MR. Giles Carlyle-Clarke

– in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 24th March 2005.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Conservative, North Dorset 5:59 pm, 24th March 2005

I shall speak about just one gentleman, my constituent Mr. Giles Carlyle-Clarke, and about his impending extradition to the United States.

I know that the Minister had reservations about this debate, because she feels that she may have been operating in a quasi-judicial role, but I believe that she is responsible to Parliament for the decisions that have been made, and that it is therefore appropriate for those decisions to be questioned here. I will, however, seek reassurance from her on one aspect of the process, which I hope she will be able to give me. She was the Minister who made the final decision to accede to the wishes of the United States authorities, and authorise the extradition to the United States of my constituent. As his case is now being reviewed by her Department, it is her decision that is under review. I hope that she can reassure me that any decisions that are made are made not by her alone but by the Home Secretary himself. Otherwise she would be reviewing her own decision, and there can be no justice in that.

The subject of this debate, however, is the fate of my constituent, Mr. Giles Carlyle-Clarke, who is wanted by the Government of the United States in relation to four charges involving the smuggling of cannabis into the United States—and the possession of cannabis there—between 1983 and 1988. The charges therefore relate to events that took place some 20 years ago. I do not intend to deal with the guilt or innocence of my constituent, because this is not a court of law, but I will make the House aware that he protests his innocence, and I have no reason to doubt him. He has led an open and blameless life, and his family have lived at the same address for several hundred years. He has given that address as his principal residence for at least the last 26 years. He is a single parent with two children aged nine and 12.

My case to the Minister is a simple one. To extradite an individual for alleged crimes that the authorities claim took place between 17 and 22 years ago is unjust and oppressive when that individual has been living openly and not as a fugitive. This is an unprecedented decision, as it seems to ignore article 6 of the European convention on human rights, which states that

"everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time".

The Americans have not given credible evidence that my constituent should be extradited. Their evidence is based on statements made by hardened criminals as part of plea-bargaining deals.

Mr. Joel Cohen, an ex-district attorney in the United States, says:

"In my opinion, the methods employed by the Government of the United States through Agent Baker and others in obtaining these three affidavits were not only quite wrong, but rose to the level of egregious misconduct."

Joel Cohen has said that the effect of the American authorities' actions

"has been to effectively destroy the fairness of any trial that Mr. Carlyle-Clarke may face."

Moreover, if convicted my constituent would face a mandatory life sentence in Alabama with no possibility of parole.

Mr. Carlyle-Clarke has lived and travelled openly—that includes visiting the United States since the alleged crime—and he has a clean record. The American authorities claim that they did not know where he was until the end of the 1990s. New evidence, which is before the Minister, proves that the American authorities have in fact known of his identity since 1988 and of his whereabouts since 1989. He has in fact served a sworn affidavit on the American authorities in May 1989, in which he gave his address—the address in Dorset, in my constituency—where he has continued to live. I have seen a copy of that document. It is inhumane to take away a sole parent from an eight-year-old child, and a child psychologist has given evidence outlining the horrendous and irreparable psychiatric damage that this extradition could have on his young child, Max.

The basis of the case is that, in the past few weeks, Giles Carlyle-Clarke's lawyers have made a new submission to the Home Office, based on dramatic new evidence that has recently emerged in the United States. His lawyers believe that this new evidence means that the Home Office must reverse its decision to permit his extradition to the United States of America, as its decision made in November 2004 was based on information that now turns out to have been untrue.

This new evidence reveals that the US authorities have, in fact, misled the Home Office. They claimed that they had no photographic means of identifying Giles Carlyle-Clarke until 1995. As he has claimed all along, it has now been confirmed that they had a photograph of him as long ago as May 1988. I have seen a copy of that photograph, which was acquired from the United States state attorney. Accordingly, the US authorities' reason for delay in extraditing Giles lacks any credibility. There now seems to be no explanation for the US authorities' delay in applying for the extradition of Giles Carlyle-Clarke until 1998 for alleged crimes that were committed between 17 and 22 years ago, when they knew of his identity in 1988 and his address in 1989.

