Extradition Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Hawkins: We are talking about only a small number of cases, which we discussed in the previous debate on clause 3. We believe that there should be senior judicial scrutiny and intervention, and so tabled amendments Nos. 18 and 19. We also tabled consequential amendments to a raft of other clauses, which I do not need to go through as they are all to the same effect. We hope that the Government will at least consider the amendment. We suspect that others might make a similar point in another place, as those with senior judicial experience may have views about the matter, and we believe that there may be several concerns about the way in which the powers are to be used by the ''appropriate'' judge. The appropriate person should be a High Court judge; I need say no more than that.

Mr. Carmichael: It falls to me again to make the picky Scottish point. A judge of the High Court is a very different thing in Scotland than he or she is south of the border. The High Court of Justiciary, as it is properly known, is usually referred to in criminal legislation as a court of criminal jurisdiction, whereas I am told that a High Court judge in England and Wales

Column Number: 77

is a civil court judge. In any event, my recollection from Second Reading, although I cannot lay my hands on the exact section, is that the hearings in Scotland are to be held before the sheriff of Lothian and Borders sitting in Edinburgh, who is not a judge of the High Court or indeed the High Court of Justiciary. The matters are complex, but I doubt it is necessary to take the time of one of the judges of the High Court of Justiciary of which there are only 22 or 23 in Scotland. While I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath point, I do not think it is helpful if these provisions are to be laid, as indeed they must be laid, as a piece of United Kingdom legislation.

Mr. Ainsworth: We have simplified the process and yet the Opposition want to elevate the matter, right from the start, to the High Court. They would even have a High Court judge deciding whether the person brought before them was the right one. It gets even more absurd. Currently about 30 per cent. of fugitives consent to their extradition. The Opposition amendments want to make it certain that they can do that only in front of a High Court judge, taking up High Court time even when there is no dispute.

The Bill makes it clear what the judge must consider before he consents to extradition. If the request falls foul of any of the bars to extradition, it must be refused. If the judge decides that there is a risk that the person's human rights could be breached, extradition must be refused. The criteria to be considered are clear and would be the same whether a High Court judge or district judge were considering them.

Terrorist crimes are obviously serious matters but district judges at Bow street magistrates court have dealt with them for a long time. I am confident that they will be able to continue to do so. Their decisions can be challenged in the High Court and, with permission, in the House of Lords.

As I said, there are flaws in the current extradition system but I do not believe that the seniority of the judges that deal with them is as big an issue or that there is any justification for the amendments. I ask the Committee to reject them.

Mr. Hawkins: I did not expect the Minister suddenly to agree to our proposals, but I remind him that we are talking about a new kind of procedure. The European arrest warrant is a major departure. We are talking about a small number of requests each year. It seems appropriate, particularly when some of the problems of extradition cases have taken up the time of the superior courts—we talked this morning about the Pinochet case having to go up to the House of Lords not once but twice—and when we are talking about a massive extension in the law and erosion of our civil liberties, that a High Court judge should consider these matters.

I accept entirely the strictures of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland about Scotland, but it would be difficult for me to draft detailed amendments about the difference between the High Court and the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland because I do not have the knowledge. I am glad that there is something called a High Court judge who would be one of 26 or 27 who could consider this. Given that we would be talking

Column Number: 78

about criminal cases, perhaps it would be appropriate for a High Court of Justiciary criminal judge to consider them north of the border.

Because of the seriousness of the proposed extension of the powers, we felt it important to provide that a High Court judge should examine these cases. We remain of that view and I want to put the matter to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 11.

