Extradition Bill

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Mr. Hawkins: As usual, the Minister is being reasonable in undertaking to re-examine the various formulations, including that of Justice, which might avoid at least one of the difficulties to which he referred. I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to reflect further with his advisers on this serious matter, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Burnett: I beg to move amendment No. 134, in

    clause 8, page 4, line 38, at end insert—

    '(5A) Where an application is made to extend time limits under subsection 5, the judge must hear representations from all parties before reaching a decision.'.

The Chairman: With this we may take amendment No. 135, in

    clause 8, page 4, line 40, at end insert—

    '(6A) Any decision to extend time limits taken under subsections 5 and 6 must be subject to review.'.

Mr. Burnett: I do not need to dwell too long on these amendments, which are also based on the advice of Justice. They are designed to import an element of fairness and even-handedness into the Bill. During the past half hour, my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland and I have been impressed with the tenor of the Minister's arguments. I hope that he will understand that the amendments are all about ensuring that justice is properly done.

The clause allows an unfettered discretion to extend time limits at the request of one of the parties without any need for representations from the other party and without any possibility of judicial review. Justice and the Liberal Democrats agree—I hope that

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Conservative Members will join us—that the right to make representations is crucial when any decision affecting a person's right to liberty is at stake. Extensions of time limits should be inter partes and decisions should be subject to review. When individuals stand in jeopardy of losing their liberty, time limits are crucial, and it is only fair that if the state has made recommendations, the individual should be able to make them and be party to the proceedings.

In addition, we want to engraft a further protection of the right to judicial review. I hope that we can win the Minister over—he is in a fair frame of mind—on these two important amendments.

Mr. Hawkins: I need say no more than that we agree entirely, as he anticipated, with the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon.

Mr. Carmichael: Can the Minister confirm—today or later—that, as we are dealing with summary proceedings, or something very close to them, a person remanded under these proceedings in Scotland will be subject to the 40-day time limit that is in force for summary complaints in Scotland.

Mr. Ainsworth: The judge is required to set a date within 21 days of arrest for the extradition hearing to start. However, in exceptional circumstances and at the request of either side, he may set a later date. Amendment No. 134 would require the judge to hear arguments from both sides when deciding whether to set a later date. However, that is already standard practice in all judicial processes, and a judge would not be prepared to listen to an exceptional plea for an extension without giving the other side the opportunity to question whether that was necessary. Were that not the case, I would possibly side with the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon to say that the amendment were necessary, as the whole point of the Extradition Bill is to speed up our extradition processes. We do not want unnecessary delays, but it is standard practice that when such requests are made, the judge asks the other side to comment on the proposal.

Amendment No. 135, on the other hand, would require that such a decision should be subject to review. It would not be optional, so if even a short delay were agreed, the decision would have to be reviewed. I hope that the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon accepts that that is a matter for the discretion of the judge presiding over the case. Exceptional circumstances will have to be presented to him in deciding whether to extend the deadline and what extension would be reasonable. He will grant only extensions that he considers reasonable and will review those decisions if he thinks that it is sensible to do so. It is far better to leave it in that setting than to provide that there must be a review.

Mr. Burnett: I will not argue the toss with the Minister on the detailed drafting of amendment No. 135. However, will he put it on the record that he believes that a right of judicial review will exist in the circumstances outlined in amendment No. 135? Will he confirm not that a judicial review must happen, but

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that the right to it is available should either party want it?

Mr. Ainsworth: There is a right to a judicial review of a judge's decision. Time limits exist and may be extended in exceptional circumstances. The case for that would have to be made to a judge, who would then decide whether the case was reasonable, having given the other side the opportunity to suggest that it was not. Automatic judicial review is neither necessary nor appropriate.

I will have to write to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland on his point.

Mr. Burnett: Initially, I shall refer only to amendment No. 134. I understand that Minister's comment, which seems to be to the effect that the amendment is otiose because in accordance with the principles of natural justice, both parties must have a right to be heard. I hope that I understand the Minister correctly—is he nodding?

