Clause 148 - The appropriate judge

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 16 January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 9:45, 16 January 2003

This is a short point, but again I seek the Minister's clarification. Opposition Members did not feel that we needed to table an amendment in this respect, but I wanted to probe something that I had noticed. There is a difference between the terms of this clause and clause 66 in part 1, which is also headed ''The appropriate judge''. The list of who the appropriate judge is in clause 148 contains district judges, sheriffs in Scotland and resident magistrates and Crown court judges in Northern Ireland. Unlike the list in part 1, however, the words

''a justice of the peace''

appear in clause 148(1)(a) and (c), for Northern Ireland. Opposition Members are huge fans of the lay magistracy and the role that it plays. We therefore do not object to that, but I wanted to discuss with the Minister the reason why the justice of the peace appears in clause 148 but not clause 66. I am not complaining about the difference, but believe that it would be useful to have the Minister's thoughts on the subject.

During our debate on the matter of British citizens being extradited abroad, we discussed whether a High Court judge was appropriate, because the highest number of requests in any recent recorded year was only 116. We said that a High Court judge should examine all the concerns about British citizens being extradited abroad under part 1, especially given all the arguments about corpus juris and other matters that I need not repeat.

We also discussed whether the appeal should go to the Court of Appeal. When the Committee sat last Tuesday, I did not move our original amendment that suggested that it should go to the Court of Appeal, because we had already had the debate about whether the judge should be a High Court judge, and the Government had said that they were adamant that it should be a district judge at Bow street and his equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I did not think that we should repeat the debate on my suggestion, but we maintain our belief that it should be a High Court judge.

Will the Minister explain why justices of the peace are considered to be appropriate judges? I am not suggesting that they should be included in clause 66 and not in clause 148, and before he seeks to misrepresent our argument by suggesting that we are undermining faith in the lay magistracy, I must tell him that we are not. I merely noticed the difference and thought that it would be useful to have a debate also on clause stand part.