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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his answer. I am content at this point to take it that the Bill has described the process as adequately as it can be. This is a very serious subject. I also note that the noble Lord said that to date we have no axe to grind with any other country on this matter. I shall be interested to discuss this further with the Law Society of Scotland. At this point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The effect of Clause 95 is to exclude extradition to a territory where someone may be sentenced to death unless the Secretary of State receives a written assurance that sentence of death will not be imposed. In the amendment we assert that there should not be extradition,
In this country, we do not have a mandatory life sentence without possibility of release. There are of course cases where a whole-life tariff is imposed by the judge in the exercise of his discretion, and there are obviously some circumstances, although they are fortunately rare, where the crime is so horrible or the condition of the accused is such that there is really no possibility whatever of that person being released. However, that is a different matter. We are concerned with the fact that, in other countries, there are circumstances in which it is possible for someone to be sentenced for a crime that actually carries a penalty of life imprisonment without release.
Where that condemns someone and there is no discretion on the judge to say that the sentence does not apply in a case, it can be described as a sentence to a kind of living death. Although such a sentence may have to be imposed in the exercise of a discretion, it
Article 5 of the European framework decision states that the execution of the European arrest warrant may by law of the executing member state be subject to conditions. One of those, in paragraph 2, is that,
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I am not able to support the amendment, because two factors in respect of the condition that we have applied for a long time about death sentences are not present. The first is that the death sentence is something forbidden by the convention, to which we are now subscribers. The second is that, once the sentence is executed, it cannot be revoked; that is itthere is no possibility of rectifying an injustice.
That is not the case with someone sentenced to life imprisonment with, under the law, no possibility of release. There is an opportunity for a rehearing, for the exercise of mercy later, and for revision of the law. Those are important distinctions. It would go too far in inhibiting extradition if we were to support the amendment. I regret to have to say so, but that is my view.
I hope that my noble friend will look at the matter again; or maybe the noble Lord will come back at a later stage with a more appropriate amendment. The point that was made the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, is important. His point should be borne in mind, although it is not the final word. In any event, the amendment does not deal with the subject matter appropriately.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Although I empathise with the noble Lord's intent in moving the amendment, I agree with its succinct treatment by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden. We should of course exhort others to mercy and we should be mindful of that ourselves, but the imposition of a different criminal justice system on another state, as the amendment would have us do, is a different issue.
We should recognise that even in the states about which I know that the noble Lord is most concerned in the United States, which have a policy where life means life, the policy tends to allow for further appeals and the exercise of clemency by the state governor. There is nothing in the Extradition Act 1989 which would bar extradition in those circumstances. If a person could be or has been convicted of an offence that attracts a sentence of life imprisonment, that would not prevent extradition and we see no reason to depart from that position. Refusing to extradite in those circumstances would also put us in potential breach of our international treaty obligations. If another country were to refuse extradition to us, we would not take entirely kindly to it, because it would be an assertion that our rules did not meet the needs of other countries. Our own internal needs must meet the rights and responsibilities we have in relation to our citizens.
However, as was pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, the death penalty is a different matter. There is no such matter of principle in the case of mandatory life sentences. As the noble Lord knows, we have life sentences in the United Kingdom, but "life" means a period of time which does not necessarily extend until the end of the convicted person's life.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I shall make two points in response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden. First, he referred to the possibility of the exercise of mercy. Where there is a possibility under the law of the country concerned that a release might occur as a result of the exercise of mercy, I would not regard extradition to that country as coming under the prohibition that is envisaged by my amendment.
Secondly, as the noble and learned Lord rightly pointed out, the death penalty inevitably excludes the possibility of review, whereas a mandatory life sentence includes it. But that was no part of my argument. My argument was not based on the fact that there would be no possibility of review. My argument
I appreciate that this amendment does not seem to appeal to the House, or such of the House as is present at this rather late stage of the evening. It is not one that in the circumstances I shall press either now or later. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Transas Group Bill The Examiner's certificate that no further standing order is applicable was ordered to lie on the Table. It was reported by the Chairman of Committees, pursuant to Private Business Standing Order 91 (Special circumstances), that he had received the following report on the Bill from the Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation: "I believe that the promoters of the Transas Group Bill have undertaken a full assessment of the compatibility of their proposals with the European Convention on Human Rights, and I see no need to dispute their conclusions, subject to the points below. Their conclusions rely on assumptions on two matters that lie outside the Bill, and which I am therefore unable to verify. First, it is assumed that the extinction of the UK companies combined by acts of the boards of the companies and the company secretary of Transas Limited will effect the transfer of the business (including both assets and liabilities) to Transas Limited in Ireland. Second, it is assumed, on the basis of advice given by the companies' Irish lawyers, that all creditors' rights presently enforceable against the companies in the UK will be equally enforceable in Ireland. I note, therefore, that the Bill, while not itself infringing the rights of creditors of the companies, could result in the infringement of those rights if other conditions not controlled by the provisions of the Bill are not met. It may prove to be the case, therefore, that creditors' rights are less protected than they would be should the UK companies effect the transfer of assets through a more conventional route or through a winding-up procedure.".
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