Clause 2 - Part 1 warrant and certificate

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 9th January 2003.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 10:15 am, 9th January 2003

I add my voice to those who have welcomed you to the Chair, Miss Begg. You are a welcome addition to the Chairmen's Panel. I have already had the privilege of serving under your chairmanship of the Scottish Grand Committee, and I am confident that our proceedings in this Committee will be exceedingly well chaired.

I preface my remarks by reminding hon. Members that reference to the British legal system irritates me when I am feeling less patient than I am today. I agreed with much that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, but there is more than one legal system in this country. I merely observe in passing that there are certain safeguards in Scotland: for example, the Scottish legal system insists that a person who is remanded in custody on a petition proceeding must be brought for trial within 110 days and on a summary complaint within 40 days. Thereafter the Crown must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt using corroborated evidence. Such safeguards are not given to all citizens in the United Kingdom, which I have

always found difficult to explain. The lesson from that is that when we speak of our legal system, we should do so with a fair measure of humility.

As the hon. Member for Surrey Heath has already said, amendment No. 127 is designed to achieve largely the same aims as the Conservative amendments. However, I will raise some questions about the Conservative amendments, and I suggest for reasons of simplicity and succinctness that the Liberal Democrat amendments, and the speeches proposing them, might be preferred.

The insertion of the words ''a judicial'' would give the proper amount of judicial scrutiny, which is an important protection, as the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said earlier. Although the issuing of warrants is a judicial prerogative in the UK legal systems, the function is not solely performed by judges in other European countries. Investigating magistrates in countries that use the Napoleonic code often have the warrant powers that we reserve to the judiciary. However, especially considering the provisions in subsection (3)(a), some judicial scrutiny is important to ensure that all procedures have been observed and properly executed up to the point at which the warrant is issued.

My difficulty with the Conservative amendment No. 2 may just be a typographical point but I do not understand why ''High Court'' should be capitalised. I can understand why the High Court is capitalised, but I think that better terminology might have been ''a high court'' or ''a superior court''. The amendment would insert the words:

''a judge of a High Court of a category 1 territory in which the presumption of innocence as applied in the courts of England and Wales applies.''

Another difficulty is that that would require a Scottish court to determine how the presumption of innocence is applied in England and Wales. One would expect that it would be largely the same, but in Scotland the presumption of innocence is rebuttable only on the production of corroborated evidence, which is not the case in England and Wales. There is clearly a difference in which the presumption of innocence is applied in the different parts of the United Kingdom, and I do not think that the words

''in the courts of England and Wales''

are particularly helpful or should be included in the Bill.

That said, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat amendments both seek to achieve the same important aim. The function of the judiciary as the safeguard for individual liberty is important, as has been mentioned at length by others. It is perhaps something of a de minimis safeguard, but one that we should not abandon lightly.