|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: While I accept all that the noble Baroness has said, the point I sought to make is that it is not clear exactly what are the justiciable conditions she has just referred to in France and Italy in relation to, say, a British football referee taking a school sporting event in which an injury occurs. I understand that until now there has been the failsafe of the Secretary of State. Under this procedure, that failsafe will no longer be available, so that such a referee, perhaps a schoolmaster doing his best, could be extradited to France, Spain or Italy without being able in any way to hold back the procedure in order to discuss the justiciable conditions in that country vis-a-vis the ones in place here.
I cite here people who are not engaged in any form of commercial activity. They are only endeavouring to improve the educational experience of schoolchildren. Notwithstanding the points made in the Minister's response, it seems to me that what is needed here is clarity and knowledge of how those countries treat these kinds of events. At present there is a great fear that what goes on in those countries is quite different from our approach; it is a much more legalistic and less insurance-based process.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand the fears expressed by the noble Lord, but I should say to him that that is the position now. I say that because at the moment countries can seek the extradition of sports coaches and referees. Whether they are extradited would depend on the offence for which extradition is sought. If it is an offence of serious injury or manslaughter, those people will be extraditable, as they are now.
It is important for us to remind ourselves of and understand the process that is to be adopted both in relation to Part 1 and Part 2 applications. It is a judicial process during which the skilled district judge will have an opportunity to consider whether the grounds have been made out. Earlier in Committee we were able to explore the way in which that can be done. It is not proposed that there should be ministerial involvement in Part 1 cases. However, as the Committee knows, in Part 2 the Home Office will satisfy itself, first, that the request comes from a bona fide source; secondly, it is for the court to consider; and thirdly, the Home Secretary will make the surrender decision and consider the basis for extradition.
Nothing that we have done in this part will impinge on the need to go through the same legal process. We would argue strongly that those who are anxious about the changes should be no more anxious than they are at presentand we hope that they are appropriately anxious about the way in which they discharge their duties.
There is one point that I should have made in opening this wide-ranging debate which has covered many different sports: I do not have any personal interests to declare here. Perhaps that is more of an embarrassing admission than anything else, but with regard to motor sports, I have to say that as yet I have not even been to a motor race. My noble friend the shadow Minister for Sport looks a little shocked at that revelation, but I have to say that the closest I have ever come to a Formula 1 car was when Team McLaren was kind enough to hold a British Heart Foundation charity event in Woking. We were allowed to get as close as possible to the car, but not close enough to spoil the paintwork.
I raise these questions not out of personal interest but out of interest in all matters raised with Members of this House by individuals and organisations outwith this House. I understand the points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that they do not see sport as something special that needs different treatment. However, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, really got to the core of my difficulties in this part. He said that I have drawn these amendments too narrowly and that we should be concerned about the generality of people who will be affected by Part 1. He is right in saying that we lose the protection of the backstop of the Secretary of State's decision.
When the Minister was answering my noble friend Lord Hodgson about the impact on school sports, she referred, quite rightly, to the fact that in Part 2, the Home Secretary's position remains. We support that entirely, as we have said in the pastwe simply lament that it is going from Part 1.
We shall consider the position very carefully between now and Report. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that I will look carefully at drafting an amendment that will not fall foul of the very proper chiding that I received on this drafting from the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 146, I should like to speak to Amendments No. 147, 232, 233, 237 and 238 as well. This is the last group of amendments to Part 1pause for cheers, I think.
The amendments are intended to probe the issue of who should be "the appropriate judge" in Parts 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Extradition cases in England and Wales are handled by Bow Street Magistrates' Court. I am sure that all those who have been working on the Bill realise the complexity of extradition law. I certainly admired the way in which it was handled by the judges at Bow Street when I was observing them.
The Bill allows the Lord Chancellorwhile he still existsto designate as the appropriate judge in England and Wales any district judge (magistrates' courts) and in Northern Ireland any county court judge or resident magistrate. In Scotland, the sheriff of Lothian and Borders will be the appropriate judge. That seems a somewhat curious state of affairs. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, who wrote to us after we had a meeting on Scotland. Let me say again that it was a most useful departure to have that meeting on Scottish law matters. The letter written subsequently answered so many questions that my noble friend Lady Carnegy was able to withdraw several amendments.
Bow Street Magistrates' Court has considerable expertise in hearing extradition cases. I have some concerns about the implications of designating other district courts which have never before dealt with extradition cases.
How many courts is the Lord Chancellor intending to designate for this purpose? What criteria will be followed in so designating them? Our amendments would ensure that no court could be designated under Parts 1, 2 or 3 unless the judges have undertaken the required course of training and development in extradition procedure, as introduced by this legislation.
With due humility, I made sure that the Bow Street magistrates knew I was tabling this amendment. I made it clear that I appreciated that they would not need any training and that I was not seriously saying that they would all have to troop off for a specified course of training but was trying to probe the Government's intentions. I was intrigued by their response that it is quite difficult to provide training in this matter because of its rarity and the fact that it has been concentrated in the hands of so few people. If the Government are going to roll cases out to other courts, it will be quite difficult to provide training, much of which has to be done on the job, especially since the
The second reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, was that there are not many extradition cases in Scotland. I should have thought there might be even fewer in Northern Ireland, although I have not looked at the figures recently. As for England and Wales, we know that figures average at about 100 cases a year. Could the Minister clarify how many district judges are likely to be designated? We accept that the Government have a responsibility to ensure that the courts are properly funded and resourced to carry out these cases. Have they assessed the costs for ensuring that more courts deal with these cases, rather than just Bow Street?
I observed the difficult conditions under which Bow Street operates. It is not the most lavishly equipped court. I am trying to be diplomaticI do not mean to be too offensive to the Government. I realise that some money has been spent on Bow Street Magistrates' Court, but not a lot. It still operates under very difficult conditions. What estimate have the Government made of future budgetary needs to ensure that Bow Street is fully able to deal with cases in the appropriate conditions without sitting cheek by jowl, as happens in Court 3 at the moment? I beg to move.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page