In their new submission to the Home Office, Giles Carlyle-Clarke's lawyers are also requesting that, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Home Office must release the full correspondence between itself and the US authorities in this case. I have also written to the Minister to make that same request, and I would be delighted if she could give me an answer to it this evening.

The new evidence is that Mr. Jefferson Dean, a US lawyer who has been retained by Mr. Carlyle-Clarke, discovered quite recently that a photograph of Mr. Carlyle-Clarke had been in the US authorities' possession since 1988, not 1995 as they had previously asserted. In addition, as I have said, Giles Carlyle-Clarke signed a sworn affidavit which was served on the US authorities and gave his home address in 1989. This was in connection with charges against another gentleman, who is not particularly relevant here, relating to the smuggling of cannabis. The US authorities have therefore been able to identify Giles Carlyle-Clarke, and known of his whereabouts, since 1988 and 1989 respectively. On the back of the new submission, the Home Office will be considering the papers relating to his case.

The background relating to the new evidence is that the Home Office has been led to believe by the US authorities that they were only able to identify Giles Carlyle-Clarke from that photograph in 1995 and, therefore, progressed the extradition in the belief that the delay for the extradition request was acceptable.

The US authorities claimed that as they had no photograph of Mr. Carlyle-Clarke before 1995 they had no means of identifying him and circulating him as a wanted criminal before then, and therefore could not find him for three years. If they had been able to do so, they could have put him on a red Interpol list and, given his extensive travels in the intervening years, which are apparent from the photocopy of his passport that I have seen, he would have been apprehended much earlier. But the authorities made no attempt to do that, despite the fact that he maintained that the photograph had been in the possession of the US authorities since 1988 and so they must have known his identity for at least seven years before they said they had.

During a period of over six years since 1998, the legal process in this country required the Home Secretary to consider the representations of both the US authorities and Mr. Carlyle-Clarke on the question of delay. But the Home Secretary at the time persistently rejected Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's version of events. In November 2004, he was informed of the Home Secretary's decision to extradite him to the US. Also in November 2004, Mr. Justice Pitchford held in the High Court that the Home Secretary was fully entitled to find on the evidence before him that the US authorities did not come into possession of the photograph until 1995 or thereafter, and that Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's defence team was wrong to suggest that there was any evidence to the contrary. As Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's lawyers had not expected this interpretation of the evidence, they decided to instruct a US-based attorney, Mr. Jeffrey Dean III, with a specific brief to find out what the truth was. During his investigation, Jeffrey Dean discovered the new evidence.

Giles Carlyle-Clarke maintains that he is innocent. He has been living an open and blameless life based at the same address in Dorset for over 25 years, and not as a fugitive. He has travelled extensively, including to the US. He is the sole parent of Max, aged eight, and father to Jessica, aged 12. He knew nothing of these allegations until he was arrested by the Dorset police in December 1997.

In summary, can the Minister tell me why she is content that the US authorities did not seek the extradition of Giles Carlyle-Clarke until January 1998 on charges that related to events that took place between 1983 and 1988? Why, after a decision by the courts in this country to allow the extradition in November 1999, did it take the Home Office two and a half years until July 2002 to respond?

It is, to use a legal phrase, unjust and oppressive, by reason of the passage of time, for Giles Carlyle-Clarke to be extradited to the US. I understand from leading Queen's Counsel who specialise in this area of the law that if the case related to an extradition between Commonwealth countries it would be held to be unjust on the basis of his inability to deal with events so distant in the past, and oppressive because he has lived a new and blameless life in the intervening period.

I hope that the Minister can reassure me now that Mr. Giles Carlyle-Clarke can get on with his life as a free man without these charges hanging over him.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 6:13 pm, 24th March 2005

I congratulate Mr. Walter on securing this Adjournment debate. He is obviously doing what he should be doing on behalf of a constituent as a constituency Member of Parliament, and I understand his concerns for his constituent and his constituent's family. As I have already made clear to the hon. Gentleman, I take no issue with his setting out his reasons for believing that Mr. Giles Carlyle-Clarke should not be extradited to the US, but I should like to put the context of the case before the House this evening.

