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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having tabled the amendments; they provide us with the opportunity to set out more clearly how we see this aspect of extradition working in the future.
As the Bill is drafted, Clauses 66 and 139 define the appropriate judge for hearing extradition cases under Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill. The appropriate judges are as follows: in England and Wales it is any district judge designated by the Lord Chancellorwhile he exists. In Scotland, it is the sheriff of Lothian and Borders and in Northern Ireland any county court judge or resident magistrate designated by the Lord Chancellor.
I do not think anyone has any doubt that cases in Scotland will be handled well by the sheriff of Lothian and Borders. What may in due course change is how cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are dealt with. At present, anyone arrested for extradition purposes anywhere in any of those three countries is brought to London for the case to be heard at Bow Street Magistrates' Court. Although Court 3 may not be the most salubrious of settings, it is nevertheless a very sensible location.
There is a good reason for this central location. Extradition law is very specialist and Bow Street has a cadre of district judges and clerks who have a great deal of expertise in this area. It has been very helpful that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has spent time there, although I am not sure that it was something she delighted in doing. I spent a bit of time there some years ago for other reasonsI cannot remember when or why, but it was not the most gratifying experience. I pay tribute to her for her particular interest in this matter and for taking the time to understand how things work.
The Government believe they need to examine whether it is sensible for every extradition case in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be heard in London. It is commonly understood that there will be an expansion in the numbers of cases heard. While at the moment it is a tiny handful, we all accept that there will be an increase. For that reason, we think there should be or will be a small number of judicial centres outside London where these cases can be dealt with.
There are sound practical reasons for this. If a fugitive is arrested in Carlisle, Cornwall, Cardiff or Coleraine, it does not really make sense for them to be transported all the way to London for the extradition hearing. For that reason, we envisage having district judges presiding over extradition hearings in a handful of judicial centres outside London. What is a handful? There will be perhaps three or four, all of which will need several district judges to make sure they can provide year-round service and cover. So it will be a small number of people. We believe that they will need to be trained but we do not expect the demand to be immediate. I suspect that it will be a slow and incremental process, with the new locations dependent upon the number of requests received, the balance of where the cases fall, the areas in which they fall and where arrests are made.
The other reason why the development of regional centres dealing with extradition cases will be a slow and gradual process is because, as I have already indicated, extradition law is complex and specialist. Clearly, before any place could begin operating as a regional extradition centre, there would need to be a sufficient number of district judges and clerks based there who were fully conversant with our extradition law and the requirements it imposes.
That brings me to the heart of the amendments. I agree absolutely with the spirit behind them. District judges must receive proper, effective and skilled training and development before they can expect to preside over extradition cases. I can give the assurance that the noble Baroness is afterthe Lord Chancellor is very seized of this point and no district judge will be designated to handle extradition cases unless he or she has been properly trained for that role. We believe that to be very important. They will need to be very skilled and to include in their CV much relevant experience, perhaps based on practice.
It would not be in the United Kingdom's interest, the fugitive's interest, the requesting state's interest and certainly not in the interests of justice to have a person who was unqualified and ill prepared in charge of an extradition case. I can give the assurance that that will not happen.
Amendments Nos. 237 and 238 are concerned with who can issue outgoing extradition requests. If your Lordships care to look at Clause 149, you will see that the field is rather that for hearing extradition cases wider since it includes any JP or, in Scotland, any sheriff. The reason is that issuing an outgoing European arrest warrant is very similar to issuing a normal domestic arrest warrant, with the same
I hope that, having heard what I have said, and, in particular, the firm undertaking that no district judge will be designated without proper training, the noble Baroness will agree with my earlier suggestion that we are at one on the point and withdraw her amendment with some comfort.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance that no district judge will be able to hear a case unless he or she has been properly trained prior to that. It is important to consider that when these complex cases are rolled out to this handful of centres they are not only properly dealt with but the courts are properly resourced.
I referrednot too flippantly, I hopeto Court 3; I do not want to be flippant about the circumstances under which its operates. Court 3 is probably the smallest court that one could get into, so the number of interpreters necessary and the interest of the press makes things quite difficult. I suspect that it is used less frequently than the others, because people whose cases are heard in Court 3 are on bailit is not a secure court. The other courts also labour under difficulties, and I hope that the Government can take on board the budgetary implications of rolling out these cases to other courts nationwide.
Just before I withdraw the amendment, I notice that yet again, as the Minister mentioned, the clause refers to the Lord Chancellor. It therefore crosses my mind again what a torrent of legislation we shall face if the Government persist in wanting to abolish the post of Lord Chancellor. We shall need to change every reference to that post in our legislation. I must say that I look on that task with dread. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Part 2 retains some of the protections that will now be excised from Part 1. We generally welcome what is in Part 2 and have said several times that we feel that Part 2 would do the job for extradition in total; we do not need Part 1. But that does not mean that we have no problems with Part 2; there are still matters that we need to scrutinise and probemost importantly, the provisions laid out in Clause 83. We still wonder which countries will be in category 2. When I read the record
The Minister gave an evasive response, but we have subsequently managed to discover a little more about which countries might be designated as category 2. The Home Affairs Select Committee report in another place showed that of the 139 extraditions from the UK during the three years from 1999 to 2001, 57 were to non-EU member states and 23 of those 57 were to the USA, while the others were to Australia, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, India, Lithuania, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and Uganda.
Furthermore, on 20th Mayafter the Bill had left another placethe then Minister, Mr Robert Ainsworth in answering a Written Question listed all the countries with which the UK has extradition agreements, falling into four categories: Commonwealth countries, British Overseas Territories, parties to the European Convention on Extradition and those with which we have bilateral extradition treaties. Countries in the fourth category include not only the USA but Iraq, Colombia and Liberia, to name a few.
It is important that the Government give us some idea of which countries we are referring to when we discuss Part 2 procedures. It struck me that countries which would fall into category 2 territories range from those which could indeed guarantee a just and fair trial to those with appalling records on human rights and corruption. For that reason, it is imperative that the Order in Council for designating category 2 countries should be made by affirmative resolution. We are grateful to the Government for conceding that point early on.
However, perhaps this is the appropriate time for the Government to put on record why they dropped the idea of having four tiers of designated countries, as suggested in the draft Bill. It is clear that there is a great disparity between Canada and Liberia in the quality of their justice systems. On that note, the creation of a sub-tier is what really worries us in Clause 83. In that clause, we learn that some category 2 countrieswe do not know whichwill be exempt from the requirement to provide prima facie evidence and that that will be done by Order in Council. A sub-tier seems to us a worrying thing to create, being neither one thing nor the other.
In response to a previous amendment, the noble Baroness answered the remainder of the questions that I should otherwise have asked now. However, I look forward to hearing from the Minister the Government's thoughts behind the Part 2 procedure in general, and, in particular, which countries it will cover.
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