Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 21st January 2003.

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Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon 10:15 am, 21st January 2003

Yes, the citation. I would be happy to provide the Minister with that information.

I also offer example from France—again from Fair Trials Abroad. A ship docks with more than 20 crew on board and a small consignment of cocaine in a ventilation shaft. A crewman confesses that he was responsible, and he is held with one other member of the crew. In due course, the pair of them are convicted. On appeal, the second man is acquitted with the observation that there was never any evidence against him. He was the only black aboard. In that case, justice was eventually done.

Another important case from Spain was also cited by Fair Trials Abroad. A British tourist was convicted of one of a series of armed robberies. He was not in the country when the other robberies were committed, and the sole Spanish witness against him was adamant that the robber spoke Spanish as a mother tongue. The tourist spoke no Spanish. All six Britons who testified in the tourist's favour were cross-examined by the bench in a xenophobic manner, and that poor man's appeal failed.

I am not suggesting that those cases are examples of the general rule of justice in those countries, but I am saying that justice can break down in such nations, and that we must ensure that there are some safeguards for the British citizen, or for the person in this country whom another country seeks to extradite.

In the cases that I have mentioned—and for the reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon—where a democratically elected Government Minister acts in good faith with the support of Parliament and the authority of the state, there should be a discretion on the part of the Secretary of State to refuse extradition. In our view, there should be wider discretion, and that discretion should be incorporated in the Bill.