Letter from Kate Hoey MP to Lord Tordoff
Thank you for your letter of 6 May. A revised
consolidated text of the draft Convention on mutual assistance
in criminal matters has now been deposited for scrutiny.
I will write separately regarding your queries
on the interception provisions of the Convention. I deal below
with the other matters which Sub-Committee E has raised.
You ask for clarification of the principles
of law that we would consider to be "fundamental" in
considering a request for assistance with a hearing by telephone.
The Committee is already aware that a witness or expert giving
evidence by telephone would be assisting on a purely voluntary
basis. The person would be contacted in advance of the request,
which would then indicate that the person was willing to assist.
It is difficult to envisage that, simply because the evidence
would be given by telephone, a fundamental principle of UK law
would be involved. The fact that we would not be willing to receive
evidence into proceedings in the UK by telephone would not itself
be a basis for refusing assistance of this kind to other Member
States. The presumption would therefore be that we should acquiesce
in the request for assistance in the absence of other, countervailing,
In the event that there were countervailing
factors of some kind, then we would not necessarily assist with
the request for the giving of evidence by telephone. For example,
if the accused person in the requesting Member State had already
been convicted or acquitted in the UK or a third country of an
offence arising from the same criminal conduct giving rise to
the proceedings, then we would refuse the request. To assist in
such a case would indeed be contrary to fundamental principles
of our law.
I have written separately in response to your
letter of 19 April regarding the participation of Europol in police
operations in the context of a draft Joint Action (now a Council
Resolution) on combating international crime with fuller cover
of the routes used.
The draft proposal contemplates that Europol
officers should be involved in joint investigation teams set up
under the Convention where that is thought appropriate in the
circumstances of the case. The Article may need to be re-drafted
to reflect that intention.
The Member States are still discussing in Brussels
the detail of how joint teams established under the Convention
should operate, but it is a long standing UK position that Europol
staff should not have operational powers. Instead Europol should
add value to on-going investigations undertaken by joint teams
through the provision of analytical and expert support. There
would also be capacity for Europol to take a leading role in providing
facilities for co-ordinating international investigations from
a central point.
You also ask about the relationship between
the proposed provision on joint investigation teams and the existing
provision in Article 24 of the (Naples II) Convention on mutual
assistance and co-operation between customs administrations. The
proposed Article goes further than the Naples II provision in
that any officer seconded to the team, including a customs officer,
may be granted the power of intervention in the Member State in
which the team is operating where that is agreed between the Member
States concerned and permitted by national law. The Government
has not opposed this provision because it is purely permissive
ie it would not require us to permit the exercise of executive
powers in the UK by officers from abroad. We have no plans to
confer such powers.
I shall of course submit for scrutiny any further
proposals on the Convention in the usual way.
I am sending a copy of this letter to Jimmy
17 May 1999