Clause 53 - Presumed consent to other

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 10:45 am, 14th January 2003

It is important to have a brief stand part debate on the clause, which refers back to the issue of what the statutes variously refer to as specialty or speciality, on which the debate began under clause 17. Significantly, the Labour-dominated Select Committee on Home Affairs states in bald terms that clause 53 should be deleted. Paragraph 70 of the Committee's report states that the clause

''provides for the possibility of the UK giving a blanket waiver of the speciality rule. Article 27.1 of the framework decision provides that a state may give notification that it may be presumed to have consented to another EU member state taking proceedings against a suspect other than those for which the executing state surrendered

the suspect, where the other member state has also given such notification under article 27.1. Clause 53 provides that where both the requesting state and the UK have given such notification under article 27.1, then the requesting state may proceed as if the appropriate UK judge had given consent to the extradited person being dealt with for the other offence (unless the judge makes a statement to the contrary in any given case).''

We talked about the importance of the specialty provision under clause 17, but the Home Office told the Home Affairs Committee that the Government intend to give such notification under article 27.1 and that the Home Office believes that when the issue of specialty arises, the UK's position

''should be guided by the principles of mutual trust and mutual recognition.''

I am beginning to think that the Minister believes that mutual recognition is the answer to a maiden's prayer and the solution to all the country's woes. As I have said repeatedly, I do not have the same faith in mutual recognition as the Minister and the Government. The Home Affairs Committee goes further than that. It says:

''We find it difficult to reconcile what the Home Office has told us with a statement made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Bob Ainsworth MP, at the time of the Bill's publication. The Minister stated that 'the Bill also safeguards the rights of fugitives . . . we're retaining the principle that fugitives will only stand trial for the crime they were extradited for'' '.

As the Select Committee points out, that would appear to be a reference to the specialty rule, and it admits that nothing in the Bill would in itself limit the application of the specialty rule, which is preserved by clause 17. However, if the Government give notification under article 27.1, as the Home Office told the Select Committee they intended to do, the specialty rule will be undermined. The Select Committee goes on to say, in strong words:

''In the context of the information we have received from the Home Office, we consider that the Minister's statement can be described at best as incomplete and at worst as misleading.''

I am sure that the Minister did not intend to mislead the Home Affairs Committee, because it is not in his nature. The Select Committee carries on:

''We have serious reservations about the Government's intention to give notification under article 27.1.''

That is the view of not only the Labour-dominated Select Committee, but the organisations Justice and Liberty. When we were in government and the present Government were in opposition, Labour Members constantly talked about the concerns of organisations such as Justice and Liberty, but here and now they are flying in the face of such organisations. The Select Committee made that point, saying that

''the Home Office failed to respond to the concern raised by JUSTICE that, although such cases are at the moment infrequent, agreeing to what is effectively a carte blanche to proceed against an extradited person in relation to any offence whatsoever may well lead to a significant rise in the number of such cases.''

The Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Conservatives agree with Justice and Liberty that specialty is a key safeguard against abuse of the extradition process, and that for the UK to give notice under article 27.1 would infringe the safeguard. The Law Society for England and Wales also opposes any exceptions to the specialty rule. Like the

Conservatives, the Home Affairs Committee considered

''that any notification under article 27.1 would amount to a blanket waiver of the specialty rule. Instead of such a blanket waiver, we would prefer that such waivers should be given on a case-by-case basis and with the consent of the person to be extradited.''

It is for that reason that the Select Committee recommended, in bold type, that clause 53 should be deleted from the Bill. We agree and do not understand why the Government, having included the specialty rule in clause 17, are proposing blanket waivers to it in clause 53. It undermines the protections to which people have always been entitled, and the Government will find it difficult to justify keeping clause 53 in the Bill.