Mary Kelly Foy contributions to the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Act 2020


Tue 8th September 2020 Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
3 interactions (642 words)

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords] Debate

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Department: Home Office
Legislation Page: Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Act 2020

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords]

(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Mary Kelly Foy Excerpts
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Home Office
David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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My right hon. Friend is exactly right. Interestingly, in their case human rights were not used as a defence mechanism, whereas in another case the only thing that stopped Gary McKinnon being extradited was the implementation of the human rights law. My right hon. Friend is right more generally, too; they did not have a case to answer in a normal justice system, but they gave in and confessed to guilt rather than face 30 years in a grim high-security Texan prison, never seeing their families again, which is what this would have amounted to. That illustrates where the disparity lies, and why it is so unfair.

The US Government also have much greater discretion in refusing extradition requests. Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State “must”—the word is “must”—issue a certificate for extradition. The equivalent US code states that the Secretary of State “may” order the person to be tried. Of course, there is no stronger demonstration of this than the case of Anne Sacoolas, the person responsible for the tragic death of Harry Dunn. In Ms Sacoolas’s case the US Secretary of State used this discretion—I think in the view of most in this House, wrongly—to prevent her extradition. The Dunn family may now have to settle for a wholly unsatisfactory virtual trial of Anne Sacoolas, because our extradition arrangements have failed to give them proper justice.

That is just the latest example of how the completely lopsided treaty allows US citizens to evade justice while exposing United Kingdom citizens to miscarriages of justice. The Prime Minister himself has recognised this imbalance. At Prime Minister’s questions on 12 February he said:

“I do think that elements of that relationship are unbalanced, and it is certainly worth looking at”.—[Official Report, 12 February 2020; Vol. 671, c. 846.]

Due to the scope of the Bill, my amendments would not rebalance the extradition arrangements with the US, but they would prevent, in a very small way, further facilitation of further miscarriages of justice. It would be a tiny improvement in a system that requires an entirely radical rewrite, so I am only moving them as probing amendments today.

The simple truth is—I make this point very firmly to my right hon. and very old Friend the Minister for Security, who is sitting on the Treasury Bench—[Interruption.] He is older than you think. I say to the Minister that this really needs, in the words of the Prime Minister, a rethink. I do hope that the Government will rethink this treaty and ensure that in future when we extradite British citizens to any other justice system in the world, that justice system will work as it is supposed to, and give them what is in the title: justice.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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8 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

This is an important Bill. We need an extradition system that ensures that UK law enforcement agencies are supported in apprehending dangerous criminals in order to keep the public safe, both in Britain and abroad. This Bill helps facilitate the extradition of those who have committed serious crimes abroad, and all of us in this House can support that.

However, it is vital that this Bill includes the necessary safeguards. The amendments, both from the other place and those put before the House today, share common themes of transparency, fairness and support for parliamentary scrutiny; these are values that every Member should hold. It is right that the Bill compels the Government to consult with the devolved Administrations and non-governmental organisations before adding or removing a territory, as well as confirming to Parliament that the territory does not abuse Interpol red notices. That amendment promotes dialogue and discussion among relevant parties, respects the role of the devolved Administrations and ensures a level of transparency that is necessary in Government. It is difficult to see how any reasonable Government could object to that. Moreover, given the trouble that the Government have had with carrying out consultations before making major decisions, it is important that such a measure is included in the Bill. If any Member needs evidence of that, I refer them to the former Department for International Development.

The second amendment carried in the other place, which mandates that territories can only be added to the extradition process individually, is designed to increase both transparency and scrutiny. If we allow territories to be added when grouped together, there is a real risk that a country with a problematic human rights record could be included alongside countries that respect human rights. Considering the Government’s vocal support for a Magnitsky Act to deter human rights abuses, it would be somewhat hypocritical to oppose an amendment that has the same purpose.

