Clause 50

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 24th February 2009.

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Extradition to category 1 territory

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

I beg to move amendment 212, in clause 50, page 63, line 6, leave out from “if” to “is charged” in line 8 and insert “—

(a) a person has been brought before the appropriate judge under section 4(3) or 6(2) but the extradition hearing has not begun; and

(b) the judge is informed that the person”.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments 213 to 223.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

The Extradition Act 2003 provides for the judge presiding over an extradition hearing to defer the proceedings when the person is being prosecuted or is serving a sentence in the UK. In most cases, that will prove to be unproblematic, but there is a loophole in the law because if the requested person consents to extradition, the 2003 Act provides for there to be no extradition hearing or for any such hearing to be brought to an end. That means that if an individual has consented to extradition, it is not possible for the extradition proceedings to be deferred until the conclusion of domestic proceedings or until a UK sentence has been served. In practice, it could be possible for someone to avoid justice in the UK by consenting to extradition.

Clauses 50 and 51 address that problem by allowing the judge to defer proceedings on an extradition request at any point from the date of arrest until the start of the extradition hearing. Government amendments 212 to 223 make some minor changes to ensure that the provisions are fully effective. The Committee will note that the 12 amendments consist of six identical amendments to each of the two parts of the 2003 Act, part 1 of which deals with extradition requests from EU territories and part 2 of which concerns requests from non-EU territories.

Notably, the amendments will ensure that when the extradition court adjourns consideration of an extradition request until a UK sentence has been served, it does not have to deal with a remand hearing every 28 days. That mirrors the approach in sections 23 and 89 of the 2003 Act and avoids the court having to schedule unnecessary hearings when someone whose extradition has been deferred is serving a lengthy custodial sentence in the UK. The amendments will ensure that the framework in place to deal with deferring an extradition request is robust, fair and effective.

Amendment 212 agreed to.

Amendments made: 213, in clause 50, page 63, line 9, leave out “on the Part 1 warrant to be deferred” and insert

“in respect of the extradition to be adjourned”.

Amendment 214, in clause 50, page 63, line 18, leave out ‘on the Part 1 warrant to be deferred’ and insert

‘in respect of the extradition to be adjourned’.

Amendment 215, in clause 50, page 63, line 23, leave out from ‘if’ to ‘is in custody’ in line 25 and insert ‘—

(a) a person has been brought before the appropriate judge under section 4(3) or 6(2) but the extradition hearing has not begun; and

(b) the judge is informed that the person’.

Amendment 216, in clause 50, page 63, line 27, leave out ‘on the Part 1 warrant to be deferred’ and insert

‘in respect of the extradition to be adjourned’.

Amendment 217, in clause 50, page 63, line 29, after ‘otherwise).’ insert—

‘(3) In a case where further proceedings in respect of the extradition are adjourned under subsection (2)—

(a) section 131 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (remand of accused already in custody) has effect as if a reference to 28 clear days in subsection (1) or (2) of that section were a reference to six months;

(b) Article 47(2) of the Magistrates’ Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (period of remand in custody) has effect as if a reference to 28 days in—

(i) sub-paragraph (a)(iii), or

(ii) the words after sub-paragraph (b),

were a reference to six months.’.—(Mr. Coaker.)

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

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

I wish to raise a point on behalf of Justice relating to how the Bill amends to the Extradition Act in relation to the detail of a sentence that has been served. The matter is covered by clause 50, and I believe that the point remains relevant despite the Government’s amendments.

The Bill’s amendments to sections of the Extradition Act would replace the current deferral period, which is until the sentence has been served, with:

“until the person is released from detention pursuant to the sentence (whether on licence or otherwise).”

If a person is released from custody on licence, their sentence has not been served and they are subject to recall. A licence can be made subject to any number of conditions, and where a condition is breached the prisoner can be recalled to prison. Furthermore, the insertion of “or otherwise” is worryingly vague; in that form, it could encompass temporary release. Is the wording as drafted appropriate, since it gives a finite period? Will the Minister comment on that concern?

In a separate point, neither the current provisions nor the Government’s proposals indicate when a judge should exercise his or her power to defer. For example, when a person is already serving a sentence of imprisonment, one could argue that it should not be disrupted unless that person consents or the issuing state agrees to the person serving their sentence in the UK. It is not clear whether the Government are giving the court an indication of what it should do in that respect.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

The hon. Gentleman’s last point is a matter for the court to determine. The provision is not prescriptive; the hon. Gentleman has read the Bill and the clause’s wording, which is that “the judge may order”. It is not a case of the judge must do this or that; there is flexibility. Let me take the judicial side of the argument by stating that it is a matter for the judiciary, and judicial oversight of the clause will determine what is appropriate in the circumstances of each individual case.

Under proposed new section (8A)(3) of the Extradition Act, a judge may order further proceedings to be deferred, but he does not have to if that does not serve the interests of justice. It is not the judge must, but that he may do so. Rather than letting the Government determine what is appropriate in the circumstances of every individual case at a particular point in proceedings, the clause gives the flexibility that I think the hon. Gentleman is looking for.

In response to the hon. Gentleman’s first point, the amended wording is necessary to ensure that it is absolutely clear that a decision on extradition will be deferred until someone falls to be released from detention, rather than until the end of any licensed period. The words “or otherwise” cover the position where someone falls to be released from custody, but is not released on licence. That is necessary to cover sentences where release from detention is unconditional. Clause 52(10) makes it plain that temporary release, which is properly described as a  release pursuant to an intermittent custody order, is excluded from the scope of the provisions. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with that explanation and able to support the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.