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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, before the noble Baroness finishes, I should like to ask her one question. She did not seem to reply properly to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. She said that we have higher standards in certain laws such as race relations laws, and that we might wish to extradite to this country and would not regard it as satisfactory if those countries did not understand that such matters are offences in this country. I follow and accept that part of her argument. However, if those countries are going to maintain a three-year threshold as distinct from us, what good will this do us?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I tried to make it absolutely clear that I was answering the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, by saying, "Yes, it is unilateral". Secondly, it is for the British Parliament to decide the right threshold for extradition to this country. That is an objective decision unaffected by what other countries decide. It is for us to choose. We have chosen. Of course, if Parliament disagrees with the Government, that is a matter for Parliament. However, we are not ashamed of the difference that we clearly have with others.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, before I respond to what the noble Baroness said, I want to say that I am very grateful for the support that the amendment has received. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who said that I had not pressed Amendment No. 170 very strongly, I want to say, first, that I regard it as a less important amendment than Amendment No. 159; nevertheless, it is important.
If Amendment No. 159 were accepted by your Lordships but not Amendment No. 170, we would find that people could be extradited to complete a sentence of the order of one-ninth of the maximum sentence, which would justify the removal of the dual criminality rule. As it is, under the Government's proposals, where the minimum sentence is 12 months, four months' sentence will represent one-third of the limit of the maximum sentence above which the dual criminality rule will be removed. We believe that that ratio should be preserved. If the offence is so minor that it receives only a four-month sentence when the law provides for a possible maximum sentence of not less than three years, we believe that it is inappropriate to include such an offence in extradition cases where there is no dual criminality.
I now turn to a more important pointthat is, the defence for this clause set out by the Minister. The Government could have decided that they would allow the three-year limit to be reduced when a bilateral or multilateral agreement had been entered into with other countries, with that agreement then being approved by the affirmative resolution procedure. They have not done that. They have simply said, "Whatever the country provides, we shall ignore the dual criminality rule whenever the maximum sentence in the requesting state is 12 months, even if that state does not adopt the same principle". Quite apart from the fact that we consider the principle of going below three years to be wrong, we believe that it is wholly unjustifiable to do so on an entirely non-reciprocal basis.
Of course, we wish people to accept our rules. However, that depends not on what we say but on what other countries are prepared to agree to. We do not believe that it is necessary or justifiable to reduce the level for the removal of the dual criminality rule below that required by the framework decision. The noble Baroness talked about abuse by serious criminals. The types of crime carried out by serious criminals are not those such as aggravated vehicle-taking; they are offences that will almost certainly carry dual criminality and, in particular, they are almost certainly offences that will carry maximum sentences of at least three years.
Whatever view other people may take and whether or not they support the amendment, we do not support it on the grounds of insularity. We oppose what the Government propose. We have introduced the amendment because we believe that the dual criminality rule plays an important part and that it should be reduced only with great care. We are prepared to go along with the framework decision, but we are not prepared to go along with the Government's further reduction of it. On that, we take a view that is shared by many other bodies concerned with human rights which cannot be accused of insularity.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.