Clause 59

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 24th February 2009.

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Use of live link in extradition proceedings

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

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister 5:15 pm, 24th February 2009

As I understand it from the explanatory notes, the Government do not believe that article 6 applies to extradition hearings—that is, the right to a fair trial. Nevertheless, I still think it is necessary for the Government to provide on the record some justification of why it wants to move to giving the judge the power to provide for live-link directions. I question whether the Government are certain—given everything we have discussed—that article 6 does not apply to extradition hearings in respect of the ECHR and to ask in any event what the justifications are for this. I am sure the Minister has a justification, which he is ready to give.

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

Article 6—as the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon knows because he knows the answer to the question—does not apply to extradition hearings.

Clauses 48 and 49 will provide further improvements to the European arrest warrant mechanism in the UK. It is predicted that access to the SIS II will enable law enforcement agencies in the UK to make an additional 1,200 arrests per year subject to these warrants, while the improvements to public safety that these clauses will provide are of great significance and importance. As the European arrest warrant is subject to judicial proceedings this will place a greater administrative burden on the court service. Clause 59 will in part address this problem by enabling live links to be used in extradition cases.

This amendment to the Extradition Act 2003 will mean that all initial and remand hearings can, at the direction of the appropriate judge—I hope that hon. Members heard that—take place via live link. This will not only provide greater efficiency when dealing with extradition hearings but also ensure that those subject to EAW and extradition requests do not need to make potentially lengthy journeys for very short extradition hearings. It is important to note that the subject of the request will continue to attend the substantive extradition hearing.

Furthermore, the clause makes it clear that the judge may not direct that the hearing take place via live link if he feels that the interests of justice will not be served. The interest of justice, I know, is something that the hon. Gentleman often wants read into the record, so I am doing so. The clause will ensure that the mechanism in place in the UK to deal with the EAW and extradition requests is both efficient in dealing with rising numbers of judicial proceedings and will ensure fairness to the subject of the request. I hope that helps the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

I am grateful to the Minister for reading in that issue about the interests of justice. He makes a very important point, which I will mention en passant as he did, that although article 6 does not apply and therefore the Human Rights Act does not apply here, there are interests of justice that might apply and force the court to make a different decision. That might also apply to the other parts of this Bill that we have just discussed. I think the Minister has dealt with the point I raised and I am grateful to him.

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

I am glad that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman because I agree with the points he has made. They are now on the record and are important points that people who read our proceedings will be able to see.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 59 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.