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Lord Clinton-Davis: I rise to support my noble friends, but I do not think that it is a matter of huge importance. However, I have come to the view that this statute ought to be very precise. Why are these words in the provision? Are they not entirely redundant? When he comes to respond to this debate, I hope that my noble friend will say, "I am going to think about this", because I do not believeI must not use that wordthat the words "it believes that" have authority in any other provision, or at least so far as I know.
I wish to put a question to the Minister. This whole discussion reflects the vagueness and sense of compromise under which framework decisions are reached and with which we are inclined to discuss them subsequently. Surely what is needed here is a list of which judicial authorities can issue warrants. All countries will need such a list in order to be certain that they are valid. In previous discussions I may have missed mention of the fact that such a list already exists, but if that is the case then there is no earthly reason why the amendment should not be accepted. It would be the right thing to do. The warrant would have to be issued by an authority included on the list. Without the list, surely the process will be difficult to operate. It should be an absolute necessity. Whoever has the job of overseeing the issue of a warrant should ensure that that is the case.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I support what is a common-sense amendment. While the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, remarked that they did not think it would do any damage to remove the phrase, I think that its removal would improve the Bill. I shall speak with caution because I am sitting in front of two noble friends who are both highly qualified legally.
If the qualification of "belief" was removed, it might reduce the opportunity for challenge to decision making. If I were a person in receipt of a warrant and I knew that the legislation made it incumbent on an authority to do something if it believed that it needed to do it, I would then want to challenge the way in which the authority exercised its right to hold a belief. I would want to know by what process it decided to act on a belief.
Difficulties are encountered as soon as "belief" is introduced into legal documents. To that end, my noble friend Lady Carnegy sought to assist the Government even further by suggesting that clarity would be improved by having a list. Perhaps the Government will respond by asking what the position would be if the judicial authorities changed and about issues of slippage of time in a listI see the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, shaking his head. However, in this technological age one can update a list with a swift electronic communication. My noble friend has suggested a most helpful solution and I hope that the Government will be able to accept it.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: This has been an interesting and entertaining debate. I was grateful and pleased to note that, in moving his amendment, my noble friend Lord Wedderburn said that he did not favour enabling people to escape extradition. That was not just magnanimous on his part, I thought it was a
I must put the Committee on notice and say that the speaking note states "Resist". That is our starting point. However, I have listened carefully to the arguments and I was struck by the observation made by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, about vagueness. We share her concern. For many this is a controversial piece of legislation. We want to see crispness of language and, along with all concerned, we seek a large measure of certainty.
I want to spell out what the clause seeks to achieve. As is currently the position, NCIS or the Crown Office may certify an incoming warrant that it believes to have come from a judicial authority which has the function of issuing arrest warrants in that country. That is the current position, based on a belief. We expect incoming EU extradition requests to come from exactly the same sources and personnel. The amendment moved by my noble friend would provide that the UK authority has the power to issue a certificate if the warrant has come from a judicial authority with the appropriate function. His proposal would mean that no longer would there be any measure of how the decision is to be taken as to whether it was an appropriate authority.
I can reassure my noble friend that we appreciate the reasoning behind the amendment. We would not want invalid warrants or warrants from unauthorised sources being certified in this country. That is exactly why this subsection is in Clause 2. There has to be some measure of how the decision on certification is to be made. Whether the authority issuing the warrant is the appropriate one, with the relevant functions, can be gauged only by the UK designated authority's belief in the matter. As I have said, that is the current position.
To satisfy the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and other noble Lords, there will be a central register of the appropriate competent authorities in each country. Therefore it will be possible for the UK authority to verify whether each warrant has come from the correct source. So the process of verification will be in place. Ultimately, however, the UK will have to believe justifiably that the warrant has been issued by the appropriate authority. The certificate will then be issued.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am not able to answer that question off the cuff. My noble friend has made a fair and reasonable point. However, I was about to say that while I think that, on balance, we have the wording right, I see no harm in taking away the point raised by this amendment and considering whether the issue of certainty can be given some further emphasis.
I wish to make a final point of reassurance. The Government's aim, which has to be shared and collectively agreed, is that no inappropriate warrant can be certified in this country. Indeed, I believe that my noble friend moved his amendment in that spirit. If any doubts at all are raised about the authenticity of a warrant, of course the UK authority has all the powers it needs to ensure that no further action would be taken.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I am most grateful for that reply. The Minister said that I made an entertaining case for the amendment. It always gives me enormous pleasure to provide entertainment for my noble friends. I regard that as a compliment because it is rare that I am able to do so.
My noble friend said that his brief stated "Resist". In view of his later remarks, I thought that perhaps he had misread the word and that in fact it was "Desist" from stubborn opposition to what is a sensible proposal. I hope that he can give us further information about Maria Teresa. I say that because the point is that a mistake could be made. Of course I believe that the Government will do all they can to ensure that, in practice, things work properly, but a mistake could be made. If the words are taken out, any mistake would invalidate the proceedings, which is how it should be.
The noble Lord said: This is a small amendment which I suspect is less entertaining. It rests on a point referred to by my noble friend Lady Turner in Article 1 of the framework decision, which refers to a European arrest warrant as a judicial decision issued by a member state with a view to the arrest and surrender of a requested person.
We have seen the need to amend the Bill to make it absolutely clear that a "judicial" authority is the source of the warrant. That notion is central. In paragraph 8 of its preamble, the framework decision speaks of the need for "sufficient controls":
A case in point might be that a body which was a judicial authority acted as a matter of courseas a matter of formalityon the request of a public prosecutor. If that could be shownat least beyond reasonable doubtI apprehend that such procedure would fall outwith the spirit of what the Government intend. The Government do not, as I understand it, intend that a public prosecutor should just be able to demand of someone who is on the list of designated judicial authorities that an arrest warrant be issued. If that is so, perhaps we should make that understanding clear in the Bill; namely, that this is a judicial authorityand, as my noble friend the Minister mentioned, information as to who the authorities are will be sent by the other stateand that that judicial authority must be acting, as it normally would, in terms of a procedure which can be said to be a judicial decision.
It is not impossible. I give Ministers notice that I have been doing as much work as I can, in such languages as I can muster, on the new penal code in Estonia. My noble friend finds that amusing. It is not irrelevant. Estonia is a long way awaya land of which we know little, to employ a famous phrasebut, nevertheless, the new penal code for 2002 appears to have some very interesting features. I imagine that Ministers will not object if we refer occasionally to territories that are about to become members of the European Union. Obviously, they will be very relevant; they are bound to come in to Part 1. I have not yet reached any conclusion on the matter. I merely give Ministers notice so that those who advise them can muster their even greater linguistic skills on this matter.
There is a worry, and it has been suggested that what clearly appear to be judicial authorities act on the formality of something like a public prosecutor request. I ask my noble friend to consider making it clear in the Bill that that is not the intention. I beg to move.
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