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Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con):
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for giving way so early in her remarks, but her point needs immediate clarification before she misleads herself or the House. Does she accept that the 1973 treaty between the
United States and the United Kingdom required mutual parity, albeit through different wording? We required a prima facie case and it required reasonable cause. Does she accept that the 2003 treaty does not contain parity and reciprocity, and that probable cause is not matched by information? Information is a different legal concept from probable cause, which is based on evidence.
Joan Ryan: I regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not appear to have listened to what I said. However, let me answer his two points clearly. I do not accept that the 1973 treaty delivered parity. There is no parity between a prima facie case and probable cause. I believe that there is rough parityI repeat that no two legal systems are the samebetween probable cause and reasonable suspicion. Before the Extradition Act 2003 was introduced, an imbalance existed but it was the opposite of what Conservative Members suggest.
Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): The Under-Secretary may know that I sit part-time as a district judge, so I know as well as many our duty to do justice. If a UK citizen is before a court because the Americans are trying to extradite him or her, is not it our fundamental duty to say to the Americans, You have to establish a prima facie case through evidence before we extradite? Is not anything else a gross dereliction of duty to our UK citizens?
Joan Ryan: I disagree. It is our duty to do justice, and our extradition arrangements are about justice for victims and bringing the perpetrators of crime to justice. The purpose of the 2003 Act and the treaty is to ensure that justice is done in some serious casesI am sure that I do not need to tell the hon. Gentleman that. We are dealing with a trusted partner and a legal system in a long-standing democracy, with which we have had a relationship for more than 100 years. We have operated under the 2003 Act for two years without experiencing any difficulty. We demand of the United States information sufficient for a magistrate to issue a warrant for arrest. An individual before the courts facing extradition has to go through due process, and has numerous opportunities to put their case to the courts. They are also covered by the European convention on human rights. It is important that we take that into account.
Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): I do not ask the hon. Lady to accept anything that we say; I simply ask her to accept what her ministerial colleague, Baroness Scotland, said in another place on this point on 16 December 2003. She said that the test that we have to meet when we seek extradition to this country is
a higher threshold than we ask of the United States, and I make no secret of that.[ Official Report, House of Lords, 16 December 2003; Vol. 655, c. 1063.]
Joan Ryan: I have said to the House that there is no exact parity. There is rough parity. I reiterate that case, and no amount of insisting that there is a higher threshold or a lower threshold will change the fact that this is rough parity. It is as close as we can get, and we are satisfiedbecause we see it in operationthat it delivers justice.
The European convention on extradition enabled the UK to extradite without prima facie evidence. Since 1991, when it came into force, scores of people who were wanted for very serious offences have been extradited from this country without prima facie evidence. I have no doubt that the world, including this island, is a safer place because of that convention. In the same way, the UK has been able to bring people back here to face justice in our own courts. I salute those on the Opposition Benches who were members of the Government at that time for their foresight and common sense. Sadly, however, some of those same Members and others on those Benches thought that the decision to extend those provisions to our arrangements with the United Statesa decision that the official Opposition did not oppose in 2003should be reversed. Why? People have been extradited from here to the United States, and vice versa, for more than 100 years. We trust the United States system just as it trusts oursit is as trustworthy as that of our neighbours in Europeand its Bill of Rights safeguards defendants rights in its courts just as our convention on human rights does in ours. So, what could be the problem?
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Is not the real difference between evidence on the one side and information on the other? Does not that mean that in the United States it is possible for someone to challenge the evidence on the substance of the case against them, in terms of whether it is believable and whether it could be negatedor, to use the American term, obliteratedby other evidence? In this country, however, that is not possible. That is an important difference, and the Minister should recognise that that is the difference that she is talking about.
I should like to go back to the question that I just asked. What could be the problem? Why do Opposition Members want the US not to be in this relationship with us? Could it be something to do with the new extradition treaty that our countries signed in 2003? That treaty was under discussion, by the way, before the terrible events of September 2001. The treaty was necessary to bring our extradition arrangements with the United States up to date, to enable us to co-operate with each other effectively, and to fight the ever-changing threats of 21st century crime.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The problem is that although many Conservative Members were tolerant and sympathetic to the Government when the provision was presented as something to do with terrorism, in the case of alleged white collar crime[Hon. Members: Ah!] This concerns Labour Members constituents as well as ours, and they should listen carefully. Where the person has committed no crime in Britain, the prosecuting authorities are bringing their case, and the employera multinationalis quite happy, is it right that that person should be plucked away from their family for a very long time on a charge that we do not think will go anywhere?
Joan Ryan: I say to the right hon. Gentleman that fraud is not entitled to some kind of exemption. There is no such thing as a victimless crime. The victims of fraud have no choice about being victims, whereas the person who perpetrates fraud makes a choice. The victims of fraud often lose their savings and their pensions. The fact that people can subsequently be convicted does not restore to victims what they have lost. These are therefore very serious matters. The right hon. Gentleman will know that when the effects of a crime are judged to be primarily in another state, where the evidence and witnesses are based, our independent prosecutor system decides whether the prosecution should take place here or there. That decision is not made by politicians.
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): When the Minister says that there is reciprocity because information is evidence, does she agree that the key point is that information laid by the Americans cannot be contested by defendants on this side, whereas in America, as the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) correctly says, it is possible for our claims to be contested by defendants?
