European Arrest Warrant and Surrender Procedures Between Member States

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Several hon. Members rose—

The Chairman: Order. We now have until 5.30 to ask questions. There have been a large number of points of order, so although doing so would eat into the debating time, I shall use my discretion to allow questions to run beyond then. I therefore remind hon. Members that questions should be brief and asked one at a time. Last time, we had reached the second round when the problem occurred.

Mrs. Dunwoody: Will the Minister read for us the English translation of ''judicial authority'' from which the Government are working?

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Mr. Ainsworth: I will not read a translation from French. I do not know what point my hon. Friend wishes to raise. If she wishes to raise the issue of the authority by which an arrest warrant will be implemented either in an issuing state—

Mrs. Dunwoody: I just want to know what it means. What does judicial authority mean to Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Ainsworth: I tried to give my hon. Friend that assurance last week. The only people who will be allowed to issue or execute an arrest warrant will be a judicial authority as recognised normally within either the issuing or the executing state.

Mrs. Dunwoody: With respect, I ask again, what is the definition of ''judicial authority''? An answer in any language that I can vaguely understand will do, and I speak five.

Mr. Ainsworth: The definition of a ''judicial authority'' is exactly that. In this country, it is the Bow street magistrates court. In other countries, there are various different authorities such as magistrates and judges who normally issue extradition warrants. Those are the people who will execute a European arrest warrant.

Mr. Maples: I want to ask the Minister about the point that caused the Committee to adjourn last week, which is the meaning of article 2(3). My understanding is that paragraph (2) details offences for which dual criminality is not required. Paragraph (3) seems to imply that dual criminality would be required in those cases, and article 4(1) cites cases in which the extraditing country can refuse to extradite. The words at the end of paragraph article 2(3) troubled me, and they were not in his text. If it ended at:

    ''the law of the executing State''

it would be perfectly clear, but it continues:

    ''where the acts were committed fully or partly on the territory of the executing State.''

Will the Minister explain what those words are intended to add or detract from the general wording of paragraph (3)?

Mr. Ainsworth: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the text to which we are working is dated 31 October. Discussions have taken place since then. Changes have been made—there were already some changes last week, hence the confusion. He touched on an important point. The framework decision is still being negotiated. We are pressing for discretionary grounds for the refusal of a European arrest warrant where the offence is committed wholly or in part in the territory of the executing state, or where it occurs outside the territory of the requesting state and where the executing state does not claim extraterritorial jurisdiction over the conduct in question. That would effectively eliminate the words in COPEN 65 that so concerned the hon. Gentleman.

David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde): I should like to ask the Minister a question that relates to my query from last week about those few conditions

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whereby the executing state may refuse to comply with the arrest warrant, because of moral reasons in the broadest sense of the term. Article 2(4) refers to acts relating to

    ''abortion, euthanasia, morality, sexuality, or freedom of expression and association.''

As I understand my hon. Friend's opening statement, that list has been reduced to abortion and euthanasia. Is that correct, and if so, what was the thinking that led to the removal of morality, sexuality and freedom of expression and association?

Mr. Ainsworth: During negotiations, member states took the position that they wanted the discretion to continue to apply dual criminality. We do not believe that there will be a problem in the case of abortion and euthanasia. However, the British Government's position is that we shall reflect on concerns that have been expressed in Parliament and try to ensure that that is the case.

We are talking about a framework document. There is no requirement on the British Government to abolish dual criminality for cases of abortion or euthanasia. If we seek to abolish dual criminality in those cases, we will need to make certain when we enact the document, which we shall do in primary legislation in the House of Commons, that we justify that to the House. Before we introduce primary legislation, we shall reflect on the concerns that have been raised. Nothing in the framework document makes us abolish dual criminality in those cases.

Simon Hughes: I understand that under article 39 of the European Union treaty, the Council must consult the European Parliament before adopting measures governed by article 34, and it has consulted that Parliament on this proposal. It does not have a co-decision power but a consultative function. On 9 September—I think that that is right—the European Parliament made a recommendation following a Committee deliberation that called on the Council

    ''to adopt a framework decision establishing measures governing and guaranteeing the implementation of a 'European search and arrest warrant' with a view to combating terrorism in the context of action against crime, whether organised or not, trafficking in human beings and crimes against children, illegal trafficking in drugs and arms, and corruption and fraud, taking due account, in the event of more than one offence having been committed, of the gravity of each offence.''

Will the Minister say why, at this stage, the proposal is, as we understand it, significantly wider than the European Parliament's recommendation and whether it could be limited to that sort of range of crimes? Some areas of controversy, such as that raised a moment ago by the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns) and the ones raised last week on environmental crime and high-tech crime—those have very wide definitions—might be able to be dealt with if the arrest warrant were limited to that family of terrorism-related crimes and the ones recommended by the European Parliament.

Mr. Ainsworth: I am aware of that decision, and the hon. Gentleman must be aware that two issues bear on the question that he asks. Those issues have been discussed in connection with other legislation that is

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going through the House. It is difficult to separate out issues such as terrorism, because terrorist organisations are often involved in other crime. That may be one reason why, in some aspects, the proposal is broad. The British Government are prepared—this is a long-standing position—to abolish dual criminality for a very wide range of offences. The extension beyond that originally discussed has not been and is not a problem from our point of view.

Dr. Palmer: I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for updating us on the progress made on article 2(3). In his clarification, he said that it had been provisionally agreed that in the case of a crime committed outside the territory of the issuing country, the order for the arrest warrant could be refused unless the issuing country claimed extraterritorial rights. Will the Minister advise the Committee on when, whether by custom or regulation, such extraterritorial rights might be claimed? Would the crimes be particularly serious, and is it for the issuing country to decide?

Mr. Ainsworth: I shall advise the Committee. I have already tried to advise the Committee on the issue that was raised by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, which I believe will be dealt with in any ensuing text, that no executing state will be required to deliver a person under a European extradition warrant for crimes committed in that state or in a separate country.

On the need to abolish dual criminality, there was broad agreement from the other 14 states—with the exception of Italy, with which negotiations broke down altogether—to raise the threshold from one year to three years. A European arrest warrant would still apply to offences above a 12-month threshold, but a state would be required to abolish dual criminality unless the offence carried a sentence of at least three years.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The draft is clear: a British citizen can be extradited to face trial for offences that are not crimes in this country if they are in listed in article 2(2). Article 22 builds on that and allows the issuing state to prosecute, sentence or detain an individual for offences other than the offence for which the original warrant was issued. There appears to be no limit, so the issuing country could extradite a British citizen and change the alleged crime, which is very serious. Was that discussed, and are the British Government required to limit that? There could be no end to the offences that British citizens could face once they had been extradited.

Mr. Ainsworth: The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There is a requirement that British citizens could be extradited to face charges that are not crimes in this country. However, the reverse of that is that German citizens would not be allowed to break British law. They could not come to Great Britain, break the law and be exempt from an extradition warrant to face the law in this country. Unless the right hon. Gentleman wants to apply a dual standard, he must accept that one is the corollary of the other. If we want criminals from European states to face justice for crimes committed in this country against UK law, we

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must be prepared to accept that the same will happen to British citizens who break the law in other European states.

I do not know the right hon. Gentleman's view on that, or whether he thinks that some dual standard should be applied or that it is all right for a German or Frenchman to come to Great Britain and break the law. Where dual criminality is abolished and we accept mutual recognition, specialty is abolished with it. A person would be sent back to another European state to face criminal charges—but only if dual criminality were abolished.

 
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