Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 145B:

"(7) Where an alleged offence is the subject of an arrest warrant but the offence was committed by a participant in an international sporting event, that warrant must be referred to the Home Secretary who must make a decision separate to any decision of a United Kingdom court as to whether extradition to the requesting country would be proper in all the circumstances."

The noble Baroness said: I tabled Amendments Nos. 145B and 268A to respond to a specific concern that was raised with me a couple of weeks ago. I gave notice to the noble Baroness's Bill team that the matter would be raised.

As we have said repeatedly throughout the debate on Part 1 of the Bill, significant safeguards are being removed. We have concerns about that. The Bill has also provoked concerns from many people who feel that they may be vulnerable to arrest under the European arrest warrant for extradition where

8 Jul 2003 : Column GC65

currently they feel they are not so exposed. Those fears are, perhaps, nowhere more acute than in the international sporting community.

As a matter of course, accidents abound in international sport, whether in motor racing, equestrian sports, yachting, rugby or football—all those sports lead to players sustaining serious injuries. Depending on who is found to be at fault in accidents of that nature, it is possible that extradition may be sought under the category of murder or grievous bodily harm. More concern will be voiced, especially among the motor-sports community, if legislation is introduced for corporate manslaughter and that becomes a category of offence in the list of 32.

Lord Clinton-Davis: The noble Baroness mentioned a number of points in connection with international sporting events. Is there anything that is not caught by the criminal law in any event?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Perhaps I should move the amendment at this point.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Deputy Chairman has every right to think that, after the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, I had completed speaking to my amendment. I had not; I had actually spoken to a quarter of a page. There are four pages and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, will excuse me if I complete the rest, as that will answer his question. I raise the issue because members of the motor-sports community in particular are concerned by exactly the point that he raises; that is, under the Bill, they would be exposed to extradition where currently they feel they are not. They feel that something new is developing; hence the amendments. Members of the sporting community want to ask the Government to put on the record whether their fears are properly grounded.

I have previously referred to the fact that, in debates in another place on the Criminal Justice Bill, the Home Secretary said that the Government plan to introduce a new law on corporate manslaughter, although we do not yet know what kind—

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 4.20 to 4.30 p.m.]

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I was referring to the fact that we know that the Government are considering introducing a specific offence of corporate manslaughter, although we do not know as yet in what form. The issue will become topical because it is anticipated that certain arrests will be made tomorrow in regard to the Hatfield train crash. So it will certainly be in the forefront of our minds.

We are all aware of the horrors of the Ayrton Senna case. It fuelled a massive inquiry which, it has been rumoured, may well be re-opened. On 1st May 1994 Ayrton Senna was killed when his car spun off the Imola race-track in northern Italy. He was negotiating a fast bend, one that he and other drivers had previously taken at top speed with great ease. He did

8 Jul 2003 : Column GC66

not collide with another car and there seemed to be no reason for him to veer off the road. However, a unique set of factors, I am advised, combined to cause the fatal accident.

There was an immediate investigation into the accident. Motor racing experts believed that the cause must have been mechanical failure. They believed that Ayrton Senna could not have lost control of his vehicle for any other reason. An inquiry concluded that the accident was caused by a snapped steering column. As a result, manslaughter charges were brought against six members of Senna's Williams racing team, including Frank Williams himself. All were eventually acquitted and, in 1997, the prosecutor's appeal was rejected.

But the snapped steering column theory gave way to a new explanation at that time that Senna's death was simply a freak accident, a tragic consequence of a unique combination of factors. Given Ayrton Senna's status within Formula 1 and given that there had been two deaths at Imola over that weekend in May 1994, it is hardly surprising that it took no time at all for journalists, motor-racing experts, fans and others to come up with possible reasons for the accident.

I have spent some time referring to that specific case because it has focused the mind of the international motor sport industry on the issue of extradition. It has highlighted the complexities of fatal or near fatal accidents in that industry, one where it is hard, if not impossible, to ascertain who is to blame. We know that inquiries are often long and controversial but it is absolutely clear that accidents such as that involving Ayrton Senna are not infrequent.

Not only the motor sports industry is concerned about this issue. We should bear in mind that the Olympics are to be held in Athens in 2004. We have brought forward the amendments to probe this complicated issue. We feel that the motor sports industry has a right to be wary of the implications of the European arrest warrant. It is concerned that every case involving accidents or injuries could lead to the possibility of numerous arrest warrants being issued for the prosecution of those involved.

As to the earlier intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, the difference between the extradition system in the Bill, which will be used in the future, and the extradition system that has pertained until now is that the existing arrangements have a back-stop in that the Home Secretary is able to decide whether or not an extradition should go ahead. That falls within Part 1. As we have discussed this matter on previous occasions, I shall do no more than outline that point telegraphically.

We have been told several times by the Minister and her predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, that the purpose of the European arrest warrant is to fight international crime—not only terrorism but drugs trafficking, fraud and so on. Everyone is wholeheartedly behind the Government in that fight. But we would argue that an accidental death or injury in an international sporting event resulting from a combination of unfortunate circumstances, such as in

8 Jul 2003 : Column GC67

the Ayrton Senna case, is in a different vein. It is important that the Government should set out why they believe that such cases should be included in the extradition procedure.

The position of sport within the international community is unique and my noble friend Lord Moynihan, who has recently been appointed as our Shadow Minister for Sport, covering both Houses, will deal later with that specific issue.

The amendments seek to ask the Government to put assurances on the record as to why international sport should not be concerned. If they are able to put such assurances on the record, no one—apart from the international sporting community—will be happier than we.

The first amendment would ensure that the Secretary of State retained discretion in matters relating to international sport where extradition was being sought. The second amendment would make an exception in the category of events of murder and grievous bodily harm in circumstances where the offence was committed by a participant in an international sporting event.

I accept that my amendments are not perfectly drafted. They are a tool for debate. I appreciate in particular that participants in sporting events raise specific problems. I look carefully at the noble Viscount in saying that because I am sure that he will tear apart the drafting. As the Minister often tells us, it is a small thing, but my own. It is my fault entirely. I could not think of any other way. I understand full well that they could be thought to include fans in the terraces cheering on their teams. I know they are faulty. They are brought forward in an attempt to raise the issue and to give the Government the opportunity to satisfy the international sporting community that it has nothing to fear, because at the moment that fear is real. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I raised an objection earlier to the amendments we are now considering. Everything the noble Baroness has said supports my objection. I understand why she raises the issue and she is entitled to adduce some sort of evidence—I emphasise the words "some sort of evidence"—before the Committee, but there is nothing in this. I have a real objection to debating issues merely for the sake of debating them. I understand why she does it, but I believe that she is wrong.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Before the noble Lord goes any further, perhaps it might assist if I give him some of the background. I shall be a little indiscreet in so doing.

This matter was raised behind the scenes in another place with my honourable friend. There was an attempt to seek assurances from the Government on the record. Those reassurances were not given on the record. We are sure that the Government made serious and concerted attempts to give the assurances behind the scenes. Those were not accepted. What I am doing, therefore, is perfectly proper in the circumstances. We

8 Jul 2003 : Column GC68

want to give a significant part of the public—those involved in international sports—the opportunity to be heard.

I made clear in my opening remarks that the fear is that Part 1 removes safeguards. We have discussed the safeguards in great detail in the past and I do not feel that it is proper for me to do so again. If the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, wants me to rehearse those arguments once more, I shall—but I suspect that I will try the patience of the Committee.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page