Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords] DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Mary Kelly FoyMain Page: Mary Kelly Foy (Labour - City of Durham)
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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.
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.