Clause 17 - Speciality

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 14 January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 9:25, 14 January 2003

Good morning Mr. O'Hara. Welcome back. We now turn to the rather arcane subject of speciality. As the Government's explanatory notes make clear:

''The speciality rule is a long-standing protection in extradition. It prohibits a person from being prosecuted after his extradition for an offence committed beforehand, unless the offence is the one in respect of which he was extradited, the consent of the requested state is obtained or the person has had an opportunity to leave the country to which he was extradited.''

The clause bars extradition if there are no speciality arrangements with the category 1 territory where the part 1 warrant was issued.

Our amendments are based on advice from the extradition specialists at the Law Society of England and Wales. The fact that extradition can be ordered with no clear obligation on the state to inform the person or no positive obligation to give the person who is the subject of extradition an opportunity to make representations suggests that representations from one set of proceedings can be imported wholesale into new proceedings. An English or Scottish judge could safely make an order as if there could be nothing further to add. The Law Society makes the point, with which we strongly agree, that anyone who may be subject to extradition must be informed of every set of separate proceedings and be given an opportunity to address or instruct a representative to address the court on the matter before that court.

The problems that this subject throws up is once again highlighted by the specialist extradition solicitor Robert Roscoe, to whom I referred last week. He has given me some examples of cases that he and his firm have taken up with the Home Office and about which they have never received proper answers. I should stress at the outset that the cases to which I shall refer briefly do not directly involve speciality, but they highlight the problems that can be encountered with requesting states and show why someone who may be facing extradition needs to be told about every separate set of proceedings.

I start off with a case of the Government of Belgium against a man called Cornelius Mahu. Mr. Mahu, who is a Dutch citizen, was visiting his child in England. He

was arrested in connection with allegations of drug trafficking offences. He had formerly been a public house landlord in this country and as such had been checked by the Kent police. He held a justices on-licence to be a landlord. A lorry driver who was arrested in Belgium had alleged to the Belgian authorities that the recipient of earlier deliveries of drugs was this man, Mr. Mahu.

Mr. Mahu was confident that there would be no evidence to support those allegations. He went through the extradition proceedings in this country as quickly as he could, but there were protracted delays before he could ultimately be returned to Belgium. The UK had the burden of having to maintain him in custody for some 18 weeks. Mr. Mahu finally went to Belgium, but within a few weeks of his arrival the Belgian court directed that charges be dropped against him and seven of the other nine people who were the subject of the original allegations. That appeared to be fine, at least as far as Mr. Mahu was concerned. However, when Mr. Roscoe and his firm of solicitors took the case up with the Home Office as an example of what can go wrong, the delays and the cost to the United Kingdom taxpayer, the Home Office responded:

''We similarly approached the Belgian authorities and they informed us on 8 May last year that preliminary investigations regarding Cornelius Mahu and another case Mr. Roscoe raised are still ongoing. The case will shortly be submitted to the office of the public prosecutor in Belgium.''

Mr. Roscoe and his firm replied back to the Home Office:

''As we indicated in our letter of 13 February, both Mr. Mahu''

and the other person whom they were writing about

''were released within days of their return to Belgium. Mr. Mahu returned to Holland. If the letter of 8 May 2002 from the Belgian embassy is correct, then in both cases the Belgian investigations are incomplete and extradition proceedings will have to be started afresh in the event that the examining magistrate's report is considered by the public prosecutor to justify the institution of charges against Mr. Mahu''

The significance of speciality arises at this point, because the requesting state—a fellow European Union member—is apparently saying that it may well start proceedings again, even though the charges have been dropped and the person has been released. Surely it is a matter of concern if the Government allow the legislation to stay in its current form, suggesting that fresh proceedings can be, as the Law Society puts it, imported wholesale into the existing proceedings without the defendant having a full opportunity to have the whole matter made known to him.

The Opposition strongly support what the Law Society has suggested to us, and I hope that the example that I have given is helpful. I stress to the Minister and his advisers that we were serious in tabling the amendments.