Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Filkin: If the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, lets me complete my explanation, he may judge whether it answers his point or not. I have a lot to say, so it may help if I say the totality of it and then open up to any further questioning if required.

In order to ensure that the provision is complied with, the draft code of practice for the police sets out police powers under Part 4 of the Bill. That makes it clear that, on arrival at the police station, the person must be told about their right to request to see the warrant. That is explicit in chapter 1 of the code, paragraph 4.3B iii. The paragraph states:

Chapter 1, in paragraph 4.4A iv of the code, also makes it clear that, on arrest, the detainee must be given a written notice setting out the right to request to be shown the warrant or a copy of the warrant under which the person was arrested.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, will be reassured to know that in domestic procedures governed by code C, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 also applies at this stage of the process. That means that a custody officer is required to mark on the custody record that the person has been told about their rights. The arrested person signs the custody record to confirm that. What is more, officers are alerted in the code of practice to the fact that if the warrant or a copy of the warrant is not shown to the person as soon as practicable after it is requested, under Clauses 4(2), 71(2) and 73(2), the person must be taken to be discharged. We have produced a checklist to be used by custody officers that draws attention to that powerful sanction. An example of that checklist can be found in annex A of the draft code of practice.

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC313

The code of practice has been put out for a three-month public consultation period recently. We very much welcome the views of Members of the Committee on the measures. We believe that it is a powerful expression in practice of what we want to achieve, consistent with domestic regulation practices.

There is another factor, which is relevant in domestic cases but may be particularly pertinent in extradition cases, and which Members of the Committee have identified in tabling their amendments. There will certainly be cases where the person arrested does not speak English or is not fluent in the language. In such cases, simply showing the person the warrant whether he asks for it or not would not be effective. It is far better that it is shown to the person's lawyer at a time of the lawyer's choosing than to the person who cannot comprehend it at the time of the police's choosing.

The Bill entitles everyone arrested under Part 1 or Part 2 to free legal advice and we are confident that any lawyer would demand to see a copy of the warrant on the basis of which their client was being held, if that had not already happened. Members of the Committee will probably be aware that following discussions in Committee in another place, we amended Clause 8(1)(b) to place an additional requirement on the district judge to inform the person of the contents of the warrant at the initial hearing. At this stage, we are talking only about the arrest, prior to being brought before a district judge for the first of two times. We are not for a second talking about arrest with a view to the person being put in a van and removed from the country. The provision would merely bring the situation under control so that the person can be brought before a district judge to answer the request.

On the issue of why we are following domestic legislation, we are doing so for a good and practical reason. The police deal with thousands of domestic arrests in a year and common sense says that it is sensible that the procedure in terms of arrest warrants in this respect should follow domestic procedure because it is more likely that there will be consistent and good practice compliant with a code of practice in those cases. The concerns that are being advanced—I understand their nature and the reasons for them—can be responded to by the fact that the person has a right to legal advice and that they will be brought before a district judge who has the duty to further make clear what they are being held for and against which an extradition is being requested. For those reasons, we believe that the Bill as currently drafted is appropriate and that it therefore adequately answers the concerns that have been raised.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: Before the noble Lord concludes, will he clarify something that I have only just noticed? Clause 3(5) states:

    "The warrant may be executed even if neither the warrant nor a copy of it is in the possession of the person executing it at the time of the arrest".

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC314

According to the amendments that we discussed earlier, the person being arrested must be given a copy of the warrant and, under our amendment, an explanation. How will that be possible if the arresting officer does not have to have the warrant with him at the time?

Lord Filkin: The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, referred to that when he moved the amendment. He signalled—I appreciate that he did so—that the Opposition recognise that there were circumstances in which the urgency of the situation required that the person actually was seized because the warrant was not physically in the hand of the relevant officer. Common sense tells us that that will be the case. Without returning to earlier discussions, I have indicated previously the nature of people on whom extradition requests are normally made and I indicated the nature of the most serious offences. They frequently involve murder, terrorism, drug dealing and so on. There is often urgency in those situations to get the person into security.

All of the warrants will also be on the police national computer. If a person is stopped for a traffic offence, the arresting officer will not have the document in his possession but it can be obtained, for example, when they are at the police station. The immediate arrests can take place but the person then has to be shown the warrant if they request it as soon as possible. The noble Baroness rightly said that that should be their right. Those are our reasons.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Listening to the case made in favour of the amendments, I wondered what possible grounds the Minister would be advised to advance for resisting them. Having listened carefully to what he said, it seems that they boil down to one word: tidiness. We want to keep the procedure the same as it is for domestic warrants. The question that must be asked is: why should it be the same? What is the significant merit of tidiness in this regard?

Is there not—I hope that the Minister will be so good as to deal with this point—a substantial difference in real life between a warrant that is issued domestically in regard to circumstances that may well be within the recollection of the arrested person and a warrant that is issued in a Part 1 country, and which was hundreds if not thousands of miles away, in respect of matters that may have arisen a very long time ago? The case is really made in real life simply for the reason of his having to be shown the warrant as soon as is practicable; if it is, it will not be in the possession of the arresting officer at the time. Tidiness and consistency are not enough, I respectfully suggest. There is a significant difference in practice in this regard and in terms of real life. It might be wise for the Minister to reflect on the matter a little further.

Viscount Bledisloe: I fully accept that the person cannot always be shown the warrant at the time of his arrest. A nationwide search may have gone out for the person and the warrant may be held in London but the person may be arrested in Carlisle. Clearly, not every constable in the country can carry a copy of the

18 Jun 2003 : Column GC315

warrant at the time. However, I suggest—this is somewhat in line with the proposal of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew—that the Minister is asking too much in terms of tidiness and perhaps also putting too much on the word "warrant". This document is the entire statement of the case that is made by the foreign country as to why the man should be extradited. It is not merely an authority to arrest the man; it is also a statement of the offence and the information relied on for it. Unless and until he is not just shown but given a copy of the warrant, he is not in a position to do anything about his arrest at all. I cannot see what the difficulty is. It may well have to be as soon as practicable because, in my example, one may have to get a copy to Carlisle and so on. Why the person should not be shown the warrant as soon as possible, what he is being charged with and what he will be extradited for is extraordinary. The Minister did not answer my question, which is: if I am charged in a police station, surely I have an absolute right to be given a copy of that charge so that I can take advice on it? As well as being a warrant, that is surely equivalent to the charge, indictment or whatever it may be.

Lord Filkin: I shall respond first to the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. In practice, it is not the case—noble Lords may find this surprising—that under domestic warrants for arrest there is not an absolute right to a copy of the warrant. I pressed officials fairly significantly on that point because one expected that that would be the case. However, I am told that it is not the case in law, and that in practice if someone asks for a copy, they are usually given one. That is a statement of fact.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page