Furthermore, by considering whether to add a territory on its own merits, we are not only ensuring that those countries do not abuse Interpol red notices, we are also adding a further layer of parliamentary scrutiny to the process. The House should seek to support additional scrutiny, not limit it. It is therefore disappointing, if not surprising, that the Government seem set on opposing these common-sense safeguards. As well as the amendments passed in the other place, it is important that this House further strengthens the Bill. Given that the legislation includes increased law enforcement powers with the purpose of keeping the public safe, it is right that the House should be able to see the effectiveness of those measures. Compelling the Secretary of State to update the House annually on the number of arrests made would help to achieve that. For the same reason, it is important that the Act is kept under regular review by this House. Again, that would strengthen Parliament’s role while ensuring the measures are working as intended.

Finally, although the Bill rightfully updates our extradition process with territories such as New Zealand and Canada, it is clearly wrong that there is still uncertainty regarding our justice and security arrangements with members of the European Union. Many of those states are some of our closest allies, while a potential lack of access to the real-time European criminal databases will undoubtedly affect the ability of UK law enforcement agencies to protect the public. It is concerning that the Government have yet to adequately address that point.

While the Bill should be supported by the House, it is not perfect and there are gaps and uncertainties that still exist within it. The Opposition amendments seek to fill and strengthen the Bill and ensure that it is fully effective, while also aiming to increase transparency and co-operation. I urge Members to support the Opposition amendments today and to protect the amendments agreed to in the other place.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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8 Sep 2020, midnight

Two very important principles should be in all our thoughts when framing extradition legislation. First, there is the imperative to make sure that where someone has committed a serious and violent crime, such as a terrorist offence or murder or some other such crime, in the United Kingdom and has escaped abroad, we have arrangements so that we can pursue justice against them through co-operation with countries around the world. We should also have very much in our mind the issues that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) drew to the attention of the House. We should be very concerned about innocent people in our country who may be the object of extradition requests or demands from countries abroad to take them into justice systems that are not up to the standards of our own, or not the kind of thing we would want an innocent person, particularly, to have to approach, only to see justice not done in those countries if we have undertaken such extradition matters. I echo my right hon. Friend’s request that we need to look again at how the US relationship is working. This was sold to the House some years ago on the basis that it would be targeted on those criminals we could all agree about—the terrorists, rapists and murderers who were committing violent crime—and it is of concern for us to discover that that has not been its main use at all.

I hope the Minister will share with the House his thoughts on what arrangements we will move towards with the other European countries now we have left the European Union. There may be a move to put all European Union, or European economic area, countries under these provisions, but we should definitely look at the different standards of justice system in those countries. While many of our European friends have excellent justice systems that we would be very happy with, there are very variable standards throughout the European continent. Given that we are rethinking our foreign policy and our position in the world generally, this is a good opportunity to look at them one by one and to ask whether some of them are below the standards we would expect and whether they have not made good use in the past of the very widespread powers granted to them under the European arrest warrant.

When I was preparing for this debate, one set of figures I saw in a commentary was for the period from 2010 to 2018. It said that over that period, continental countries had used the European arrest warrant eight times as often as we had used it for criminals, or alleged criminals, that we needed to undertake it for in our courts, so it has been asymmetric. In part, that is because there are many more people on the continent than there are in the United Kingdom, but it also tells us something about the seriousness of the offences that they are interested in for extradition.

I am pleased to see that there is some recognition in the legislation that extradition should be reserved for more serious offences. One does not want a complex and expensive system such as this to be used for a lot of minor offences. The Government have chosen to define it as something that is an offence in the United Kingdom and which would command a prison sentence of three years or more in the event of somebody being found guilty. I think that is a good start, because one of the features of the European arrest warrant that many people did not like was that somebody could be extradited under it from the United Kingdom for something that was not actually an offence in the United Kingdom. That did not seem a very fair system or proposal.

I hope the Minister will share with us some of his thoughts on what would be an appropriate list of European countries and whether they should just slot into the proposals that we are debating today. I think I am happy with the list of countries that we are being asked to endorse, with the caveat that we need to look at the American relationship in the way that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden suggested. I fully understand that now is not the afternoon to try to make dramatic changes to that and why he has tabled only a probing amendment. We are asking the Government about that, but there are big issues here that we would like them to review.