Clause 194 - Reasonable force

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 21st January 2003.

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

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

The clause is short, but contains the innocent-looking word ''reasonable''. I know that the word ''reasonable'' has a legal meaning, and doubtless one of the many of lawyers in the Room will tell me exactly what that is. To me as a layman, it is open to interpretation. Bearing in mind the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, it is important that the word is clarified for the benefit of the police and others who may exercise the powers under the Bill, and for the people who are being extradited.

I shall refer to a briefing paper from the Metropolitan police. One of the key areas of concern was the need for a code of practice in the exercise of their powers. It said:

''These powers are welcomed by the MPS and we acknowledge the considerable value added to the fight against international crime which these powers permit. In the main these are powers with which police officers are familiar and their existing domestic equivalents are well tested within domestic legislation. We note the intention to write a Code of Practice for these extradition powers and we would ask to be involved in that process in order that our experiences to date with similar legislation can be considered.''

I add my support to the request that the police should be consulted on the formation of a code of practice, to ensure that no loopholes remain.

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

I agree entirely with the point made by my hon. Friend. Had she not done so, I was planning to refer to the Metropolitan police's helpful brief, but I do not need to repeat what she said merely to endorse it. I look forward to reassuring words from the Minister about codes of practice.

All of us who are lawyers are well aware of discussions about apparently innocent words in short clauses mentioning such issues as ''reasonable force''.

The definition of what is reasonable is often left for the decision of a court, and thus is a matter of interpretation. I was therefore surprised to see that the clause was as short as it is. Will the Minister tell us whether a longer draft, with more explanation of the clause, was contemplated at any stage? I hope that he will also shed some light on the concerns raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson).

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Opposition Members will recall that we discussed this matter last week under part 4 of the Bill. I am not sure whether the hon. Lady was present for the discussion, as I know that she has had other Committee duties to juggle during the passage of the Bill.

In the past, it was thought that the police could carry out their functions in the extradition system under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, or by using their common law powers. However, 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 and that, since the advent of PACE, the police could no longer rely on their common law powers in that area. Part 4 of the Bill was drafted to ensure that the police have powers in extradition cases that are modelled on those in PACE. It will therefore be clear to everyone concerned that they can use powers in extradition cases that are as near to the PACE powers as is appropriate.

The PACE code of practice C allows for reasonable force to be used if necessary to secure compliance with a reasonable instruction and to prevent escape, injury, damage to property or the destruction of evidence. The Bill incorporates the same ability to use reasonable force as is contained in the PACE codes. ''Reasonable force'' is a well known and understood phrase.

We will be issuing a code of practice and we will consult the police on that, as we consult them on the need to update the PACE codes from time to time. When we draft that code, the ramifications of the mirror powers in the Extradition Bill will also need to be consulted on, if any changes are necessary. The police will be an important part of the decision as to whether such updates or changes are required.

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

That seems to be entirely satisfactory. It is what I expected the Minister to say. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster and I agree that that assistance from the Minister was helpful. We will not seek to pursue the matter further.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 194 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 195 to 198 ordered to stand part of the Bill.