Patrick McVeigh

– in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 14th June 1988.

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Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells 5:13 pm, 14th June 1988

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the extradition proceedings relating to Patrick McVeigh.

Warrants were issued at Bow street magistrates court on 13 May 1988 for the arrest of Patrick McVeigh on charges of conspiracy to cause an explosion and of possession of explosive substances.

I duly sent to the Irish Attorney-General on 16 May, following the procedures recently agreed between us for the purposes of the Irish Extradition (Amendment) Act 1987, a note confirming that the Crown prosecution service had the clear intention to bring a prosecution, and that it had satisfied itself that there was sufficient admissible evidence to found a prosecution. I also sent to him a statement of facts and a statement of the relevant law.

The Irish Attorney-General, in accordance with the new Irish legislation, satisfied himself on the basis of that material that there was an intention to prosecute, based on a sufficiency of admissible evidence. The warrants, with the authority of the Irish Attorney-General, were accordingly endorsed by a Garda commissioner, and Patrick McVeigh was arrested on foot of those warrants on 18 May, upon the occasion of his release from Portlaoise prison, where he had been serving a sentence of imprisonment.

Applications for the return of fugitive offenders to the United Kingdom are made by the Irish State Solicitor, on behalf of the Irish state. Following McVeigh's arrest, discussions accordingly took place between the Crown prosecution service and the Irish State Solicitor. At the end of a conference with counsel for the Irish state in Dublin on 7 June, the central question remained whether the Irish state intended to call English witnesses to establish that the prisoner before the court was the person whose arrest was sought in the warrants.

On 9 June the Crown prosecution service wrote to the chief state solicitor stating that it was vital that it should hear from him forthwith as to whether English witnesses—and, if so, which—were required to attend the hearing on 13 June.

The following day a reply was received in writing from the State Solicitor that counsel had advised that the evidence already available was sufficient in law to establish the identity of McVeigh for the purpose of the district court hearing and that it was proposed to act on his advice. Accordingly, the evidence of witnesses from Britain to prove his identity would not be required. It was made clear that the Irish Attorney-General had personally considered and concurred in that advice.

Yesterday the Portlaoise district court considered the Irish state's application for the return of McVeigh to the United Kingdom. The unchallenged evidence led by the Irish state established that the prisoner before the Irish court was Patrick McVeigh, who had been released from Portlaoise prison on 18 May, and had formerly lived at 18 Forest street, Belfast. The English warrants expressly related to Patrick McVeigh of Portlaoise prison, formerly of 18 Forest street, Belfast.

However, the district justice held against the Irish state on the issue of identification. He concluded that the state had not established that the person before the court was the person to whom the English warrants related. He accordingly ordered the release of McVeigh, which duly occurred.

That result is deeply dismaying. The Crown prosecution service, at every stage of the proceedings, asked the Irish authorities what evidence the Irish state would require in order to meet the requirements of Irish law. It meticulously complied with the advice that it received. That advice did not occasion surprise, because it was consistent with the requirements previously made by Irish courts, which have never required evidence linking the person named in a warrant to the commission by that person of a specific offence.

Shortly after yesterday's hearing the Irish Attorney-General telephoned me to express his own disappointment with the result. I expressed to him my own feeling of profound frustration and surprise. We have agreed to consult urgently in the light of yesterday's judgment as to the next steps the Irish state might take, both in the case of McVeigh, and as to the implications of that decision for the effective machinery for extradition that we both desire.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Shadow Attorney General

I also express my astonishment at the extraordinary and totally unexpected decision of the district justice. To avoid confusion, despite the Attorney-General's reference to the 1987 Act, will he confirm that these proceedings were not under that Act, but were under the 1965 Act, and that the issue of identity could have been raised at any time since 1965?

Whatever the difficulties of the past, I am glad to have confirmation that all the evidence required of Her Majesty's Government was provided and of the basis and terms of the application made by the state solicitor, expressly and personally approved by the Irish Attorney-General, but which resulted in a decision that has caused dismay to all concerned with the effective working of extradition proceedings between civilised states on both sides of the water.

In those circumstances, will the Attorney-General confirm that there is a full and continuing close understanding between himself and the Irish Attorney-General, and that there is no suggestion of anything else regarding the Irish Attorney-General and the state solicitor in the application?

Secondly, despite the fact that this horse has bolted, what thought has the Attorney-General given to an appeal by way of case stated to ensure that there is a firm ruling for future extradition proceedings—I understand that there are a large number of important cases in the pipeline —and, possibly, the expedition of such an appeal'?

