Extradition Bill

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Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): Does the hon. Gentleman have first-hand personal experience of those cases, or is he just quoting an outside

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organisation? I would like to be clear about where he is coming from.

10.15 am

Mr. Burnett: I think and hope that I made it clear that I was not citing personal experience. I referred to Fair Trials Abroad, which is a unique organisation that is concerned with the rights of European Union citizens in the process of the administration of justice abroad. I have not taken part in such cases: my specialisation as a lawyer was tax, commercial and corporate matters. I have never been involved in extradition matters. I thought that I had made that clear, but I make it clear again. I am citing the experience of what is held to be an exceptional organisation. It refers to a case in Belgium. If the Minister requires me to cite the name of the case, the date and in which court it was held—

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): The citation.

Mr. Burnett: Yes, the citation. I would be happy to provide the Minister with that information.

I also offer example from France—again from Fair Trials Abroad. A ship docks with more than 20 crew on board and a small consignment of cocaine in a ventilation shaft. A crewman confesses that he was responsible, and he is held with one other member of the crew. In due course, the pair of them are convicted. On appeal, the second man is acquitted with the observation that there was never any evidence against him. He was the only black aboard. In that case, justice was eventually done.

Another important case from Spain was also cited by Fair Trials Abroad. A British tourist was convicted of one of a series of armed robberies. He was not in the country when the other robberies were committed, and the sole Spanish witness against him was adamant that the robber spoke Spanish as a mother tongue. The tourist spoke no Spanish. All six Britons who testified in the tourist's favour were cross-examined by the bench in a xenophobic manner, and that poor man's appeal failed.

I am not suggesting that those cases are examples of the general rule of justice in those countries, but I am saying that justice can break down in such nations, and that we must ensure that there are some safeguards for the British citizen, or for the person in this country whom another country seeks to extradite.

In the cases that I have mentioned—and for the reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon—where a democratically elected Government Minister acts in good faith with the support of Parliament and the authority of the state, there should be a discretion on the part of the Secretary of State to refuse extradition. In our view, there should be wider discretion, and that discretion should be incorporated in the Bill.

Mr. George Howarth (Aldershot): I had not intended to speak on clause 193 or on the new clauses that are listed, but having listened to the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett), I feel compelled to speak because the third case that he quoted from the briefing that I presume he received

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from Fair Trials Abroad is the case of Kevan Sloan, who is a constituent of mine.

In my view, Kevan Sloan was wrongfully convicted. He was arrested, charged, tried and convicted in Tenerife. At the time, although he was a tourist, he was visiting his mother, who is resident there. All the facts that the hon. Gentleman quoted are correct. Fair Trials Abroad is an excellent organisation—it has been trying to establish that the proceedings relating to Kevan Sloan were unfair.

I initiated a debate about the case in Westminster Hall last October, I have met with Kevan's parents and the Foreign Secretary has raised the matter with the Spanish authorities. Last week, his mother and father and some supporters presented a letter to the Spanish embassy in London, and his lawyers in Tenerife have made a deportation application. Kevan intends, ultimately, to take the matter to the constitutional courts in Madrid. I believe that he is innocent, and he intends to establish that. Kevan Sloan was arrested, charged, convicted and is now serving a sentence on what in my view is an unsafe decision of the court. He never came to this country. The whole process has taken place in Tenerife.

The cases that the hon. Gentleman quoted were not cases in which people managed to get to this country and were then subject to extradition application from the country in which the crime was allegedly committed—

Mr. Burnett: The object of citing those cases was to refer to the fact that there have to be minimum standards of justice in order for us to allow the fast-track procedure relating to category 1 countries to apply.

Mr. Howarth: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. I was merely saying that some cases—certainly the case that he cites—were never the subject of extradition applications because the whole process has taken place abroad. I am coming to his general point. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon made a similar point some sittings ago. I believe that Kevan Sloan is innocent, that he should never have been convicted, and that the legal proceedings on which he was convicted were flawed. To that extent, I go along entirely with the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon and others.

