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There are ways in which to challenge the arrest warrantmy right hon. Friend outlined some of them but it is perhaps worth giving some of the headlines.
There are bars to extradition, including double jeopardy, so someone cannot be extradited if he or she has already been tried for the offence for which the extradition is sought. There are also other considerations.
For example, if an arrest warrant was issued for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing on the ground of a persons race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions, the authority in the persons home country could rule that out. Passage of time, although not three years, could be relevant. The time is not setit depends on the distance from the offence and whether a reasonableness argument can be made. A person cannot be arrested if it can conclusively be shown that he or she could not be guilty of an extradition offence because of his or her age when the alleged offence was committed. However, as Mr. Mendy was 19 at the time, that would not apply in his case.
My right hon. Friend mentioned hostage-taking considerations and other issues, which would not apply, so I shall not go into them. However, the human rights bar is also important. An extradition is barred if a judge decides that it would be incompatible with the persons convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998. There is no suggestion that criteria were not satisfied in Mr. Mendys case, but it is important to emphasise those important safeguards to make it clear that the European extradition warrant is not used willy-nilly but within proper judicial and legal procedures.
We have heard that Mr Mendys case has been concluded and that he is back in the UK having received a suspended sentence. I am pleased to hear that he can now start at Liverpool university next year and begin to get his life back on track.
I understand from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which is the receiving body for the European arrest warrants, that there is some confusion about whether a proper English translation was received in time. However, I am interested in my right hon. Friends comments. He raised a serious issue about the receipt date of the European arrest warrant written in English. I shall investigate with SOCAI have already asked officials to look into the matterwhether there are any general translation problems. All European arrest warrants have to be in the language of the receiving country in order to be expedited. It appears that we have slightly different information on the matter, so I promise to write to my right hon. Friend once a full investigation has been conducted.
Frank Dobson: I have in my hand a copy of the warrant, which was entered into the Spanish court on 7 May. It has a date stamp in the corner, which reads:
UK Central Authority European Arrest Warrant 1st copy
with a date of 25 June. I know no Spanish and I can read every word because it is in what I recognise as the language that Shakespeare used.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that because we need to get to the bottom of the procedure for when a warrant is received and what level of translation is expected. Perhaps we are setting the bar too high, but I do not want to speculate. I
promise my right hon. Friend that I will look into the matter and get him an answer from SOCA.
Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk) (Lab): I have listened to the debate and think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) made an interesting speech. I have never before written a letter to the Government and received the kind of response that I did when I wrote to my hon. Friend the Minister on a different matter, where the quality of advice that she had received from officials was such that she could not give me a response in a political context. I simply received a response in officialese. I have not made a comment like this in the House before, but listening to tonights debate, I have to question the quality of advice that she is receiving from her officialsI see that she has officials with her tonightwhich seems to be below the level that she should receive in order to respond to my right hon. Friend.
Officials cannot respond for themselves and it is not really appropriate for my hon. Friend to raise the point in that way. I have been in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Member for
Holborn and St. Pancras about the issue for the past week or so. I have explained that it is difficult to go into the ins and outs of a case that was tried in another country. Much of the detail of the case is a matter for the Spanish authorities, on which the Government cannot readily comment.
We as a Government rightly take seriously our responsibility to comply with international obligations to execute all extradition warrants as they come. Clearly there is some confusion about when and with whom the warrant arrived. I have been trying to get to the bottom of that for the past couple of days and I apologise that I do not have all the information before the House tonight. However, I thank my right hon. Friend for raising the case, which serves to highlight a number of important points. The European arrest warrant is generally being used properly and well. Obviously, however, there are issues in the case in question, which he has articulated clearly. I commit to continue to look into them and to write to him with answers on the outstanding issues on which I have been unable to receive answers for the House, for which I apologise.
Adjourned accordingly at nineteen minutes to Seven oclock.