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Viscount Bledisloe: I confess that, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, it seems to me that the amendment is misconceived. Obviously translation and interpreting facilities must be available as soon as possible. But to require that the warrant is shown to a person on his arrest in a language he understands seems to me to be wholly wrong.
First, it is most important that he gets the same document that the judge will be working from. As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, his adviser has to work from that. Secondly, no one may know at the time what language he does understand. Thirdly, if the man is ingenious he may decline to tell you what language he understands. If the document is not provided to him within a language he understands within the time allowed, the provision would not have been complied with. After the time has elapsed he might reveal the language he does understand and say, "The document was not in that language and therefore I must be discharged". Clearly, facilities for translation are needed. But, like every other process in England, the document should be served in English. We do not translate our writsthey are no longer called writsinto foreign languages to serve on defendants who do not understand English. Legal proceedings in England are conducted in English and the document must be served in English.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I rise to support the spirit of Amendment No. 35 and to explain a small matter. An amendment tabled in my name and that of my noble friend regarding translation was withdrawn. Amendment No. 39, which we discussed in a previous group, also had a reference to translation removed. Perhaps I may explain that and aver to something to which the Minister may refer in his reply. Members of the Committee may remember that we discussed translation in a previous debate. It was a rather odd discussion in which the relevance of the framework decision annex about language was mentioned. The annex reads:
The framework decision, which I assume we want to implement, states that the warrant must be written in or translated into one of the official languages of the executing member states. So far, that is English. I appreciate the comments of the noble Viscount, that normally such things are done in English. But this is a transnational matter. It is no good being tremendously patriotic about this matter when it is European because it has transnational dimensions. We note that it must be written either in English or any other language accepted by the executing member state. Therefore, it is perfectly possible for us to accept a language which we describe as one which will be intelligible to the person arrested. I appreciate the other points that were made. It may be that you cannot know what he will understand. It may be that he denies understanding anything and that he understands only Esperanto. But the spirit of Amendment No. 35, albeit that its language is perhaps a little too brutal, is that you should do your best to have the person arrested understand what it is he is being arrested for.
This is ground we have already covered. It was the point which commanded, as I apprehend it, unanimity among the Members of the Grand Committee; namely, that the person arrested should understand as far as is humanly possible what it is he is being arrested for, and that he should not have to wait to be hauled before a judge before he understands that very simple point. It is not a question of being carted off in a van tomorrowno one has said that. What we have said is that the person arrested should understand what he is being arrested for.
Of course, wily criminals can be even cleverer than Members of the Grand Committee and can think of all sorts of reasons why they say they do not understand a measure, but that should not take away the responsibility of the police, whose convenience, I must say with great respect, is being consulted as usual by the Home Office with such trepidation. I hope that the Minister thinks of this when he goes to sleep reading the Bill again tonight. As he dozes off, I with respect suggest to him that he for a moment suspends disbelief and thinks that perhaps human liberties and human rights are being put aside in the balance that he has drawn between police conveniencewhich he calls consistencyand the rights of a person arrested.
The spirit of Amendment No. 35I urge the Minister to address that spirit as well as the actual wordsis that we try our best to explain to the person arrested what it is he is arrested for. As we all know, there will be casessurely it is common ground that there will be such caseswhere, if English is the only obligation in this regard, we know very well that the person arrested will not understand what he is being told. Will the Minister take the matter away and come back to us with a measure in the spirit of Amendment No. 35 to inform the person arrested what it is he is arrested forat least where you know the languages that he understandsin the language that one well knows is the only one that he understands?
We do not believe, however, that the amendments as drafted, requiring a police officer to translate the content of the warrant into a language that the person understands, are the right way forward. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, spoke perhaps more clearly and succinctly on that than I might. I have already explained that the central thrust of how we will operate extradition in this part of the Bill will be to require that the requesting state translate all documentation into English. That is for a good reason: we understand English, as do our lawyers and procedural processors. To not have it in that way seems to be starting off the process wrongly. That is why we are categorical about that.
But it is imperative that the arrested person understands what is happening to him or her, why he or she has been arrested and what the charges are. If the police were required to fulfil that linguistic task, the problem is that it would be asking quite a lot of them to have the relevant fluency and languages, and to get it right. In practice, therefore, a highly multi-lingual policeman is not required, but the arrested person must have access to an interpreter. That is as set out in the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985.
The code of practice under the Bill will require, under Part 4, to provide for that explicitlyin other words, that a person will and must have access to an interpreteras well as including a requirement for the police to ensure as far as possible at the time of arrest that the person understands that he or she is being arrested and why. If it were done as the amendment currently states, there would be all sorts of problems apart from finding a police officer with the relevant linguistic skills. There would be the danger of the policeman translating the warrant wrongly and messing up the process before it even started.
I shall re-emphasise the procedures that we are trying to put in place to ensure that the person understands that he or she is being arrested and why. Again, we have tried to follow as closely as possible the procedures set out in the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985, which requires that, if necessary, the person have access to an interpreter. Although the Committee is right that there will probably be more cases where a person does not understand English in these matters, that already happens in our domestic legislation. Our domestic law, therefore, already provides for provision of an interpreter service, as it should do.
The code states that the need for an interpreter will be fully assessed by the custody officer on arrival at the police station, and, if necessary, the process of arrest can be repeated to ensure that the person understands that he or she has been arrested and why.
Finally, I turn to Amendments Nos. 209 and 213 which also seek to insert the concept of language that the person who is subject to extradition understands. Clause 91 requires the district judge in a Part 2 case which he sends to a Secretary of State to inform the person in ordinary language that he has a (deferred) right of appeal to the High Court. Clause 99 requires the Secretary of State, if he orders a person's extradition in a Part 2 case, to tell the person and to inform him of his right of appealagain, in ordinary language. Clearly, "in ordinary language" means language that the person can understand. Therefore, if one does not expect a district judge to be multi-lingual, it implies that that means that the person has to understand it, if necessary, through the provision of an interpreter facility.
I totally support the thrust and purpose behind the amendments but suggest that the way in which we intend to implement it, building on our current domestic practice where suspects do not understand English and reinforced by the code of practice, should address the matter adequately.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I am grateful to the Minister for that. As the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, said, we are talking here about "spirit" and what we are trying to achieve. These are probing amendments. I am again not entirely convinced when the Minister says that this is in line with our domestic arrangements because, as we have discussed several times todayI shall not labour the pointthis is a different type of arrangement. This is a transnational arrangement which involves a European arrest warrant.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, took me to task for the way that some old lags or experienced hands would be able to turn any amendment of this type to their advantage. I accept those strictures, but there is another side of the coin. The position of Teresa Daniels is a very good example of this. It is now six years since the alleged offence is supposed to have taken place and she is due to go to Bow Street on Friday. She has had no clear understanding of what she has been charged with. Indeed, it now transpires that, having received some court documents, her
That is the type of issue that will come back to cause us a great deal of trouble. Of course, I accept the point that there may be people who will use the fact that their language is not available or refuse to make clear what their language isalthough I suspect that could be dealt with in legislationor choose an obscure language. But nevertheless the dangers of mis-translation are very great indeed. The person able to see most clearly is the person arrested for the alleged offence, but who needs to see this in terms of the language that they understand.
This is an issue to which we shall need to come back. We feel that the spirit needs a fresh look. I hope that the Minister may be able to help us before we get to further stages of this Bill. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.