|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Minister is not too willing to be drawn on that matter at the moment. Perhaps he will survive another few reshuffles. I am sorry to be so naughty. I am grateful to the Minister. He has put a very helpful explanation on the record with great courtesy. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 67, I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we took the whole batch of amendmentsAmendments Nos. 67 to 72now. My noble friends Lord Wedderburn and Lady Turner of Camden are detained by another Bill on the Floor of the House. For that reason, I would ask my noble friend to put on record his reply to the amendments. I beg to move.
Lord Filkin: I indicated informally to my noble friend Lord Wedderburn that were he to be out of the room at this point, I should seek a method to put on the record what I would have said to him had he been here. In essence, that is not to delay the Committee unnecessarily over points of detail if it is possible by a little felicity to find ways of making progress.
I would have said to him that we would feel that it was most unsatisfactory to have to extradite a person who was going to be prejudiced at his court trial on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation. We think that is most unlikely in Part 1 countries, for reasons to which we have previously spoken. We also think that the human rights clause in the Bill, Clause 21, already prevents us from extraditing in such circumstances.
Nevertheless, I can see little damage in our looking again at Clauses 13 and 80 to see whether, in the light of the amendments, any improvements can be made. I say that openly. On Report, we will see where we are on these matters.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Although Clause 13 was grouped for debate with Part I stand part, I made it clear at our previous Committee meeting that I wanted to say a few words with regard to it. The grouping on the first day was a device for one particular amendment.
Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, referred to what he thought was the "paranoia" on Opposition Benches with regard to the Bill. This is no paranoia. We are certainly concerned about the removal of the protection and safeguards that are inherent in our current extradition system. We certainly want a speeding up of the process, but not at the risk of increasing miscarriages of justice. Specifically we object to the removal of the dual criminality requirement in the final discretion of the Secretary of State.
We have been told that all states which would be designated as category 1 territories had subscribed to the ECHR and believed in the right of every individual to a fair trial; and that they had signed up to the framework decision which enshrines an obligatory degree of protection to those defendants involved in the extradition hearing, surrender and subsequent trial in the requesting country. We have been told that our own judicial system is by no means 100 per cent perfect.
Clause 13, so far as we can see, exposes the fundamental falsity of the arguments raised by the Government when we say we are concerned. Why do we need a clause which bars extradition to category 1 territories on the grounds that the defendant might subsequently be prosecuted because of his,
One case repeatedly referred to there and in this House is that of the seven-year delay in the extradition of Rachid Ramda to France for prosecution for his alleged part in the Paris bombings. On appeal, his extradition case was thrown out by the House of Lords. It found favour with his view that as an Arab Muslim he would not receive a fair trial in France. The conclusion is that we cannot trust our closest neighboursgeographically from Londonwithin the European Union, with regard to a fair trial without prejudice on religious and racial grounds.
In the past the Government have said, "Well, we are damned if we do and we are damned if we don't". They put this provision in as an extra safeguard, but the very fact that they conceded that it was needed proves that there is a real concern that there could be a miscarriage of justice.
I put on record that we shall need to return to these issues in amendments on Report after we have properly considered the views put forward with regard to the Part 1 problems of protection and safeguards.
Lord Filkin: The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is correct: Clause 13 was not in the Bill as originally drafted because the Government did not think it was necessary. The Joint Committee on Human Rights made a specific request to us to put in such a provision. We did so not because we think that there is a risk, but because we were happy to go along with the request of an important parliamentary committee when it seemed to us that in so doing there was no damage or harm whatever. It feels a little rough, having done that, and having so responded for those reasons to be told, "That proves the point that Part 1 territory countries are inherently unsound. Everything the Government have been saying on the Bill is so much rubbish". I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, did not put the matter quite so robustly, but that is how we feel she advances the logic of the position.
There is no harm done by acceding to the request of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. We have done so. We do not think the provision was necessary, but it puts beyond peradventure any doubt that people cannot be extradited for these reasons. I had hoped that the Committee would welcome that because, in a sense, it is just wearing a belt as well as braces.
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 73, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 193, which is supported by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. The amendments are probing in nature and query a particular issue in Clause 14, "Passage of time". This is another new clause introduced by the Government. It was welcomed in another place on Report when it was introduced into both Parts 1 and 2. We wholeheartedly support the principle that extradition should be barred if the offence in question took place an unreasonably long time ago and that for that reason it would be unjust or oppressive for the person to be extradited.
