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Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that one could not have had that problem in this country because one would have had to put before the court the evidence one had before one could secure extradition?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I just said, there is not a dissimilarity between the phraseology of "accused" and the form that has to be proven. In fact, we are making the provision stronger, not weakening it. As the noble Viscount will know, some people will seek robustly to interrogate these

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matters when they come before the court. They will know the precise nature of the framework document. They will also know what will be in the warrant. It will be our judges who will interpret the provisions.

My next point is on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, about others changing the law. Whatever is in the framework document, it is the Bill, if it comes into law, that will determine how matters are adjudicated on in our country. This is the law that will apply, and these are the provisions that will bite when the matter comes to be determined.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, I accept what my noble friend says, but our court will be presented with the warrant. It will be presented with a view to an arrest, for the purpose of being prosecuted. In such jurisdictions as I know about in one or two European countries, that may well lead to detention for a very long time before there is any sniff of a trial. Surely she knows that that happens. In Italy and Spain, as well as Germany, it is not unknown.

The phrase,

    "for the purpose of being prosecuted",

is a subjective formula, as would be quite honestly felt by those issuing the warrant abroad. Is the Minister really satisfied that we should have no guarantee about how long such a person on extradition under the Bill—I do not care about the present position—will be detained in gaol before they are brought to anything near a trial?

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps it is right that I remind the House of the current position, although I hear what my noble friend Lord Wedderburn says about not wanting to dwell on that. Noble Lords will know that in 1991 the country had the fortune—I will not say whether it was good or bad—to have a government other than our own. Since that year, the position on extradition arrangements has been that EU countries have not had to provide prima facie evidence in the relevant regard. It is very easy for us to forget that position. As now, the term "accused" was in operation, but without the extra safeguard of making absolutely clear that it is for the purpose of being prosecuted for the offence. It is on that basis that we can be confident on how the issues will be interpreted.

I presume that if there were a problem with people being extradited for evidence-gathering or interrogation, it would have manifested itself fairly early on, and the Conservatives would certainly have sought to amend our extradition legislation, particularly if they held the views then that they hold now. We can draw some comfort from the fact that no attempts were made to amend our legislation, implying that the problems that the proponents of the amendments seek to remedy are unlikely to exist. We have had the provisions for 12 years. It is said that things can take a little time to ripen, but we would have had the problem by now if we were going to have it.

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We already have well established extradition arrangements with all the countries with which we will be involved through the European arrest warrant. None of them currently seeks extradition for the purposes of investigation or interrogation, and the European arrest warrant is being implemented across Europe on the basis of that understanding. I was pleased that my noble friend Lord Stoddart emphasised the basis on which the agreement for the European arrest warrant was made.

I shall not take up the House's time with unnecessary detail, but there are already a number of instruments concerning mutual legal assistance and judicial co-operation with our international partners. The relevant authorities in each country have dedicated contacts and systems for such work. It is that route, rather than abuse of the extradition system, by which we co-operate with other countries on investigative work. If a warrant were issued for the purposes of investigation, which is clearly the point at issue, that warrant could not be certified or executed in the United Kingdom. It would not be a Part 1 warrant as defined in the Bill.

Amendment No. 15, on which the noble Baroness touched briefly, demands that,

    "sufficient evidence has already been gathered to bring a prosecution and to commit to trial the person in respect of whom the warrant is issued".

Presumably the only person who could judge that is the district judge, who would be required to examine the evidence against the person which had been gathered in the requesting state. That sounds very much like the reimposition of an evidential test. As I said, such a test has not been imposed on extradition requests from our EU or ECE partners since 1991.

As the government in 1991 saw no problem in disapplying the prima facie requirement, we find it difficult to understand the rationale for reintroducing it now. That is what the noble Baroness suggests. We have asked about that before, but I do not recall having been given an adequate answer. I do not know whether she wishes to give one today. I think that all noble Lords would be interested to know if it really were being suggested that we reintroduce the prima facie evidential requirement for all our extradition partners and, if so, why.

