Clause 20 - Case where person has been convicted

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:45 am, 14th January 2003

During the scrutiny process, I made it clear on behalf of the Government that nobody convicted in absentia would be extradited without the guarantee of a retrial. The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon has read the part of the framework decision that provides that guarantee. The guarantee exists, at least in part, because we—this dreadful Government who draft such draconian legislation—insisted on it. We played a leading role at the heart of Europe in drafting this framework document. We were successful in achieving precisely the guarantees that the hon. Gentleman holds up as crucial. They are already present in the framework document and have been translated into the Bill, although it does not cover any semantic arguments that we might have with another jurisdiction that frames its laws in different language. Nothing of substance detracts from the commitment that I gave to the Scrutiny Committee on what the British Government succeeded in having included in the framework decision. We should stay at the forefront of such arguments to ensure that we

continue to frame future legislation on justice and home affairs as we have over the past few years.

The Bill unambiguously secures the commitment that we gave: unless a fugitive has the right to a retrial, or a review amounting to a retrial, extradition cannot take place. Responding to parliamentary concerns, we secured an amendment to the framework decision whereby a district judge must be satisfied that the person deliberately absented himself and that he has the right to a proper retrial—on both assertions, the fugitive can advance legal arguments in his defence—before extradition can take place.

Unlike an appeal, with a retrial the slate is wiped clean and the fugitive is presumed innocent unless and until the prosecution can prove the contrary. All the evidence is tested afresh and witnesses are cross-examined. The same arrangements for legal assistance and the payment of defence counsel apply. Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 would prevent extradition cases of convictions in absentia even if the person would be entitled to a full retrial. That is a strange position that cannot logically be supported, and I fail to understand the objection to extradition when a retrial or review amounting to a retrial is guaranteed.

It is surprising that the Liberal Democrats added their names to the amendment. Although as I noted before we seem to have the Eurosceptic wing of the party in Committee, it is surprising that members of a supposedly pro-European party would force every other country to adopt a legal justice system exactly like ours. That is a long way from the notion of mutual recognition. The important point should not be whether another country chooses to call its proceedings a retrial or uses other terminology, but that a British district judge has to satisfy himself that what is offered amounts to a retrial. If he is not satisfied, extradition will be denied. The amendments are not justified or necessary, and I ask the hon. Member for Surrey Heath to withdraw amendment No. 96 and not move the others.