Clause 83 - Case where person has not been convicted

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:00 pm, 14th January 2003

Indeed, Mr. O'Hara.

It will not surprise the Minister or other Committee members to hear that the Law Society of England and Wales suggested amendments Nos. 160 and 161, which would leave out subsection (3) and replace the word ''must'' with ''may'' when the statement is corroborated with independent evidence. However, there is a slight difference, because as well as the Law Society, we have heard the strongly expressed concerns of Liberty. On subsection (2), Liberty said:

''Category 2 countries still require the establishment of a prime facie case to be made out before extradition can occur. This requirement provides an important safeguard in the case of requests emanating from Category 2 countries, the majority of which are not signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights.''

Indeed, many category 2 countries will have nothing to do with Europe or the European convention on human rights.

The Government's proposal to allow a summary of evidence to be read is, in the view of the Conservatives and Liberty, a serious inroad into the protections that have existed historically in our extradition law. Liberty believes that the requirement for a statement to be in full should not cause any significant delay to the extradition, and says that if a summary is incomplete and does not contain all the required information, it may work against the Government's aim by resulting in further delays.

The Law Society of England and Wales said that, unlike the provisions for the admissibility of statements elsewhere in the Bill, there is no safeguard in the provisions on who has to prepare such a summary. As always, there is a danger that a summary may be partial and tailored to support the extradition request, and may omit matters that may assist the defence. My experience during years of practising in criminal courts may provide me with some assistance in making my case. The Minister will know that in the criminal courts, if a prosecuting solicitor is aware of any fact that may not help his case, he is under a duty to make the information available to the defence and the court. That is why the prosecution in our courts traditionally represents the Queen and has a duty to the courts to ensure fairness in the consideration of the defence case. It has become apparent that many of the so-called miscarriage of justice cases arose from the prosecution having information that was not disclosed to the defence or the court. That is what has caused some of the most celebrated miscarriages of justices in which the convictions had to be overturned, sometimes many years later.

The Conservatives are bound to be concerned about introducing provisions for a summary, and the Minister will confirm that it is completely new. Such a provision has not previously been in extradition law, so for once I will not have the Minister attacking me by arguing that the Conservative Government in 1989 agreed to it. It is some relief not to have to face that attack from the Minister yet again. The Minister is having difficulty justifying the introduction of summaries. I believe that great concern will be expressed in the other place. We shall listen with

interest to what the Minister has to say, because for the first time in this part of the Bill we are dealing with a matter of some substance. I suspect that, as the Bill proceeds, we will have to spend more time on this issue than on any of the other issues that we have dealt with this afternoon.