Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 21st January 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 10:45 am, 21st January 2003

I thought I understood what the debate was about, but I am not quite sure now that I have listened to the hon. Member for Henley. I am tempted to try to pick up some of his argument, but I will resist the temptation. In the interests of brevity, if nothing else, I simply make it clear to the Committee that the working definition of mutual recognition and extradition to which I seek to return is the one that we were dealing with up to that point.

Like the hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East, I was not minded to take part in the debate. I do so, however, because I have listened to it with growing unease. It is an old saw that hard cases make bad law. At the risk of offending my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon, I fear that we may lose sight of the point by concentrating on individual cases. From my experience in the criminal courts, with my hand on my heart I cannot say that the Kevin Sloan case could never happen in this country. We cannot exclude the possibility of a capricious judge taking a particular view of the credibility of a witness or witnesses, especially when dealing with summary procedure. Courts of appeal are very reluctant to overturn such judgments.

Other cases that spring to mind include the case of the Birmingham Six. Many people in many parts of the world would say that it was impossible for the Birmingham Six to get a fair trial in this country, but that should not be taken as a criticism of the legal systems within this jurisdiction. It is unhelpful to concentrate on individual examples, because every jurisdiction can produce bad cases. The key point is that we must observe minimum standards, and the

proper assessment of such standards is surely the function of the Home Secretary. The new clauses are not intended to design the legal system in Spain or any other jurisdiction, but to allow the Government in this country to say that if the minimum standards are not met—we should not distinguish between category 1 and category 2 countries in that respect—we should adopt a different approach. That is what the new clauses are about.