The context is that Mr. Carlyle-Clarke is wanted by the US authorities in the state of Alabama on serious charges concerning the importation and possible distribution of marijuana. The accusations involve the smuggling into the US in 1986 and 1987 of several thousands pounds—in weight—of the drug. He is also alleged to have co-ordinated delivery and distribution of a further quantity of drugs in Alabama in 1988 and to have received payments then worth more than $1 million for those services. In other words, he is wanted for very serious offences. Government Members know that the Conservative party takes the issue of cannabis and marijuana very seriously indeed.

Before proceeding any further, I should like to explain my specific difficulties with today's Adjournment debate, about which I wrote to Mr. Speaker. I copied the letter to the hon. Member for North Dorset and I hope that he will not mind me repeating some of the content for the House, which I believe is important.

The difficulty arises from the present circumstances of the case. The applicable current resolution about sub judice matters was passed on 15 November 2001. It sets out in clear terms that a criminal or civil case should not be referred to in any motion, debate or question. However, extradition cases are slightly different from all other cases heard by our courts, because they involve both the courts and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in the decision-making process. An extradition case is not concluded until a final decision is made by my right hon. Friend, so in taking this decision, he is acting in a quasi-judicial role. He must weigh up the case for and against the making of an extradition order, taking into account any representations made to him.

In the case of Mr. Carlyle-Clarke, the matter is currently before the Secretary of State for consideration of fresh representations made on 15 February 2005 by his solicitors. So, while the matter is not strictly sub judice under the terms of the 2001 resolution, the case has not yet concluded. I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's decision and there remains the possibility of further legal proceedings in the form of an application for judicial review.

In summary, I inquired of Mr. Speaker whether, in those circumstances, this debate should go ahead. He felt that it should, and I have accepted his decision. However, I can say very little publicly about the case until my right hon. Friend has taken his decision, and until that decision has been communicated to Mr Carlyle-Clarke. As I have assured the hon. Member for North Dorset, throughout the decision-making process, Home Office officials are maintaining appropriate contact with Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's legal representatives. I shall provide only a brief history of the case, about which the hon. Gentleman has already spoken, and restrict myself to a few general comments.

As I have explained, the alleged offences go back 17 years. An arrest warrant was first granted against Mr. Carlyle-Clarke by the district court in Alabama in 1992. There are some issues about the time taken before the US issued a request to us for his arrest that I cannot, for reasons that I have already explained, enter into here. Under the terms of the Extradition Act 1989, he was provisionally arrested for extradition on 9 January 1998 and remanded on bail. That date of arrest is now quite some time ago, but I can assure the House that the case did move on in the interval.

On 4 January 1999, Mr Carlyle-Clarke was committed at Bow Street to await the decision of my right hon. Friend Mr. Straw, the then Home Secretary, as to his return—a prima facie case having been found against him, based on documentary evidence and witness statements. He then applied for habeas corpus, but withdrew from that line of legal challenge on 10 November 1999.

Under the Extradition Act 1989, it then fell to the Home Secretary to decide whether to make an order for Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's return. Mr. Carlyle-Clarke was advised through his solicitors that he had the right to make representations to my right hon. Friend against that surrender by 2 December 1999. Under the procedures of the Extradition Act 1989, in making such a decision on surrender, the Secretary of State has to take into account not only statutory restrictions on return, but, in exercising his discretion, any other reason why it would be wrong, unjust or oppressive to order return. That can involve a very wide range of matters indeed. The deadline for representations was subsequently extended by the agreement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, and they were received from Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's solicitors on both 13 December 1999 and 1 February 2000. They covered a wide range of matters.