For an individual for whom the courts are considering an extradition order, there is lengthy due process. Not only does the prosecutor consider the case but a certificate must be issued in the Home Office. The case goes to a district court, and it can be appealed to a higher court, the House of Lords and the European Court. Due process protects the rights of our citizens. If those citizens stand accused of serious crime, however, we should facilitate justice. That is what this Act and treaty are all about.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) (Lab):
It is a little distressing to see the Minister trying to argue an unarguable case, which is probably not necessary. The plain fact is that we do not have reciprocity, and everybody knows that. I and many others like me are entirely in favour of fast-track extradition, which we have with many civilised countries in the world. I would be in favour of having that arrangement with the United States, but the problem lies with the fact that America will not and cannot sign up to that, as,
constitutionally, it cannot do so. That is what has been argued, and I think that the Minister knows that very well. We therefore have an unequal system. The plain fact, however, is that that probably does not matter much. With great respect, that is where the Minister
Joan Ryan: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his support on fast-track extradition. We will have to agree to disagree on the question of reciprocity. I think that it is reciprocity, and many others agree with that. However, my hon. and learned Friend gets to the crux of the matter. As I said, this is about justice. Under either system, and whatever level of evidence has been required, the United States has extradited more quickly to us than we have done to it.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): One of the things that trouble me, and perhaps other Members, is the possibility of United Kingdom nationals who ought to be tried in the United Kingdom being extradited to America when there is a case that should be heard here. What discussions have the Minister and the Attorney-General had with the Americans to try to build on the co-operation that she mentioned earlier, and particularly to ensure that proper decisions are made about the correct forum? I am thinking mostly about the position of defendants from minority communities, as I am more concerned about them than I am about rich bankers.
Joan Ryan: I hope that I can satisfy my hon. Friend. The Attorney-General has opened discussions with his counterpart in the United States. He met the US Attorney General in Washington in September, and raised those issues then. Discussions are now under way between their respective officers on enhanced procedures for consultation between the UK and US prosecutors on such transnational cases. The proposed procedures envisage early consultation in any case in which it appears to a prosecutor in one country that there is a real possibility that a prosecutor in the other country may have an interest in prosecuting it. I can also tell my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be speaking to the US Attorney-General in the next few days on exactly these matters. We think that my hon. Friends point is important, and we are addressing it.
If the Opposition amendments are not reversed, the new treatyincluding all its new provisions to help British victims of crimecannot be ratified. On 29 September the United States Senate gave its advice
and consent to the treatys ratification, thus reaffirming what we have believed all alongthat both sides signed the treaty in good faith, and for the mutual benefit and safety of our citizens. Now we must act too.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The Minister said that the treaty had been agreed in America. Does that mean that the American Senate has agreed to accept British courts rights to try people whom we are attempting to take back for the purposes of IRA terrorism cases?
Joan Ryan: My hon. Friend is right. There was an issue involving the Senate in that context. As my hon. Friend will know, we have given an undertaking not to pursue people covered by the Good Friday agreement who committed those crimes.
The Senates advice and consent to the treaty was subject to a resolution relating to the situation in Northern Ireland, which is, I think, what my hon. Friend is asking me about. The United Kingdom Government have already stated, in September 2000, that they will no longer pursue the extradition of individuals who, if they were to return to Northern Ireland, would now be eligible for early release under the terms of the Good Friday agreement scheme, and who would, on making a successful application to the Sentence Review Commissioners, have little if any of their original sentences to serve.
The resolution to which the Senates consent to the treaty was subject is non-binding. It was intended to reassure senators than the treaty would be implemented in accordance with the US law and constitution. I hope that that deals with the point that my hon. Friend was making. As I said, on 29 September the US Senate gave its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty, and now we must act too.
Let me pause to spell out what will change when the treaty comes into force. I ask for Members patience, because extradition is complex: the distorted simplifications in the media bear witness to that.
The new treaty will define extraditable offences not with a fixed list of crimes, but by sentence threshold. Offences punishable in both countries by a years imprisonment or more will be extraditable, which is the dual criminality rule.
It is essential that we have the ability to go after suspects who have fled the UK. If they are wanted for a new offence, perhaps one not dreamed of in 1972 when the current treaty was signedwe need to reflect on
how much crime, especially organised and serious crime, has changed since thenwe must ensure that we have the tools to fight it.
The treaty will also allow the extradition of someone who is already serving a prison sentencea measure called temporary surrender, which is incredibly important, because with increased ease of travel, criminals, just like the law-abiding majority, can travel much more than in the past. It was a new measure in the Extradition Act 2003, and the UK recently effected its first temporary surrender in Europe on someone serving a long sentence here for rape, who was also wanted abroad for the same terrible crime. Owing to the temporary surrender measure, his victim abroad is able to get speedy justice for that crime. I need hardly say that justice delayed for a crime like that is justice denied. That procedure needs to be made possible between the UK and the US, for the same reason.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): As I understand the amendment and the motion to disagree, we are dealing particularly with the USA. However, I understandthe Minister will correct me if I am wrongthat since 1991, the UK has had arrangements with a number of countries for extradition based on information rather than on a prima facie case. I do not know how long it would detain the House, but could the Minister provide some indication of some or all the other countries with which we already have an information rather than a prima facie arrangement?
In that category are some 50 countries with which we have that particular relationship, so by no means is the US out there in some amazing category on its own. Other countries where prima facie evidence is not required include Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Georgia, Icelandand I could go on. Canada, Australia and a huge range of countries that have these extradition arrangements could be specified, but I am sure that my hon. Friend gets the point. It is not at all unusual; what is unusual is that, for some reason, there is a huge focus on the arrangement with the USA.
Mr. Garnier: I am deeply grateful to the Minister. However, the planted intervention from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) was interesting only in so far as it pointed out that all the countries that she began to list have exactly reciprocal arrangements with us. The US does not, so the point is a false one.
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