Lastly, what further steps does the Attorney-General have in mind to seek to ensure the avoidance of a repetition of this tragic result?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I am grateful for what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said at the outset of his remarks, and, indeed, subsequently. I welcome particularly his expression of dismay on behalf of the interests of all those—they are to be found on both sides of the water—who wish to see effective arrangements in place to secure the extradition of fugitive offenders, in every proper case, to this country.

Secondly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct in saying that the issue of identity, upon which the district justice took his decision yesterday, could have been raised at any time since the scheme for the mutual backing of warrants came into effect between our two countries in 1965. The 1987 legislation amended that of 1965, to give the Irish Attorney-General a role in that procedure.

Thirdly, I can confirm that there is a close and personal relationship between myself and my opposite number in the Republic. I was grateful to him for telephoning me at an early stage after yesterday's decision, and I have again spoken to him on the telephone today. Any suggestion of our being at arm's length in this regard or in any other context has no foundation in fact.

As to the question of the Irish state asking for a case to be stated by the district justice, the House will not as yet know that the Minister of Justice in the Republic has made a statement in the Dail this afternoon to the effect that the Irish state will seek to appeal by that mechanism. I welcome that, because I believe that the view of the requirements of Irish law taken by the district justice yesterday could, if unchallenged, have serious implications for the efficacy of our extradition arrangements under the mutual backing of warrants procedure.

As to the future—the last matter raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I believe that the expressions of deep concern on behalf of the Irish Government are an earnest of their desire to see that the law in the Republic of Ireland is so framed and applied as to ensure that extradition will be effective.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend make it clear to those who have responsibility for the working of the lower Irish courts that we in this country are thoroughly fed up with the fact that they move the goal posts every time we try to take action against an alleged terrorist? Will he make sure that the message is passed on to those authorities that we expect that loophole to be speedily closed so that the determination of our Government and the Irish Government to bring those terrorists to justice is fulfilled?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I have every sympathy with the indignation and dismay expressed by my hon. and learned Friend. The judges in the Republic are independent of the Executive, as they are in our country, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Irish Government are deeply disturbed by yesterday's decision. I am grateful and extremely pleased that the relationship that I have described exists between myself and my opposite number, and we shall both employ that to see that every means is taken to ensure that extradition will in future be effective.

Photo of Mr James Molyneaux Mr James Molyneaux , Lagan Valley

Has the Attorney-General noted the disillusionment expressed in practically every English newspaper today? Does he agree that those feelings of betrayal result not so much from the refusal of some Irish Republic judges to deliver as from the utterly absurd notion that they ever would if left to their own devices?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I am not responsible for what is expressed in the comment columns of newspapers, but we in this Government are determined to ensure that extradition is effective, and I am satisfied that the Irish Government wish to see that extradition is effective. Yesterday's decision was a grave setback to confidence in the administration of justice—to quote a phrase with which the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar in article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Does the Attorney-General agree that the only winners to come out of the shameful farce that took place in the Irish court yesterday are the provisional IRA, which has already claimed a victory, and McVeigh, who has already gone into hiding? How many cases—I understand that there have been a number—of extradition have failed in the Irish courts on the basis of a technicality? Even if an appeal is pursued by the Dublin authorities by way of case stated, it will be on the narrow point of the district justice's findings on the basis of identification. Can the Attorney-General assure us that he will not continue to suffer the frustration to which he referred in his statement?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that the only gainers are the terrorists when a proper case for extradition does not lead to the extradition of a fugitive offender. He will not expect me to endorse his description of proceedings in a judicial court yesterday, but I repeat that the British Government received the result with a deep sense of dismay. As we all know, there have been times when extradition cases have failed, but it is important to look forward rather than backward. The Irish Attorney-General and I have taken account of each other's concerns and we have reached a conclusion that is acceptable to both of us as to the procedure to be followed. We had each of us hoped with confidence that that agreement would lead to extradition taking place effectively in every proper case. We must wait and see whether that hope is fulfilled.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

Following the two conversations that the Attorney-General has had with his opposite number in Dublin, he has reported that an appeal is to be made, and we shall have to see what happens. But what will happen in the meantime? Is it correct that the Garda cannot arrest McVeigh in the Republic until the appeal is over? What concerns me is not what the lawyers are doing, but whether anybody is looking for him.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I understand the position to be that, following McVeigh's release yesterday, there are no means by which he can be arrested unless further warrants are issued for his arrest. Therefore, that man is at large and whether the Irish Garda will in future be able, if authorised, to arrest him is uncertain. That is one of the grounds for the deep dismay of which I have spoken.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

