Clause 2 - Part 1 warrant and certificate

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 9th January 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 10:45 am, 9th January 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in

clause 2, page 2, line 7, leave out 'or another form of detention'.

Amendment No. 8 also concerns a matter that we feel is serious and important. It would reintroduce what was contemplated in the framework decision, which is that offences for which someone may be extradited should be serious enough normally to attract a sentence of three years' imprisonment rather than the 12 months that is detailed in the Bill. We are not the only ones saying that—many organisations agree, including Justice and Liberty. The Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committee also agree, as do some of the Government's Back Benchers who spoke on Second Reading. The hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Gareth Thomas) spoke at length and made the point that because we are talking about a new regime with much more draconian measures, it is not good enough for the Minister to defend the figure of 12 months, as he did at Second Reading and during Tuesday's debate on clause 1, by saying simply that it was the figure under the previous legislation. That is not an effective argument, and I hope that the Minister will not bother us with it this morning.

I will quote again the Select Committee report. Paragraph 48 says:

''Both JUSTICE and Liberty expressed serious concerns about this proposal. JUSTICE supported the three-year maximum penalty being retained, on the grounds that 'this would go some way to avoid the abusive use of the coercive measure of extradition for minor offences that do not constitute crimes in this country.' ''

We have already discussed the vagueness of some of the 32 offences set out in the framework decision. The report continues:

''Liberty pointed out that, in the 13 years since the Extradition Act 1989''—

itself a consolidation measure of legislation dating from late Victorian times—

''was enacted, UK courts have intervened to refuse extradition in a significant number of EU cases, and the Home Secretary has refused to extradite in a significant number of other cases where extradition would have been plainly wrong or unjust.''

Paragraph 49 continues:

''We asked the Home Office why they proposed to reduce the dual criminality protection threshold. In response, they told us that they believed that applying a 12 month threshold is appropriate because the threshold is still sufficiently high to ensure that the conduct in question must be regarded as a matter of some seriousness in the criminal justice system of the country making the request.''

However, ''some seriousness'' is inappropriate for something serious enough to warrant the extradition of a British citizen. The Home Office stated that

''a three-year threshold has never previously featured in extradition law''.

The Labour-dominated Home Affairs Committee retorted:

''We consider that the Home Office's response fails to deal with the obvious point that, although a 12-month threshold may ensure that the offence is a matter of 'some seriousness', the framework decision clearly envisages that only offences serious enough to warrant a three year maximum penalty should be exempt from the dual criminality requirement.''