Clause 154 - Search and seizure warrants

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 16th January 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), who will respond to my remarks.

I want to explore whether the procedure for search and seizure warrants in part 4 is identical to what has been used previously, because as I discussed this morning with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), we are talking about replacing completely existing extradition law with the Bill in its final form. On an issue as potentially sensitive as the powers of search and seizure, it is important to know whether the Government are changing the established law in relation to extradition. I may have more to say, depending on this Minister's response. Are there any changes? If so, what are they?

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System IT)

Obviously, all the clauses are important, but it might be helpful if I spell out the reasoning behind clause 154 and some subsequent clauses. Much of what I say will also throw light on those clauses.

When an extradition request is submitted, whether a European arrest warrant or a part 2 request, the requesting state may ask that the United Kingdom police search for evidence that may be useful in the prosecution. It was thought that the police could carry out such a request under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or their common law powers, but the Rottman case cast doubt on that. In that case, it was initially held that the search and seizure powers in PACE applied only to domestic offences. It was also held that, since the advent of PACE, the police could no longer rely on their common law powers in this respect.

The Rottman case was partially overturned on appeal, but we took the decision, with the support of the police, who wanted to be clear about their powers, to put the matter beyond doubt by including the relevant provision in the Bill. We considered simply amending PACE to make it apply to extradition offences as defined in the Bill. On the face of it, that would be quite straightforward, but PACE talks about officers as investigating officers, and it was made clear in the Rottman case that officers executing extradition requests are not investigating the offence in question.

It was also felt that we could not simply add extradition offences to PACE, as there are some parts of it that would not apply.

Clause 154 is therefore modelled on section 8 of PACE and section 352 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and the powers conferred on the police are similar. It sets out the procedure for applying for a search and seizure warrant, the circumstances in which one can be issued and what it can be used for.

I hope that I have given the hon. Gentleman enough of an indication as to why we are taking this approach, but I am happy to respond to any detailed points.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am grateful to the Minister. The position is much as we thought. We had a helpful briefing from the Metropolitan police, which played a significant role in developing part 4, working closely with the Extradition Bill team. The mutual legal assistance legislation was explained and the fact that the Bill is modelled on PACE. We have also read the Government's explanatory notes.

The Metropolitan police briefing said that there is no suggestion that police officers should interview arrested persons to obtain evidence. In other words, we are back to the subject of fishing expeditions that we discussed with the Under-Secretary earlier. The Metropolitan police says that the powers will allow evidence of the offence abroad to be searched for and seized where it is believed to be in a particular location. We will consider other clauses later, and it was helpful that the Minister could go beyond clause 154 and talk about the thinking behind this part of the Bill.

We do not seek to oppose the Government's proposition but we are glad to know that they are aware of the sensitivities of search and seizure, especially in the aftermath of the appalling murder of the detective constable yesterday in Manchester. We all need to be aware of the sensitivities of any search and seizure operations conducted by the police. Having said that, I shall not prolong the Committee's time on the stand part debate.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon

I want to be clear that those elements of PACE that are included ensure that it is explained to individuals that they have a right to legal advice, legal aid and if necessary the right to have an interpreter, which is essential in some of these cases.

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System IT)

I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 154 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 155 and 156 ordered to stand part of the Bill.