Looking forward, as my right hon. and learned Friend has suggested we do, should this outrageous absurdity not be regarded as a setback, not just to one Government, but to two, and to the police forces of both countries in their struggle against a common enemy? In trying to put common security on to a better footing—I realise that this is not strictly a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend—will Her Majesty's Government concentrate on the November review of the Anglo-Irish Conference?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

This is, of course, a grave setback for both Governments. It is a setback, not just for the police and the security forces, but for everyone who has an interest in the apprehension of people who are reasonably suspected of these very serious offences. There can be no doubt about that. Whether these matters will be reviewed in November or before is not a matter for me, but it is, I know, a matter of the gravest importance and the highest priority between the two countries that better arrangements shall be applied.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

The whole House will of course share the sentiment of deploring that such a person as Patrick McVeigh should be at large and might be able to return to the kind of actions that are at issue in the courts. Will the Attorney-General tell the House whether, when discussions took place on the extradition treaty with the Government of the Republic of Ireland, the Extradition Act 1965 was taken into account? Will there be further discussions with the Government on that Act to ensure that this deplorable position cannot be repeated?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I do not think that the fault, if fault there is, lies with the 1965 Act. That Act provided for a system whereby each country would authorise the backing of the other's warrants, and that worked perfectly well for this country for the ensuing 23 years. We regretted —and made it plain that we regretted—the 1987 legislation in the Republic that amended that legislation by interposing the Irish Attorney-General with a role to play in the procedure, but that did not bear on yesterday's decision. Yesterday's decision turned on whether identification had been sufficiently established. We acted on the very firm advice given to us by the Irish State Solicitor, which was in accordance with the previous unvaried practice of the Irish courts, and the outcome of those proceedings—yesterday's judgment—took us by surprise and caused us the greatest disturbance.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, he and his right hon. Friends believed that its signing would make cross-border security co-operation and the struggle against terrorism more effective, and that without the agreement such desirable increased co-operation would not be possible?

Does my right hon. and learned Friend also recall that this is not the first occasion on which he or his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has come to the House to comment on and express dismay at the course of events? Does he understand that in Northern Ireland there is increasing bewilderment that Her Majesty's Government should have given a place of special privilege to the Republic of Ireland, when the Republic appears incapable of co-operating with us in the defeat of terrorism?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

My hon. Friend will not expect me to usurp the function of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in commenting on the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I shall simply say that the hopes that my hon. Friend has just expressed were present among my right hon. Friends—and myself, for what that is worth—when the agreement was signed.

It is not true that there has been no advance—there has been. Yesterday's decision, however, was a grave setback which will certainly cause the greatest dismay in the Province of Northern Ireland, as my hon. Friend said. I believe that it is of the greatest importance that the two Governments decide together how best to improve the arrangements, so that in proper cases those who are suspected of grave offences are extradited to face justice.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

In the light of the earlier debacle over the case of Evelyn Glenholmes and the protracted discussions that have taken place subsequently, surely expressions of dismay are hardly adequate now. Does the Attorney-General really believe that what happened yesterday represents yet another triumph for the old firm of Fumble and Bumble, or does he think that it was a calculated piece of deliberate sabotage? Does he not agree that the real gainers yesterday were not just the IRA but those who want to undermine the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and that the losers were those who want to see constitutional progress made on the basis of a united front by the British and Irish Governments? How quickly does the Attorney-General intend to meet his opposite number to discuss the matter face to face?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I think that I made it clear that I have a close relationship with the Irish Attorney General and that we are in close contact.

I do not accept that there are only two possible explanations for yesterday's debacle, as the hon. Gentleman has suggested. What we must do is see how the arrangements can best be improved. Confidence will continue to wane unless such improvement takes place, and that is what the two Governments, in co-operation, must achieve.

