|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page
Lord Clinton-Davis: I support the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I am very concerned about the present situation, particularly in regard to reciprocity. Like the noble Lord, I believe that we obtain very little advantage in the present arrangements. As he rightly said, at the moment there is a variety of standards of justice and in some states it is very minimal indeed.
There is very little we can do about it. My noble friend should take into account what the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has said because he is not without support on this side of the Committee. I want him to know that.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I say straightaway that I understand the concerns that the Committee has raised in relation to the issues now pertaining at Guantanamo Bay. Members of the Committee will remember the recent good and thorough debate on that issue which was answered by my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. It is right that those strongly held views should be expressed and noble Lords will have heard the Government's robust response in relation to them.
I can assure the Committee that there is no question of the Government agreeing to extradite individuals to Guantanamo Bay. Any extradition to the mainland would be subject to the agreement that we have already in relation to capital and other punishments, and the human rights provisions contained in Clause 86 would prevail.
Noble Lords will remember that we have discussed issues such as the right to trial, the right to representation, the right to interpretation and so on. I know and hear what the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart,
All I would say in response is that no country, including the United Kingdom, has a perfect criminal justice system. We still believe that the quality of justice in each of the states is on par with those to be found in the Council of Europe countries. As a result of our agreement there are some who would say that we are able to secure for those persons who are extradited from this country to the United States a better system of provision and protection than is available to United States citizens, particularly in relation to the application of the death sentence: capital punishment. To date, that part of the agreement with our US partners has, without exception, been honoured. If we compare what would happen to a person extradited from here with what would happen to an individual American facing the same charges and found guilty, in some states that person could not avoid capital punishment in the way that we have been able to secure avoidance for persons extradited from here.
We are not looking at the individual concerns that we have about several countries, but at whether it is right and just for the United States to be treated in a way similar to that in which we treat other countries, with all the caveats and hedges we have put around it. We say that it is because we are able to ensure that our concerns are expressed and dealt with in a way that bites upon the operation. Clause 86 is a powerful instrument in helping us to do so.
With the Committee's tacit consent, I hope that I have merged these answers with those I had intended to give to the next amendment. It will not help if I repeat much of the ground. I simply say that the prima facie requirement is not necessary in relation to this issue.
I said earlier that, for constitutional reasons, the United States of America was in difficulty in providing reciprocity. I need to explain that further. For constitutional reasons the Americans are unable to remove the prima facie evidential requirement from a request made to them. If noble Lords look with care at the relevant provision enshrined in Article 4 of the Bill of Rights, they will see why that is so. It is not that they do not wish to; constitutionally they are not able to do so.
Changes to the US Constitution are made very rarely and only with the greatest difficulty, so there was never any question that the US would be able to lift the prima facie burden from the United Kingdom. We are not in the same position. The Extradition Act 1989 enables us to remove the prima facie evidential requirementas will the Bill if enactedand the question for the United Kingdom was whether we should let the constitutional inability of the United States to remove the prima facie requirement influence
It is up to Parliament to determine the appropriate level of protection for people in this country whose extradition has been sought. We need to consider what evidence and safeguards there should be. If we conclude that in respect of a particular country there need be no requirement for prima facie evidence, we fail to see how that position suddenly becomes inappropriate if that country, for wholly understandable reasons, is unable to reciprocate.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Baroness was right to say that it is no part of the view of Her Majesty's Opposition that the status of Commonwealth countries should be brought into question. We have the highest regard for them.
The reason for this series of amendments is linked to our whole concern about the removal of prima facie evidence from Part 1 and our worry that in Part 2 we might end up with a system whereby the prima facie evidence requirement is also gradually whittled away. The amendments were tabled with that in mind. They were also intended to be a warm-up act for Amendment No. 151A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, which we knew would be winging its way onto the Marshalled List.
I am grateful for the Minister's indication that there are no plans to remove prima facie evidence from our bilateral partners except in the case of the United States. Our concern is that we might go further in future because the number of exceptions could increase.
I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the Government's position on this matter. I have no doubt that we will need to look at the issue again, although in a more refined form, when we get to the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: I again hope to be brief in dealing with the amendments. I am confident that the Committee will have no difficulty in accepting them as they were trailed at an earlier stage and welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.
The amendments are concerned with the power of customs officers to carry out arrests in Part 2 cases. As the Committee will be aware, the Bill was amended on Report in another place to make it absolutely clear who had the power of arrest in Part 1 extradition cases.
Among those given powers of arrest in Part 1 cases, as well as constables and service police forces, are officers of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. These amendments to Clauses 70 and 72 make corresponding changes to Part 2 of the Bill and give Customs officers powers of arrest in those cases. I should remind noble Lords that the definition of a "Customs officer" can be found in Clause 203(6).
The Committee touched briefly on this subject on day threeit seems a long time agoduring our debate on the definition of a constable. I gave notice at that stage that these amendments had been tabled, as reported in Hansard at col. 304. Let me say a little more about how we envisage things operating in practice.
We intend that when we receive a request from a Part 2 country the police will carry out the arrest in the United Kingdom even if the person is wanted for a Customs offence. However, there may be instances where, in pursuit of his or her normal duties, a Customs officer comes across someone who is wanted for an extradition offence. This is a perfectly plausible scenario because Part 2 arrest warrants will be entered on the police national computer, to which Customs officers have access.
So Customs officers may raid premises looking for a Mr Jones, who is wanted for alleged VAT fraud, and encounter a different person, Mr Smith, who, when checked out through PNC, is found to be wanted for an extraditable offence. If the Bill were to remain unamended, customs officers in such a circumstance would be unable to hold or detain Mr Smith unless they had a Customs reason to do so. Thus Mr Smith, having committed an alleged indictable offence, could simply walk away. I am sure the Committee would agree that that would be most unsatisfactory. The amendments have been tabled to remedy the situation and to give Customs officers powers of arrest in Part 2 cases.
Perhaps for the sake of completeness I should answer a question that may be asked. As I have indicated, in Part 1 of the Bill a European arrest warrant can be executed by a police officer, Customs officer and service policeman. Part 2 the Bill provides that any police officer will be able to execute an arrest warrant and, if these amendments are made, any Customs officer. The Committee may ask why there is no reference to the service police forces. The answer is quite simple. Clauses 75 and 72(6) allow the warrant to be directed to a specific person, which would enable them to deal with a situation where the person was known to be on a military base. However, service police officers will not, unlike Customs officers, come across those who are wanted for extradition by random chance, so there is no need to make explicit provision for them in this way. I hope that with that explanation the Committee will agree to the amendments.