to him. That could cause a delay. It could prevent the warrant from being shown to him as soon as possible. Surely it would be in the interests of the individual that the warrant was shown to his legal counsel so that they could examine it, even in the unlikely event of there being some delay in translation.

Let us take an extreme, but not impossible, example. If the details of the person were known in full apart from the language that he spoke, it could take a long time before he could be shown the warrant. The framework decision provides that European arrest warrants sent to the United Kingdom must be in English. Why not show the document to him in English, which will at least help his lawyer if the individual does not understand it, and provide interpretation if necessary? That would allow things to proceed in a sensible way. Furthermore, it is clear from the decisions required of the judge at the initial hearing and the extradition hearing that he would need to have a copy of the warrant before him to take any decision.

The framework mirrors domestic arrangements as closely as possible and ensures that people understand exactly what the warrant contains by virtue of the provision of interpretation and legal advice and aid. There is also a requirement on the judge to check that that situation is acceptable before the matter reaches court.

I think that we have covered the situation. I do not believe that there is any danger along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath and I do not accept that we are entering a police state. If we are, we are already there and have been there for some time, because we gave constables powers of arrest without the immediate production of a warrant a very long time ago.

 
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