However, we live in the 21st century. I do not want to quote it at any length, but does anyone remember from O-level history the Don Pacifico case in which Palmerston, as Foreign Secretary, was involved? In those days, as an imperial power, if we did not like the legal proceedings in another country, we felt quite at liberty to exercise all our imperial might and to defend the rights of British citizens abroad, sometimes with gun boats. Even at the time of the Don Pacifico affair, other members of the Government of the day were a little unhappy about the lengths to which Palmerston went. Surely, hon. Members of today's official Opposition and Liberal Democrats are not arguing that it is up to us in every case to make judgments about the proper legal proceedings.

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When the hon. Gentleman and I had an exchange a few sittings ago, I made the point that while we might not like the legal proceedings in another European country—Spain has been quoted repeatedly—we accept that if somebody has been tried and convicted, there is nothing that this country can do, apart from making representations through our consular services. I wish that we could do more in the case of Kevan Sloan. The hon. Gentleman accepted the point that, if somebody is apprehended, charged, tried and convicted, they should serve their sentence. That principle is correct, even if I do not like the legal system in another European country. Once one accepts that principle, one must therefore accept that there ought to be reasonable grounds on which extradition can take place. The arguments of Opposition Members seem to imply that, although they accept one principle, they refuse to accept the other.

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman makes a sensible and helpful point. He talks about a constituency case that, to my way of thinking, supports our argument. Will he consider the point that our job as British Members of Parliament is to safeguard our constituents' interests? The hon. Gentleman is an extremely diligent constituency MP and has quite rightly taken up the case of one of his constituents who has suffered an injustice. By giving the British Secretary of State wider discretion, we would prevent future injustices happening to more of our constituents. I do not think that the matter with Spain has anything to do with our being in the 21st century. I want the hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is right that we, as British Members of Parliament, should ensure that British legislation operates to give the maximum protection to British citizens. Is not that our job?

Mr. George Howarth: Of course it is. There are approaches that we as Members can take. In respect of the case in question, I think that I have covered all bases as a constituency MP. Kevan Sloan's family and I intend to continue campaigning for him to be brought home as quickly as possible, by whatever means possible. However, that is not the point that I am making. Opposition Members and the official spokesman appear to be saying that the Committee should judge some legal systems to be so defective that there should be almost no circumstances under which we would ever consider it possible to extradite someone.

Mr. Burnett rose—

Mr. Howarth: That is the burden of their argument. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, although I do not want to detain the Committee for too long.

Mr. Burnett: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The position that he describes is not our position. However, we want to see minimum standards of justice. The hon. Gentleman has helped me considerably, because he has quite rightly said that the legal proceedings under which Kevan Sloan was convicted were flawed. We want to get it through to members of the Committee that we want to see minimum standards of justice before the category 1 procedure can apply.

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Mr. Howarth: The point that I am making is that I also want the principle of minimum standards to apply. However, it is not the Committee's job to design the legal system that applies in Spain. Opposition Members are arguing that we should legitimately be able to say, ''Well, in the case of extradition, there may be some circumstances in which it is unsafe to go ahead.'' I do not believe that it is our job to do that. I accept their right to advance that argument, but it is not our right to do what they describe.

Mr. Hawkins: I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he is putting our case too high in his argument. I passionately believe that, in order to provide a safeguard, we should widen the Secretary of State's discretion, so that in future cases such as that of Kevan Sloan a British Home Secretary would be able to say, ''Let's stop this extradition. I've got a concern. I think there might be a risk of injustice.'' If the Secretary of State had that wider discretion, perhaps hon. Members would not need to have Westminster Hall debates or to keep pursuing every angle as a constituency MP, because the person would not have to be extradited. I realise that the Sloan case was not an extradition case. However, the hon. Gentleman has said that he thought that the foreign judicial procedure was flawed. We should build in safeguards. We are not criticising every foreign jurisdiction, and we are not trying to stop all extradition. The Secretary of State should be given a wider discretion to protect against further cases such as that of Kevan Sloan, in which someone might be unjustly extradited. Surely, the hon. Gentleman can understand that he is putting our case much higher than we are putting it ourselves.

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