Photo of Mr Barry Porter Mr Barry Porter , Wirral South

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is some comfort to know that the sentiments that he has reported have been expressed by the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General in the Republic? Does he also accept that in this case words will not be enough, and that we will be looking, in the House and the country, for action by those two gentlemen to ensure that we get what we were promised by the Anglo-Irish Agreement?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I am certain that my hon. Friend's words will be noted. I do not think that in answering him I can add sensibly to what I have already said to the House this afternoon.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Is the Attorney-General aware of a widespread belief, in Ireland and in this country, that an Irishman charged with a terrorist offence cannot obtain a fair trial before the British courts? Is he further aware that the cause of that unease is the failure of Her Majesty's Government and our courts to own up to the huge mistakes that have been made in the cases of the six innocent people convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, and the 11 innocent persons convicted in connection with the Guildford and Woolwich case? Would it not be better to own up to those mistakes, so that in future when this sort of thing happens we can occupy the moral high ground?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The hon. Gentleman sinks reliably to every occasion. I entirely reject what he has said —[Interruption.]—in a contribution that has dramatically lowered the standard of exchanges, which have been characterised by the gravest concern and the highest responsibility.

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that yesterday's decision derived from a belief that there was no fair trial to be obtained in this country for any Irish citizen, that was not the ground advanced by the distict justice; nor would any sensible person have expected it to be so. I resent the imputation placed on the appeal that was heard over six or seven weeks at the end of last year, and on the judgment pronounced by the Lord Chief Justice, which was a unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The matter must be approached on the basis of good faith on each side. Where it is found, after sensible examination, that our arrangements need improvement and that the Irish arrangements for extradition to this country need to be improved, everyone will wish to see that improvement—except, I suspect, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin).

Photo of Michael Mates Michael Mates , East Hampshire

Quite apart form the legal ramifications of yesterday's appalling muddle, is it not outrageous that McVeigh was released and not remanded or kept in arrest while any technical matters were sorted out? As this is the third time that known terrorists have been allowed to go off to their safe houses because of minor technicalities, is this not a grave flaw in the arrangements?

Would it not be entirely consistent with what Mr. Haughey said when he introduced the controversial amendments to the Extradition Act—if he saw that it was not working, he pledged to look at it again and make it work, improving it if necessary—for my right hon. and learned Friend to make the strongest representations that it is not working and that we look to Mr. Haughey to keep his word?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

We certainly look to the proper operation of the Extradition Act 1965, as amended by the Extradition (Amendment) Act 1987. Where a case of this kind occurs, confidence in the operation of the law in Ireland is gravely shaken. Speaking only for myself, as my hon. Friend will recognise, I would welcome means by which a prisoner could be detained in custody pending an appeal on a decision taken at the court of first instance; that is to say, a district justice. I would welcome that. Had that been in place yesterday and operated, McVeigh would have remained in custody instead of setting off into the unknown, whence he may or may not ultimately be discovered and arrested. Speaking for myself, I believe that that would be a desirable change. I do not doubt that that will be one of the matters which the two Governments will want to consider.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry

What will happen to Mr. McVeigh should he be so foolish as to return to his former home in Belfast? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman, during the course of his investigations into this matter, looked at today's report in The Irish Times, which states that this district justice served in the offices of a former Minister of the Irish Republic and also worked in the practice of a second former Minister of the Irish Republic? Therefore, he must be very deeply steeped in the politics of that nation and be aware of the real political attitudes in the Irish Republic with regard to extradition of IRA terrorists to this country.

Is it not also clear from all that has happened down the years, when extradition request after extradition request has been refused on the most tenuous of technicalities, such as pinholes in paper and God knows what else, that certain judges in the Irish Republic will always find a technical reason to refuse extradition for known IRA terrorists?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that if McVeigh appears and is discovered in the North, in Belfast or in any other part of the United Kingdom, he will be arrested. I have nothing to say on the hon. Gentleman's suggestions about the good faith of the Irish judge concerned. Finally, I confirm that a number of cases have failed through what in this country and in these courts would be described as the merest technicalities. However, in fairness I must say that yesterday's case does not fall into that category.

The Irish justice took the view that identification had not been established. That is an important factor in what must be established by the requesting state in any extradition proceedings. What caused the greatest surprise and dismay was the view taken by the Irish court as to whether that important factor had been established. We took and relied upon the advice of the Irish authorities that the evidence would be sufficient to establish that. We were not surprised by that, because it fitted exactly the pattern of previous Irish requirements.