Considerable inquiries were then made of the US authorities, followed by a very careful consideration of the representations, including a review of the case law cited in them. In due course, my predecessor as Minister with responsibility for extradition, my hon. Friend Mr. Ainsworth, signed an order for surrender on behalf of the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Mr. Blunkett, on 3 July 2002. The period of two and half years may seem unduly long, but I am satisfied that the time taken was unprecedented neither under the terms of the extradition legislation that applied at the time, nor in the specific context of this matter.

The solicitors then requested to be allowed to make further representations. That was agreed, given all the circumstances of the case. Extensive further representations were received on a number of occasions, and further information from the US was also received before reconsideration of the case could be completed. In due course, on 27 November 2003, I confirmed the earlier decision to surrender made by my predecessor. I do not believe that the fact that I dealt with the matter at that time precludes me from dealing with it in future, when new information would allow me to make a fresh decision.

In due course, the case came before the courts once again. On 26 November 2004, the High Court dismissed Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's application for judicial review. In giving judgment, Mr. Justice Pitchford considered all the arguments relating to delay in this case. Both Ministers and the courts had considered the case presented on behalf of Mr. Carlyle-Clarke in appropriate depth, and at that stage had been satisfied that no injustice or breach of human rights would occur, notwithstanding the contentions advanced as to passage of time. No statute of limitations applies, and the charge is a serious one. The overall time spent since the arrest involves time allowed for Mr. Carlyle-Clarke to make representations, as he is entitled to do, extensions granted by the Secretary of State to enable him to make those representations, and the time which has been needed for their due consideration.

In terms of general questions about the passage of time precluding extradition, it may help if I quote from the judgment of Lord Justice Simon Brown in the case of Woodcock v. Government of New Zealand, cited at 2004/1/WLR1979. He said:

"In my judgment, there can be no cut-off point beyond which extradition must inevitably be regarded as unjust or oppressive. It hardly needs me to point out that trial after 20 years or more is far from ideal. Sometimes, however, it may nevertheless be appropriate to extradite an accused for that purpose."

The case has again come before the Home Secretary, and it would not be appropriate for me to go into further details, but I will just add that I have noted the comments from the hon. Member for North Dorset about the position of Mr. Carlyle-Clarke's family. Extradition, by its nature—even more than other criminal proceedings—necessarily involves separation from loved ones. I recognise that, and such matters are taken into account

There is one other matter that I must mention. The hon. Member for North Dorset and the solicitors representing Mr. Carlyle-Clarke have both asked in recent weeks that specific papers in relation to the case should be disclosed to them. The hon. Gentleman repeated that request again this evening.

The request is being considered under the freedom of information procedures, but questions to do with international relations require further analysis before we respond, which we are trying to do as quickly as possible. There is nothing sinister about that: it is simply a question of respecting legal confidences between states. I can assure the hon. Member for North Dorset that no information has been withheld that is prejudicial to his constituent's case, but I hope he will forgive me if I cannot comment at this time. However, I have written to him, and I also faxed a letter to his office yesterday to confirm that we have set a deadline of 14 April for reply. I hope that his staff have alerted him to that fax, and I assure him that receipt was confirmed.

In passing, I note that the difficulties arising in this case, and the time that has elapsed while it has been processed through the Home Office and the courts, seem to me rather illustrative of why it was necessary to review extradition procedures. The Extradition Act 2003 has greatly rationalised the process, and placed most decision-making on extradition before our independent courts, where it rightly should be.

I am well aware that certain current cases even under the new Act are controversial, and I do not intend to stray beyond the scope of this debate by discussing them. However, early indications are that the new procedures will, over the course of time, prove to be much quicker than those under the old Act. That will serve the interests of justice and the fight against international crime. By no means least, it will serve the interests of defendants facing the uncertainties of extradition proceedings, as they will still have appropriate protections available to them.

In conclusion, I hope that what I have had to say will have been of some assistance to the hon. Member for North Dorset. It is our intention that the decision currently awaited in the case will be reached as quickly as is consistent with a proper and just consideration of the latest representations.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty four minutes past Six o'clock