Clause 193 - National security

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 21st January 2003.

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Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon 10:00 am, 21st January 2003

I do not want to dwell too long on this matter, but that is not to belittle its importance. I strongly commend to the Minister the wise words of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon and the

compelling arguments from the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. None of us in the Opposition—I include my Liberal Democrat colleagues, and colleagues in the Conservative party—are being xenophobic. We seek to bring to bear on the Bill a measure of equity and justice.

I am indebted to an outstandingly good organisation, Fair Trials Abroad, for a briefing on the issue of manifest injustice and on retaining the Secretary of State's discretion, not just in this matter but, as the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon rightly said, for reasons of national security.

I hope that the Minister has read work by Fair Trials Abroad. It is, apparently, a unique organisation concerned with the rights of European Union citizens to due process in the administration of justice abroad. It is particularly concerned with the implementation of current law, and any proposed changes to domestic or international law or practice that might have adverse effects for EU citizens facing trial in a foreign country.

Fair Trials Abroad has years of experience of criminal advocacy through the combined experience of its lawyers. It has accumulated experience from the monitoring of and involvement in many hundreds of cases involving European citizens without access to justice during criminal procedures abroad, and through comprehensive investigations into specific issues of fair trials. It continues to draw on that experience of monitoring and actual involvement in trials. Thus, when Fair Trials Abroad refers to the plight of the foreigner, the plight of individuals sought for extradition, or its experience in trials abroad, it is incumbent on all of us to learn from those experiences.

We have discussed at length some of the more nebulous offences in the list of 32, and have focused particularly on xenophobia and racism. Not the least of the problems that the foreigner faces in the legal systems of the European Union are xenophobia and racism, which occur all too frequently. There are not many references to the ugly side of criminal justice in a debate on judicial standards. However, I would like to put forward one or two arguments that I believe the Minister should hear. I shall not be anti-French, anti-Spanish or anti-Belgian in the examples to which I shall refer. They are drawn from the experience of Fair Trials Abroad, and I cite them as evidence of the pitfalls to which individuals in this country could be subject.

In Belgium, a young black British mother was travelling with an acquaintance she had met while in Bonn. They had met at an embassy reception, when she had been staying in Bonn on a short holiday as the guest of a kinsman, who was an ambassador to Germany. On passing through passport control at the entrance to the Eurostar terminal in Brussels, her companion was stopped. It transpired that she was travelling on a false passport. The Briton was immediately charged with people-trafficking, and in due course convicted and sentenced to three years' imprisonment.