Photo of Mr Antony Buck Mr Antony Buck , Colchester North

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it comes as no surprise to his many friends, I suspect on both sides of the House, that neither he nor his Department is in any way culpable? Under what time scale will he work? It is very important, as I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend will agree, to get the matter sorted out, because the affair is debilitating for the defence forces and the forces of law and order both north and south of the border. It is important that we get it right very soon. Will my right hon. and learned Friend say a little more about the time scale?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I am grateful for my hon. and learned Friend's comments. This matter must be taken forward with all sensible speed, because people will not continue to put up with the failure of proper cases for extradition and will not have confidence in the administration of justice—to cite the Anglo-Irish Agreement again—if proper cases appear to be going wrong.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Is the Attorney-General wise to get quite so angry with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin)? Does he not recognise that there is a strand of serious opinion which has become totally cynical and asks, "What on earth do we expect a district judge to do in the light of 500 years of history other than to find any possible technicality?" I gather that many other cases may come up. Do the Government believe that in future other judges will not find technicalities of this nature?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The hon. Gentleman must give the Irish judiciary credit for wanting to apply the law of Ireland. Yesterday's decision occasioned equal surprise in the Republic of Ireland and here in the application of the law of Ireland. I do not think that there is anything to be gained or that anybody's interests, Irish or British, are advanced by reciting past grievances. To do that implies that the Irish judge has acted in a dishonourable, as distinct from a possibly mistaken, manner.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Rutland and Melton

Stripped to its essentials, was not yesterday's disgraceful decision a catastrophe for Anglo-Irish relations? When my right hon. and learned Friend spoke on the telephone to his opposite number, did he make it clear to him that the only way to rebuild those relations is for the Garda to find this man and bring him before a court as quickly as possible?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I have made very clear the light in which I viewed yesterday's decision. I do not know whether it is a catastrophe for Anglo-Irish relations, but it is a very grave setback for everyone who wants to see extradition working in every proper case.

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

The Attorney-General and the Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box have criticised hon. Members for criticising judges in this country on the decisions that they have made, and they have said constantly that judges should not be influenced in their decisions when the evidence is put before them. Will the Attorney-General tell us this afternoon whether the Government will influence the Irish Government to influence judges in their decisions in future on extradition?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I have made the Government's attitude to yesterday's decision perfectly clear. We wish to see extradition working properly in accordance with the requirements of Irish law. That is what the Irish Government want to see. I do not believe that there is anything to be gained by suggesting, as the hon. Gentleman did, that the Irish judge was influenced by matters that were extraneous to his judicial duty and derived from personal prejudice. I would not make that allegation. It was made by implication by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, and that was a disgraceful and most regrettable inference to draw. We want Irish law and Irish procedural arrangements to secure the extradition of fugitive offenders to this country in every proper case.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that all sane people in this country will recognise that he has bent over backwards to accommodate the more restrictive arrangements required by the Irish Republic? Would it not be wise to issue arrest warrants straight away? Will he tactfully suggest to the Irish Government that, in pursuit of an appeal by way of case stated, it should be made clear that the existing law between the two countries does not allow for the introduction of evidence from Britain about the identity of the person before the court as a person being responsible for any particular crime? That is excluded by the arrangements at present that apply between us and the Irish Republic. If that is not established, many other cases may come forward in which another judge in the Irish jurisdiction will claim to have insufficient evidence about the identity of the person before him.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

My hon. Friend, who knows so much about extradition, has put his finger on the crucial point. Irish practice and our practice have always established a barrier at the time when the warrants are issued. The Irish courts have never previously sought to go behind that barrier to see whether there is evidence connecting the prisoner before the court with the commission by that prisoner of a specific offence. Only by reason of the importance of maintaining that position have the Irish Government decided to proceed by way of appeal by case stated. Fresh warrants could be issued only if they were supported by the very evidence that we were told by the Irish authorities was not needed by Irish law. l do not wish to set a precedent whereby extradition requests are supported by evidence that is not required by Irish law, because thereafter we should always be required to do the same.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

At this early stage, which is the more likely alternative: that there is something wrong with the system or—I put it no higher than this—that members of the Irish judiciary are bent by their own republicanism, bullied by the IRA, or just plain barmy? If it is the second alternative, where on earth do we go from here?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

My hon. Friend will not expect me to endorse any of those adjectives. What I shall say —it is the limit of what is helpful, sensible and responsible to say—is that each Government must look at this case and decide whether either the law or the procedures are the best that it is practicable to devise to ensure that properly suspected fugitive offenders are extradited.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry , Banbury

Will not the reeds start to rustle at Runnymede if Opposition Members continually impugn the integrity of Her Majesty's judges? Should not those of us who live in the real world, both in the United Kingdom and Ireland, look for ways in which we can improve these extradition arrangements, including the sensible suggestions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates) and for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook)?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Birmingham prisoners were tried at first instance and their appeal was heard in the Court of Appeal on a reference by my predecessor, so their case has been subjected to a substantial further hearing. Our objection is that McVeigh will not apparently be subjected to a trial.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

