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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I support my noble friend, particularly on Amendments Nos. 19 and 20. If the Minister cannot assure us that, for certain, anyone being extradited to any member state would be able to have legal aid and simultaneous translation, the whole concept is flawed. That applies not only to the present European Union but also to when the next two waves of members come in. We are probably some distance from being able to ensure that in some of those countries. The Minister must give us that assurance or we should be very concerned.
One can quite understand a foreign country saying, "There is no point in my giving you bail because the only point of you having bail is to go back home and get on with your job until the trial comes on. But once you have gone back there, I have got no way of getting you back without going through the whole process of extradition". Therefore, one can understand a reluctance to grant bail to foreigners. However, it means that it is grossly unfair and very oppressive on those who are arrested in foreign countries or on those who are extradited. I strongly urge the Minister to do everything he can to forward the cause of the Euro bail agreement.
I agree that it is a different matter, but its desirability is surely finally and totally demonstrated by the fact that we have no less a Euro-sceptic than the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, strongly pressing for a Euro agreement. In those circumstances, it must be right.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, my noble friend has raised the very important issue of the relative advantage or disadvantage of someone in a foreign court, whether it be a UK citizen overseas or an overseas citizen in the UK. He has done so against a background of the importance of legal aid, adequate translation and bail. For those of us who have received briefing from Fair Trials Abroad and other organisations, clearly there are some important points and issues to be addressed. We look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.
My noble friend might be able to comfort himself somewhat that, as a result of points made by him and others in Committee and on Report, Clause 22, entitled, "Minimum procedural rights", now offers some protection and prevention. It particularly allows the Secretary of State to monitor subsequent conduct in different territories and, where that conduct falls short, to draw that fact to the attention of a judge in subsequent cases. Those improvements that have come about, I think, through the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, have gone a long way to meeting that which my noble friend is seeking. Nevertheless, there is still an issue here to be answered by the Government.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of Fair Trials Abroad. On this occasion, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, will find me much more supportive than I was on his first group of amendments. While my support might not necessarily go so far as to support him in the Division Lobby if he chooses to divide the House, the principle behind these amendments is absolutely vital.
Fair Trials Abroad has found that the two main problems encountered by people facing trial in foreign countries, in particular in the European Union, are the absence of proper legal aid and the lack of competent translation and interpretation facilities. I wish to make a minor point: I would not go so far as to say that simultaneous interpretation is necessary. That would require fairly high-powered electronic equipment to be made available in each courtroom. I should have thought that competent sequential translation would be adequate. However, there is no doubt that the absence of legal aid and lack of interpretation facilities are serious problems.
I recognise that both elements are referred to specifically in Article 6.3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If it becomes apparent that in certain countries the rights of people who are extradited are not being respected, then obviously it will be possible, under the terms of Clause 21, to object to extradition on the grounds that the convention rights of the person to be extradited will not be met. That will depend on evidence being provided to establish a case for that purpose.
I regret that it did not prove possible to reach a European framework decision on minimum standards of procedure. That would have provided a valuable balance to the contents of the European framework decision that led to the European arrest warrant.
I would be even more enthusiastic about the idea of establishing "Euro bail", because that issue causes real hardship in a significant number of cases. There is no doubt that in a number of countries there is a natural tendency not to grant bail to someone who is a foreigner and who may therefore disappear home. The country could not be certain of getting the person back, and even if it did get him back it would be only after a lengthy struggle. If that is coupled with lengthy periods of detention before trial, the problem would be doubled.
Certainly Fair Trials Abroad has come across a number of cases where people have been detained for very long periods before trial, at the end of which sometimes they have been found innocent. Particular problems have arisen in Spain with cases involving lorry drivers. From time to time, lorry drivers are found transporting drugs or other contraband in the backs of their lorries which they claimsometimes rightly and sometimes wronglythey have been carrying without their knowledge. They are detained for long periods in a foreign country; they are not given bail, and often their families cannot afford to travel out to the country to visit them, which increases their hardship yet further.
I understand that discussions are being held with the countries of the European Union which seek to establish some kind of Euro bail system, but that they are still at a preliminary stage. It is important that those talks should be pressed and I hope very much that the Government will be able to express their intention to push for a Euro bail system. It would mean that if someone jumps bail, they would be automatically returned to the country from which they
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, for introducing this debate because in a sense it covers one of the central themes of our discussions on the Bill. It is right and proper that we come back to it at the final stage in this House.
We have been extraditing to other European Union and Council of Europe countries for over 100 years. Never before have we required a Secretary of State to produce a report on those countries' criminal justice systems.
The single most significant change to extradition procedures to Council of Europe countries came with the passage of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. That legislation paved the way for the removal of the requirement for those countries to produce prima facie evidence. Essentially, we operate on mutual recognition between ourselves and other civilised states which we believe uphold the basic principles of the law. Yet that important change was not conditional on a report on various aspects of the criminal justice systems of the countries concerned. Nevertheless, one might say that times have changed and that the burden is still on the Government to consider whether that is good enough.
Let us look at what the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, has specifically proposed in his amendments. While I do not wish to raise hopes, let us pretend for the sake of argument that the Government agreed and produced a report that said that the system in the extraditing country was acceptable. While that may or may not be of comfort, it would not guarantee that, in the future, the system would not change. A snapshot judgment would have been made at a particular point in time about the criminal justice system in another European country.
For that reason and for other more fundamental reasons, we have not taken that route. Rather, we have chosen a substantially better route to ensure that someone who is sought for extradition has their basic rights met. A number of noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment have already signposted how powerful those terms are as they are currently set out in the Bill.
First, Clause 21 ensures that a judge will make the decision on whether to agree to an extradition; it is not for a Minister to decide. That responsibility is placed very firmly on a judge. The clause states:
Noble Lords know how the system will operate. We have an expert Bar that will deal with extradition cases and it is self-evident that, when the Bill is passed into law, counsel will use these measures powerfully. Arguments will be put before the judge if there is evidence to support the assertion that, in country X or Y, convention rights will not be met. If my memory serves me right, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, raised concerns about whether, having closed some loopholes, one might be at risk of creating another great panjandrum of defence around this.
But we are where we areand we are at the right place. The Bill could not be clearer in seeking to give a mechanism to the judge to decide, in the specific instances of a particular case before him, whether the convention rights would be met. Without labouring the point, the Bill is as powerful as it possibly could be to meet the aims that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, seeks to achieve.
As to Eurobail, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, negotiations are at a very early stage. I cannot say whether anything will come of them but the UK will play a full part in such negotiations. When we referred to Eurobail previously, we came to the view in Committee that in itself it would not necessarily assist in this case because it would require the fugitive to be transferred twice between the two countries and there were technical reasons why its application may be considered inappropriate in this context.
Be that as it may, the central point is that the Bill could not be clearer in terms of giving a defendant who does not think that he will get a fair trial the strongest possible forum to advance that argument in a court of this country before a judge who is charged very specifically under the Bill. For these reasons, I hope that I have put at rest the minds of at least some Members of the House.
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