Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 21st January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 11:00 am, 21st January 2003

The hon. Gentleman is being quite robust in his response. Will he seriously consider two of the points? He says that there have not been any significant problems under the current legislation where the 12-month maximum sentence applies. With great respect to him, that is not right. I refer

him again to the evidence. I will not go through all the cases again, but experienced specialist extradition solicitors—the firms that deal with these cases day in, day out—advise us through the Law Society that there have been a number of cases where requesting states such as Belgium and the Czech Republic have used the current law in a way that was quite wrong and led to manifest injustice because the offences were too trivial.

The second point is that where one is talking about a maximum sentence of 12 months, even in UK law that can be a minor crime. It can be the kind of crime that none of us in Committee would think would lead to extradition. There is a serious concern here when we are talking about the protection of British citizens. I hope that the Minister, even if he does not do so today, will think quite seriously about that. It would be different if the Bill said that the threshold would be where the normal practice is for a sentence of at least 12 months' imprisonment, but it says it is when the maximum sentence is 12 months.

There are many crimes in UK courts where the maximum sentence is 12 months' imprisonment but where a fine of £50 is normally imposed. Most of us would think that the kind of offence that regularly attracts a fine of £50 should not be extraditable. The Government are in fact putting forward that kind of threshold if we translate UK law into foreign law.