I shall deal briefly, I hope, with the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. The same general points apply, and perhaps there is no need for me to repeat them. However, I would like to address his Amendments Nos. 12 and 13, which would introduce a requirement that the requesting territory guarantee that the person be prosecuted within six months of his extradition. If that change were made to the Bill, we would be unable to make an arrest on any warrant unless it contained that guarantee, and it would not be a Part 1 warrant. The framework decision does not include that requirement, so it will be highly unlikely that any warrant will contain the appropriate guarantee. That would make us unable to extradite anyone to another EU member state.

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I am aware that the noble Lord has concerns about the European arrest warrant—that he would like to expunge it from the face of the Bill, if not of the world—and the nature of the agreement with our European partners. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that he really intends that our extradition arrangements with them should come to an entire halt. Perhaps I am being too optimistic. I am sure that your Lordships will understand that it would not be for the United Kingdom to impose such conditions unilaterally—that is what is being suggested—after the framework decision has been agreed.

The noble Lord's third amendment goes one step further. It would mean that the statement would have to say that the person would be prosecuted within six months of his extradition. If he is not, it provides that he will be returned to the United Kingdom. As well as unilaterally imposing extra conditions on other EU states, the Bill would then unilaterally impose a sanction on the requesting state if it failed to meet the terms of the unilaterally imposed condition. The sanction would be that the person was returned to the United Kingdom to walk free.

I acknowledge that the noble Lord has difficulties with the Bill and that he has tabled amendments which he believes will strengthen it. However, I do not agree that that is the result. The amendments would greatly weaken the Bill, weakening the provisions beyond all recognition. There are many reasons why the prosecution may legitimately take longer than six months to begin. For example, if the person were suffering some extreme illness the trial might have to be delayed. The person might quite legitimately ask for extra time to prepare his defence.

The amendments make no allowance for such circumstances and, where they occurred, they would see the fugitive walk free. I would go further and say that the amendments would create a loophole which fugitives would undoubtedly seek to exploit. The sanction of unconditional release means that it would be in the fugitive's interest to delay the bringing of a prosecution for as long as possible, realising as he would that simply by delaying matters he would be able to get off without any punishment at all. It would be a wonderful incentive. I also have to ask what would happen if, in those circumstances, another country refused to return the person to the United Kingdom. He would be out of our jurisdiction, so presumably we would have to resort to other alternatives.

Although views of the Bill may differ, I thought that all sides of the House had agreed that the law on extradition needed updating. I heard everything the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said about the Questions for Written Answer he had asked my noble friend Lady Symons and her stand that she had properly answered them. It is by no means cavalier for the Government on occasion to say that it would involve disproportionate cost to answer. Regrettably, answering some Questions involves the Government in considerable cost. I know, for example, that answering the noble Lord's June Question involved the Government in very considerable costs indeed. It is a position to which many governments of all

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complexions have had to resort when costs are disproportionate. All courtesy and propriety has been addressed. The noble Lord indicated further questions and I know that my noble friend Lady Symons, with her usual courtesy and propriety, will seek to give a full and proper answer to all of them.

It would not be proper for me to comment on the case the noble Lord mentioned. I understand the reasons why he hesitated so long and hard and he may on reflection feel that he should have hesitated even longer. But I believe the latter two amendments would create more difficulties than solutions. I have sought to explain that the Bill imposes a much more stringent test than we have at the moment. The words,

    "for the purpose of being prosecuted for the offence"

are new and far more explicit than anything that can be found in previous extradition legislation. The much looser formulation that we have at the moment has not given rise to problems, so I fail to see why it is anticipated that a much higher test will do so.

I really do not believe that we should be contemplating re-introducing the prima facie evidential requirement for Council of Europe extradition partners. I hope that I have said sufficient to convince your Lordships that we need to be satisfied with what we have done so far. I have given great thought to everything that has been said and we believe that the balance is now about right.

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