I put on record that we appreciate that the Government had to weigh very carefully in the balance whether such a provision should go in because, as we said a short while ago, people will make the most possible use they can of any kind of bar to extradition. We are keen, as are other noble Lords, that those proved to be guilty of offences, should not be able to escape justice and extradition.
The concern I raise is based on a point made by the Law Society of Scotland in its briefing, to which noble Lords have previously referred. There is, I believe, an important difference between being extradited for prosecution for a crime committed at some point in the past and being extradited to be returned to custody after becoming unlawfully at large.
In the first case, it is clear that in some extradition cases the defendant may be simply unaware that some 20 years ago he committed an offence. Consequently, he might contest his prosecution since he believes himself to be innocent. Delay in extraditing him could be due to lack of evidence. We do not know. It is easy to understand why it might be advisable to bar the extradition because of the significant time span.
In the second case the circumstances are very different. The person in question has already been found guilty before a court of law and has started serving his sentence; so there is no lack of knowledge. Somehow he manages to escape or abscond; therefore, he is unlawfully at large. Is it right to say that as long as he manages to avoid detection for an unspecified length of time, he should benefit from a guaranteed immunity from extradition? That is what worries us.
How long is this "passage of time"? It seems obscure that someone who has evaded justice should, just because he has been in hiding for a period of time, become untouchable. I rather suspect that that is not what the Government ever intended. I hope that the Minister will put me right and explain how a fugitive could not benefit from the Government amendment that was moved in another place on Report. I beg to move.
Lord Goodhart: The name of my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie is attached to the amendment. As he is not here, I rise to support it. I must say that in this context the name Ronnie Biggs comes to mind. That was the reverse situation. In some ways, that was about as strong a case as one can get for asking why he should not have been extradited. But it was not strong enough. If someone has been convicted of an offence, unless there are genuinely humanitarian grounds for non-return, which I think could be dealt with in a different manner, I do not think that there should be a legal bar to his being returned.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment. It provides us with the opportunity to explain an important bar to extradition in the Bill on grounds of the passage of time.
I am rather enjoying the slight role reversal. We usually want tougher safeguards; the noble Baroness wants fewer safeguards. I am therefore defending a different position and shall approach it rather differently.
As I am sure the Committee knows, as currently drafted, Clauses 14 and 81 bar a person's extradition if it appears that it would be "unjust or oppressive" to extradite him because of the time that has elapsed since
The Committee may be aware that that bar was originally included only in Part 2. However, in response to an amendment proposed by Opposition Benches in another place, we agreed that the passage of time bar is an important safeguard which should also apply in Part 1 cases.
I am puzzled why the noble Baroness should now seek to remove the safeguard. Are we really saying that even if the extradition of someone is indisputably unjust or oppressive because of the passage of time since his conviction, his extradition would have to go ahead anyway?
I quite accept that circumstances are unlikely to arise in which it would be unjust or oppressive to return someone simply because of the length of time since his escape from custody. I certainly would not want to suggest that we should in any way reward those who have successfully managed to evade capture for many years. Equally, it is not totally impossible to envisage such circumstances.
I invite the Committee to imagine, for example, that a person is wanted for extradition on the ground that 40 years previously he failed to serve out the full length of his sentence following a conviction for a relatively minor crime. During that time the authorities in the requesting state had known of his whereabouts and had not attempted to seek his extradition. The person had been living openly with his family as a settledperhaps even highly responsiblemember of the community. I do not say that extradition in such circumstances is unjust or oppressive. That is a question for the courts to determine. But, equally, I do not think that we can totally discount that possibility.
Since 1978, there have been six cases only in which the passage of time has been successfully put forward as a defence against extradition. One of those related to a person who had been convicted and was deemed to be unlawfully at large. I think that serves to illustrate the point that the circumstances are very rare indeed, but not impossible.
Ultimately, if we are content to provide a safeguard for a person accused of offences whose extradition would be unjust or oppressive because of the passage of time, I cannot see why we should deny that safeguard for a person who is alleged to be unlawfully at large.
In view of those considerations and the lack of a compelling argument to remove the safeguard, I hope that the amendments are not pushedI know that they cannot be tonight.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page