Mr. Ainsworth: Yes. My argument is that the amendment is otiose. Consulting both sides is standard practice and will continue to be so.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) rose—

Mr. Burnett: I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman as well.

Mr. Maples: One aspect of the amendment troubles me. There are occasional emergencies in court cases where it is necessary for one party to make an ex parte application. The judge should be able to adjourn a hearing at the instigation of one party where it has not been possible and there has not been time to serve a notice on the other party, which would be necessary if both were to be heard. Obviously, the judge would want to hear both parties before he made a final decision. However, there is a danger that the amendment would make such ex parte applications impossible in emergencies. That might be to the detriment of the person whose extradition was being sought, because he or she might be the one to be seeking to make an ex parte application.

Mr. Burnett: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. All that I require from the Minister is confirmation that both parties are aware and have a right to make representations before the judge draws a final conclusion.

On amendment No. 135 and the issue of review, will the Minister confirm that there will at least be a right of appeal if a point of law is at issue?

Mr. Ainsworth: In exceptional circumstances, there is a right of appeal against a decision to extend the time limit. These are standard practices, which are best left to the judge. Except in exceptional circumstances, the time limit of 21 days should be adhered to. Either side is entitled to argue that it needs an extension. It is for the judge to satisfy himself that justice is being done and that there is adequate opportunity to listen to arguments against that extension. That is standard practice, and we should have confidence in it. We should not try to stipulate that there should, or should not be, a judicial review. It is beyond my comprehension how we can have an appeal against

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the decision to have a short extension to the time limit. I do not see how that would work.

Mr. Burnett: I would be grateful if the Minister would deal with our point about amendment No. 134 and make his views on equality of representation absolutely clear.

Mr. Ainsworth: I have said what I have said.

Mr. Burnett: In that case, I do not believe that the Minister has said that it is standard practice and that a decision cannot be made without both parties having had the opportunity to make representations. On that basis, and on the basis of the Minister's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 9 and 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11

Bars to extradition

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 151, in

    clause 11, page 5, line 39, at end insert '.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 152, in

    clause 11, page 6, line 2, at end insert ';

    (i) the legal interpretation of the territory in which the offences were committed'.

New clause 1—Passage of time—

    'A person's extradition to a Category 1 territory is barred by reason of the passage of time if it appears it would be unjust or oppressive or not proportional in all the circumstances to extradite him by reason of the passage of time since he is alleged to have committed the extradition offence or since he is alleged to have become unlawfully at large (as the case may be).'

New clause 2—Territorial bar—

    'A person's extradition to a Category 1 territory is barred where the warrant relates to offences which—

    (a) are regarded by the law of the relevant part of the UK as having been committed in whole or in part in the territory of the UK or in a place treated as such; or

    (b) have been committed outside the territory of the Category 1 territory and the law of the relevant part of the UK does not allow prosecution for the same offences when committed outside its territory.'

4.45 pm

Mr. Hawkins: This is simply a paving amendment to bring new clause 1 into order with this clause. It seeks to provide a safety net. Outside organisations have rightly drawn attention to the fact that the Bill does not give ultimate protection of the subject, even in a case in which extradition would be considered unjust or oppressive. New clause 1 proposes that a person's extradition to a category 1 territory should be

    ''barred by reason of the passage of time if it appears that it would be unjust or oppressive or not proportional in all the circumstances to extradite him by reason of the passage of time since he is alleged to have committed the extradition offence or since he is alleged to have become unlawfully at large.''

I will listen with interest to what the Minister has to say about that. I hope that he will concede that there should be some ultimate underpinning of the wide-ranging new powers so that there could be an argument about injustice or oppression because of

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the lapse of a huge length of time. That is particularly important because some of the offences mentioned in part 1 are very vague.

If we were discussing terrorism or the most serious sorts of crime and only those crimes were covered by part 1—we believe that part 1 provisions are appropriate only to terrorist offences—the situation might be different. We are, however, discussing a wide range of offences, some of which are not known to English law, and it therefore seems to us that there should be an ultimate safeguard.

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