Clause 83 - Case where person has not been convicted

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:15 pm, 14th January 2003

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: I cannot throw that allegation at him. We are talking about cases where the requirement for prima facie evidence is being retained, and the clause provides for a summary of the person's statement to be admitted as evidence. Our proposed changes, which so worry the hon. Gentleman, would simply mean that a foreign police officer's account of what a witness had told him could be admitted as evidence. Without that provision, that evidence would be admissible only if the police officer came to the court in person to give it. Apart from the trouble and the expense that that would entail, a subtle but important consideration is that the task of the district judge is to determine whether there is a sufficient case against a person to warrant sending them to stand trial. In such prima facie cases, it is not the job of the judge to conduct the trial, or to establish the guilt of the fugitive beyond all reasonable doubt.

Clause 83(3) is an important provision. It will make things much easier for most people involved in extradition, and it is important to stress that the district judge will always have discretion over the presentation of summaries of evidence. He can decide not to admit the evidence if he has any doubts about its authenticity or reliability. He can decide that the summary is not admissible, and that any evidence must be produced differently. We want to give the judge that discretion in order to make the arrangements more workable. It is an important safeguard, and it is the basis on which we seek to make the changes.

I am not surprised that the provision has caused concern. It is new, but I must say to Opposition Members that people who practise extradition have talked about it for some time. It gives the judge the discretion over the presentation of summaries of evidence, but does not say that evidence can be presented and will be accepted in a particular way. The amendment would deny the judge the ability to consider summaries of evidence. That is the current position, and if the Opposition are opposed to the district judge being allowed to give consideration to such summaries, they must stick to their current line. I wonder if, on reflection, they would be so opposed to that discretion and believe that it is such a threat to justice.