Division No. 10]

Hawkins, Mr. Nick Maples, Mr. John
Watkinson, Angela

Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Burnett, Mr. John Campbell, Mr. Alan Carmichael, Mr. Alistair Crausby, Mr. David Harris, Mr. Tom
Howarth, Mr. George Hughes, Mr. Kevin Stoate, Dr. Howard Twigg, Derek Wills, Mr. Michael

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Provisional arrest

Question proposed, That clause 5 stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Hawkins: I want to make only a brief comment about a concern that we share with others, including Leolin Price QC. Clause 5 provides for an arrest even when a European arrest warrant has not been issued. Like Leolin Price, we question why there should be a power to arrest because the arresting person ''has reason to believe'' that an arrest warrant ''has been or will be'' issued in another member state. The phrase ''or will be'' causes particular mischief because it is extraordinary that such draconian powers should be based on an arresting person's belief, however reasonable, of something that does not exist. The person exposed to arrest in such circumstances will not be able to judge whether the arresting person has reason to believe, and the arresting person will be unable to inform the arrested person of the European arrest warrant or its contents because there will not be one. As we said earlier, article 11 of the framework decision clearly refers to all the circumstances of the warrant being set out to the arrested person. Clearly, that cannot happen if an arrest warrant does not exist.

Once again, the proposal seems to be a massive and unjustified extension of the powers of the state. As Leolin Price puts it, it is

    ''an astonishingly novel procedure: arrest for deportation, without ordinary extradition protections, for investigation and trial of an alleged offence in a foreign country under an alien and unfamiliar system of law. Clause 5 can properly be categorised as outrageous.''

The Conservatives say, ''Hear, hear'' to that. It is absolutely outrageous. I had thought about tabling amendments to delete the words ''or will be'', but clause 5 is such an anathema as it is drafted that our only sensible course of action is to vote against it.

Column Number: 79

Mr. Carmichael: The Liberal Democrats take exactly the same view, and I thoroughly resist any suggestion that we just did not get round to drafting an amendment. We must regard the clause in the full context of what has preceded it. It is difficult to imagine circumstances in which a constable or appropriate person might be aware that someone in another jurisdiction was going to issue an arrest warrant. What would happen if that person were arrested but, for whatever reason, the warrant was subsequently not issued or it was found out that it had not been appropriate for the warrant to be certified? As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath said, the clause goes too far, and I adopt his outrage without reservation.

4 pm

Mr. Ainsworth: Would it be in order for me to ask whether the Leo Price who has been continually quoted is the same Leo Price who is trying to raise money to challenge the legality of our membership of the European Union? How much has he managed to raise, and how much has the hon. Member for Surrey Heath contributed to his campaign? I feel certain, having listened to the extensive quotations, that it is the same person.

Provisional arrest is needed in some circumstances, and I do not think that they are difficult to imagine. They are provided for in the Extradition Act 1989—introduced when the party of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath was in power—and the circumstances are straightforward. I will not use a terrorist as an example, because it seems that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath does not mind what we do to terrorists. Let us say that a mass murderer jumps on an aeroplane and is heading for Heathrow, and that the aeroplane will arrive before the warrant. The hon. Gentleman is effectively suggesting that that person should go free, that a mass murderer should be allowed to walk around the streets of Britain. That is nonsense, and is a departure from our current extradition arrangements. He should be ashamed of himself for raising it.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 4.

Division No. 11]

Ainsworth, Mr. Bob Campbell, Mr. Alan Crausby, Mr. David Harris, Mr. Tom Howarth, Mr. George
Hughes, Mr. Kevin Stoate, Dr. Howard Twigg, Derek Wills, Mr. Michael

Burnett, Mr. John Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Hawkins, Mr. Nick Watkinson, Angela

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Person arrested under section 5

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

Column Number: 80

Mr. Hawkins: I do not wish to spend much time discussing this clause. However, some external organisations have suggested that the required period should be shorter than 48 hours, thus exerting more pressure in the exceptional circumstances of clause 5, which we have already said goes too far. Section 6 rows back to some extent in that it provides a degree of protection.

I did not believe it necessary to table a separate amendment seeking to shorten the period, given that we were objecting to the whole of clause 5 on principle, but I wanted to raise the point in the stand part debate on clause 6 to elicit the Minister's response.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 9 January 2003