When my right hon. and learned Friend reviews future policies, will he take into account the fact that now that it appears that the Irish courts have yet again decided not to co-operate with us and prefer to behave like an unprincipled banana republic's courts, a growing number of us in this country have decided that wringing our hands and saying, "Tut,tut," is not enough? I agree with the adjectives used by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and say that the time has come when we should treat the Irish Republic like any other foreign country and withdraw the special treatment of its citizens within the United Kingdom.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The special treatment to which my hon. Friend refers in the context of extradition has been highly satisfactory for the interests of this country, because our warrants have been endorsed hitherto by Irish authorities without exception. As a result, people have been arrested and extradited to this country without our having to show prima facie evidence, which we must do in every other case. It is not helpful to make general assertions about Irish courts. The most that it is helpful and sensible to do today is to make perfectly clear the dismay, disappointment and surprise of the House at the outcome. I am grateful for what the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) said in that regard about the outcome of yesterday's proceedings. I agree that we must urgently consult the Irish Government on how we can best secure that such a thing does not occur again.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

When my right hon. and learned Friend communicates with his opposite number in the Republic, will he reiterate that deep damage has been done to the faith of those of us on both sides of the House who have always supported the Anglo-Irish Agreement? I remind hon. Members that the House endorsed that agreement by a massive majority in 1985. Will my right hon. and learned Friend emphasise the damage caused by this perverse and apparently through-the-looking-glass decision of the Irish court? In his early investigations, did my right hon. and learned Friend check to see whether there was in any way, shape or form any substance to the reason that the district judge gave for disputing the evidence on identification yesterday? If not, we shall be further strengthened in our cynicism about the commitment of that Irish court.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

We are expecting a full report from the Irish authorities about what occurred in the Portlaoise district court yesterday. Before that is received, I certainly would not endorse the adjective implied by my hon. Friend. It is necessary that the Irish authorities should know the depth of feeling that yesterday's decision has engendered in the House and in the country. I do not believe that they are under any illusions about that, but it certainly bears repetition and it will be repeated.

Photo of Dr Michael Clark Dr Michael Clark , Rochford

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many of us on this side of the House who have so far supported the Anglo-Irish Agreement, are disillusioned? Does he agree that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is now one-sided? Does he accept that it is as one-sided as unilateral disarmament, and that for many of us it is as discredited and unacceptable as unilateral disarmament?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

Not least of the dangers of a decision that gives rise to the reactions to which yesterday's decision has given rise is that it leads to exactly the sort of conclusions and results that my hon. Friend has expressed. It is fair to say that the Irish Government cannot direct any judicial decision. Their judiciary is independent, as ours is, and it is fair that that should be borne in mind. That does not mean that confidence in the relationship between our two countries is not gravely damaged by what took place yesterday. We must keep that in mind and do our best to ensure that there is in each country the best procedure, as well as the best substantive law, to secure that extradition in every proper case takes place.

Photo of Mr Jerry Hayes Mr Jerry Hayes , Harlow

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this has absolutely nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and everything to do with the fact that, despite the good intentions of both Governments—and they are good intentions—we cannot agree to legislate in a way that will cater for bloody-minded, eccentric and perhaps partial judges? [Interruption.] I said perhaps. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will accept that yesterday the judge completely abandoned the standard practice for dealing with extradition under the Extradition Act 1965, which has allowed 700 people to be extradited from the South of Ireland to this country.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I am not sure that I agree with my hon. Friend that this has nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement, because article 8 states: The two Governments agree on the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice. It is perfectly true that hitherto that phrase has been cited only in relation to confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. Article 8 continues: The Conference shall seek … measures which would give substantial expression to this aim. Therefore, this is not wholly divorced from the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I appreciate and sympathise with my hon. Friend's indignation, but I cannot usefully add to what I have already said.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Shadow Attorney General

Will the Attorney-General give an indication of the likely time scale of a case stated to be heard? Can it be expedited? While waiting for a case to be heard, is there any difficulty in starting fresh proceedings on the assumption that McVeigh may be found?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I cannot give a precise time scale, if indeed it is a precise time scale, but we shall press for the earliest hearing of that appeal. I wish to give thought to the possibility of starting fresh proceedings in consultation with my opposite number. We wish to take every possible step to ensure that this man is brought into custody again as soon as is proper and possible.