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Session 2000-01
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Standing Committee Debates
International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

Standing Committee D

Thursday 26 April 2001


[Mr. Frank Cook in the Chair]

International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

10 am

The Chairman: I apologise to the Committee for my late arrival. There is a first time for everything, and this is the first time that I have been late in more than 10 years.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): On a point of order, Mr. Cook. On behalf of the Committee, may I say that I am delighted that you are here and that nothing untoward has befallen you? As you rightly said, in 10 years, you have never been late for a Committee, and I think that you are allowed to be late once every 10 years. We are delighted to have you in the Chair. Members on both sides of the Committee were worried about you.

My serious point of order is not necessarily for you, Mr. Cook, but for the authorities that look after the procedures of the House of Commons. In our first sitting, when we were debating the programming motion, I said,

    ``Far be it from me to suggest this, Mr. Cook, but the Chairman of the Committee might unaccountably be detained and not show up. I believe that there is no mechanism in the Standing Orders of the House for reclaiming lost time on the debate and scrutiny of any Bill.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 10 April 2001; c. 6.]

That observation sprang from my experience in the Committee on the International Development Bill, where the same thing happened. An untoward event befell another Chairman and he was late, so time was lost for scrutiny of the Bill.

You might not want to comment on that now, Mr. Cook, but I wanted to put the matter on the record. A Chairman can be replaced by any member of the Committee, with its permission. I request the authorities of the House of Commons to examine whether there should be a mechanism by which we could start proceedings in the Chairman's absence, so as not to be impeded in our examination of the Bill.

The Chairman: I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, which is well taken, and offer a comment. Had there been five Chairmen for the Committee this morning, I would still have been late. I was late because I was working and unavoidably detained on parliamentary duty. Had I been able to foretell that unexpected work pressure, I would have been able to get a Chairman for the Committee, even though I am its sole appointed Chairman.

A provision was made on Monday this week, when the Programming Sub-Committee was to sit at 6.30 that evening and I had constituency duties in the morning. I kept in constant contact with the chief Clerk and with our worthy Committee Clerk to relate my progress down the M1 so that everyone would be assured that, if necessary, an emergency Chairman could be put in place. I assure the Committee that this morning's event was extraordinary and that I have no intention of being known as the late Mr. Cook, at least not in the next 10 years. The remarks are on record and I am content to leave it at that; there is no need to take further action.

Clause 2

Request for arrest and surrender

Mrs. Gillan: I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 19, after `demonstrate', insert `beyond reasonable doubt'.

The clause covers the circumstances in which the Government are required to act on a request from the International Criminal Court for an individual to be arrested, or to secure his or her surrender to that court. That request may refer to someone who is accused of committing a crime, as defined by the statute, or who has been convicted by the court and is not in custody. Subsection (4) sets out the documentation that could accompany the request when someone has been convicted, but the request has not been accompanied by a warrant. If we wanted to examine the source material on which the subsection is based, we would go to article 91.3 of the statute. As I am sure the Minister appreciates, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that no person should be subject to arrest and detention unless he or she has been shown to criminal standards of proof to be the person identified in the request. The amendment is simple.

The matter was discussed in another place, but I felt that it was apposite to return to it at this stage because it deals with a convicted individual, rather than one who is, say, only accused and thus is facing an earlier stage in a trial by the ICC. The amendment would ensure that the best care and attention is given to establishing that the person sought is the self-same person to whom the judgment refers. The highest standard of proof should be a requirement before an officer issues a warrant for arrest.

From following the debate in the other place, I know that there is some sympathy for that line of thinking. We have tabled the amendment to give the Minister the opportunity to re-examine that part of the Bill. If the amendment is accepted, it will provide protection for an individual over whose identity a sufficient element of doubt existed, and will avoid a situation where, although an individual's identity was in question, he could still find himself handed over to the ICC.

This debate will be extremely useful and will put on record the views of the Government and concerns about the Bill. The individuals with which this part of the Bill deals could face a long period of incarceration and could have been convicted, under the statute, of some heinous crimes. It is doubly important that we ensure that someone who has already been convicted is the same person to whom the sentence is applicable. I fully acknowledge that in another place the Attorney-General, Lord Williams of Mostyn, was unprepared to accept either the amendment or the reasonable suggestion of replacing the phrase ``beyond reasonable doubt'' with the words ``more likely than not''.

It is important to hear the Minister's reply. By refusing to accept ``beyond reasonable doubt'' and to consider the helpful suggestion of ``more likely than not'', it is implied that even if the court and its officers were less than 50 per cent. sure that the identity of the person before them was the same as that of the convicted individual, the court would still have to hand that person over.

The purpose of the amendment is to seek reassurances and put them on the record, while trying to persuade the Minister to accept an amendment that is, I believe, reasonable. A high standard of proof should be required before the judicial officer issues the warrant. I hope that the Minister agrees that it is important for the courts to make sure that the right person is surrendered. It is highly desirable that the standard of proof should be ``beyond reasonable doubt''.

Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun): I am trying to follow the hon. Lady's reasoning. It is not my understanding that, in our domestic law, before people can be arrested, we require police officers to be satisfied ``beyond reasonable doubt''. We require them to be satisfied to different standards, and we do not need to go into those now.

As I understand the Bill, however, no one can be delivered unless the court makes a delivery order. The requirements in clause 5 about the proceedings for the delivery order require the court to be satisfied that the conviction relates to the person before it. Is clause 2 the right place to put the standard of proof, or should the amendment require the authority that makes the delivery order—that is, the court—to be satisfied ``beyond reasonable doubt'', if that is the standard of proof that the hon. Lady requires?

Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman's point is valid, and he could be right. Unlike me, he is a distinguished lawyer—

Mr. Browne: Am I?

Mrs. Gillan: I am sure he is.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): Is he expensive? That is the question.

Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished and expensive lawyer and the point he raises is extremely helpful. I hope that the Minister will enlighten us on it. Perhaps I am demanding the inclusion of something that is already implicit, but it would be reassuring if that were done. We are dealing with an individual who has already been convicted and escaped, and who will go straight to jail, will not pass go and will not collect £200. The person will be beyond the process of law, and in the convicted period of his or her life. We need to make sure that we have the right person for the sentence.

I hope that the Minister has had a chance to reflect on the proposal. If he can include the safeguard in the Bill, it will reassure hon. Members and those in the other place who have raised the issue during the Bill's scrutiny.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. John Battle): I agree with the hon. Lady that there must be a high standard of proof and that the right person should be surrendered. That is common sense and should be good legal practice. To arrest and hand over the wrong person would be to go down a cul-de-sac that would be in no one's interests, would waste time, and would be prejudicial to the person concerned.

It seems that the amendment relates to a situation in which the United Kingdom has been asked to surrender a convicted prisoner—presumably an escapee—and the UK court has to satisfy itself that the person sought and the person arrested for surrender are one and the same. The amendment requires the appropriate judicial officer to apply the criminal burden of proof to the information that should be produced to demonstrate that the convicted person sought by the ICC is the one referred to in the judgment of conviction. My argument is that to introduce a further test at this point would be a case of belt and braces. I think that the hon. Lady said that she hoped that I would reassure her that the amendment was unnecessary because it is already implicit in the Bill, and that is my argument.

10.15 am

Mr. Gerald Howarth: I apologise for being a few minutes late. I cannot blame British Rail—I have just come from Cardiff where the train was on time. However, the tube, for which I believe Mr. Livingstone has responsibility, was somewhat delayed.


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Prepared 26 April 2001