|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am astonished that the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, should be surprised at inconsistency in political matters. Politics is full of inconsistencies, as we note every day in this Chamber.
I am certainly in favour of the amendment, and the Minister will remember that I raised this matter both at Second Reading and in Grand Committee. I believe that, had the process of introducing a European arrest warrant gone forward in the usual way, it probably would not have turned out as it has. Indeed, the impetus given to it, the reason it was introduced so quickly and the reason we are discussing it on Report now is because of the terrorist act on 11th September 2001. It is perfectly plain from the discussions of the European Parliament that the arrest warrant would not have received a blessing as quickly or as fully as it did were it not for 9/11.
I am extremely worried by Part 1 of the Bill. It is perfectly proper and desirable to have an amendment to the general extradition procedure. That probably had become outdated, although I am no expert on the matter. Putting the European arrest warrant in the Billputting Part 1 in the Billexplodes the myth that the Bill is about extradition. Part 1 is not about simple extradition; it is about harmonisation of the judicial process between our country and the European Union and it is a step further towards judicial integration.
I do not believe that that should have been wrapped up in a Bill that is supposed to be about extradition. I note that the Government were good enough to write to me about the matter, but unfortunately they did not convince me and I am sure that they did not expect to convince me. Despite their efforts, I support the amendment and if there is a Division on it I shall support it in the Lobbies.
Lord Donaldson of Lymington: My Lords, the second approachto get rid of Part 1is the logical approach. If we do not do that we can consider whether it should be confined to terrorist offences. The Minister said that the basis upon which we propose these special arrangements with EU countries is that they all embrace the same view of the rule of law and they are all part of the judicial family. I regret to say that I find absolutely no signs of that whatever. Perhaps they are all striving to get there, but many of them have a very long way to go and the situation will be even worse when the EU is enlarged.
For my part, the Bill, with its surrender provisions, is premature. When we are all one family it may be fine. If the proposal were to bring in Canada, the situation would be different altogether. Perhaps then I would be an enthusiastic supporter because it would be more justifiable.
I find myself in the position of not liking this system of surrender without adequate precautions within our own community to ensure that there is a just surrender. But I accept that in our view of the law we have to take account of the realities of terrorism. We have triedto some extent successfullyto preserve the liberties of the individual, even if someone is accused of acts of terrorism and even if there is very strong evidence that he or she is guilty. We have tried and I believe that we have more or less succeeded, but it must be accepted that we have introduced modifications to the law to meet the case of terrorism.
Against the background that, from my point of view, the Part 1 changes to the law are premature and at present wholly unsatisfactory, I would go along with the possibility that they could be applied to terrorism, but to terrorism only. Accordingly, I support the amendment.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I follow exactly the reasoning of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. I am deeply sceptical of the presumption that all EU countries have fairly equal justice systems that justify the need for any other country to scrutinise the fairness of extradition to such a country. Frankly, I find it a little unconvincing that we should retain the controls in relation to the United States but abolish them in relation to other EU countries.
Not so long ago we had a request for extradition from the United States in relation to a British citizen of Algerian descent. The British courts threw out the case because in the opinion of the court the United States' prosecuting authorities did not offer evidence that was convincing enough. Quite rightly, many British newspapers took the opportunity to comment on how that showed the independence and the robustness of the British courts system. Despite the tremendous pressure and the atmosphere at that time, the court considered the evidence and decided, despite political pressure from the United States Government, not to concede. I took pride in the fact that we have courts that are independent in that way.
Of course, in future no such court could take such a stance in relation to a request from an EU country. Under one of the amendments proposed by my noble friend on the Front Bench, extradition would be allowed for a terrorist offence. However, as she has explained, her real objection is to the whole of Part 1 and the limitation to terrorism is a fall-back if the first amendment is rejected.
It seems to me that it is difficult to make this point about other systems. When the matter was raised in Grand Committee the noble Baroness who led for the Government rather blandly said that everyone thinks their system is the best and different countries have different strengths. I am sure that there is some truth in that. I am not someone who believes that everything in this country is better than in other countries. But I believe that our legal system and our courts system is one of the most uncorrupt in the world and I believe
This is a difficult point to raise, but I believe that the noble Baroness did not answer this point when it was raised in Grand Committee; nor did the noble Lord, Lord Filkin. I appreciate that they would probably prefer not to address the matter, and they have not addressed it. There are instances in relation to EU justice systems that cause concern and, I believe, justify the need to retain a right for the British courts to have a handle, perhaps through dual criminality, on a case so that there can be a hearing.
Perhaps I could refer to what has happened in Belgium. We know, without going into the grisly details, that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the legal system there. A quarter of a million people took to the streets of Brussels to demonstrate against the judges, the judicial system and the handling of the Dutroux case. One of the peculiar points about the Dutroux casewhatever we may think of Mr Dutrouxis the justification for holding a man on remand in prison for eight years. I do not believe that that is easily justified. Public concern with the Belgian system undoubtedly exists.
Turning to Italy, the Prime Minister of Italy has made very clear his views of the Italian legal system. He says that judges in Italy are politically motivated and corrupt. I am sure that many Members of the House believe that Mr Berlusconi is wrong, although others say that he bribed a judge. In that case the Italian justice system has something to answer even if Mr Berlusconi is in the wrong.
At Second Reading, I quoted what Mr Strauss-Kahn, a former finance Minister of France, said about the French justice system. According to the European Convention, a person is meant to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. He said:
If the concerns were examined honestly and without embarrassment people would agree that they have some force. I think that the noble Baroness should answer the issue. She refused to answer it before and she brushed the matter aside. She just said "Well, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses". However, the concern is shared by Liberty, an organisation which most people think to be fairly dispassionate. It said:
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|