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Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, the noble Viscount has suggested that this amendment answers my objection. It may answer one of my objections but it produces another. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, is over-naive about the co-operativeness of people arrested under such warrants. He suggests that they will ask for the warrant to be translated into a language that they understand. If a difficult person is arrested he may say, "Please translate it into Estonian". In south-east Scotland, where I believe the designated authority sits, there may not be many people who could rapidly translate a warrant into Estonian, but on the basis set out by the noble Viscount, such a person could insist that it is translated into any language of a category 1 territory, regardless of the fact that having had the warrant translated into that language he promptly puts the warrant in the bin because he does not understand a word of that language.
It is true to say that these amendments follow on neatly from the amendments that we have just discussed. The issue of language is important. A common concern in extradition cases is that the person arrested may not have a good or an adequate grasp of English and so will not understand the warrant. Clearly, if justice is to be served the person has to be
We have already explained one safeguard in these circumstances, which is that everyone arrested in an extradition case has an entitlement to free legal advice. A lawyer acting in this capacity will be able to understand the warrant, even if his client does not.
On a practical level, are we seriously suggesting that any police officer who may be required to handle an extradition case should have the linguistic skills to be able to translate the content of a warrant into any conceivable language? I suggest that that is somewhat unrealistic.
I have great admiration for the police. They do a brilliant job in difficult circumstances. But in those circumstances in a court somewhere in south Scotland, that might be just one demand too far. On reflection, the noble Viscount may think it better to withdraw the amendment. Even though it is couched in an understandably sympathetic language, as I would expect of him, I encourage him to withdraw the amendment.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, my argument has been neatly undercut by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, assisted by a very comprehensive explanation from the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another set of amendments in which the Government are responding to concerns that were quite properly and well raised in Grand Committee. In this particular casealthough I do not think he is in his place todaymy noble friend Lord Wedderburn of Charlton voiced concerns. However, we sensed that he had the support of quite a few other noble Lords present on that occasion. I am pleased that we have been able to accommodate his points.
As your Lordships will know from the amendments which we have just discussed, following arrest in an extradition case the person must be brought swiftly before a court. In most cases, the requirement is that he should be brought before the court as soon as practicable, but in Part 1 provisional arrest cases it must be within 48 hours, together with the full papers, of course.
These amendments concern what happens if those deadlines are not complied with. As currently drafted, the Bill provides that if the various deadlines applying to a person's first court appearance are not complied with, the person is "taken to be discharged". In Grand Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, suggested that this wording was ambiguous and my noble friend Lord Filkin undertook to consider whether it could be improved.
Your Lordships may be interested to know that during the summer the police also expressed to the Government their concerns about the form of words in the Bill, which they feared could put their officers in the position of having to decide whether a person should be released. So, for a combination of reasons, we have tabled these amendments.
The amendments remove the references in the Bill to a person being "taken to be discharged" if statutory deadlines are not complied with. Instead, they provide that the person can apply for a discharge if he considers that the deadlines are not complied with. If the judge takes the view that the person is right, he mustI stress "must"discharge him. I am hopeful that noble Lords will feel that this is a better solution. For those reasons, I urge noble Lords to agree to the amendments. I beg to move.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I still think that the amendment is too kind to the criminalor the person arrested, as we must assume him to be. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, spoke about cases where someone is not brought before a court within 24 hours. But the provision also applies if the person arrested is not shown the warrant as soon as reasonably practicable. That has now become an automatic obligation.
I see no reason why such an administrative failure should lead to the automatic discharge of someone who is at least suspected and accused by a foreign country of having committed a very serious offence. I confess that I much preferred Amendment No. 33, in the names of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front-Bench Members, which gave the judge in question discretion.
I think that it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, who said in Grand Committee that it was all very academic because if the person arrested was automatically discharged, he would get two yards outside the cell door before being re-arrested and the whole process would start again. If that is right, it is not a very charming farce. Surely, the mere failure of a policeman to show the person arrested a warrant as soon as reasonably practicablebecause he was very busyshould lead to discretion on whether to discharge rather than an automatic discharge.
The only alteration that the government amendment would make is that the smart criminal who knows his rights will apply to be discharged and get out, whereas the more ignorant poor fool who does not know that there is an easy way of getting out of gaol without passing "Go" will not take advantage of it. Surely, in those circumstances, it should be up to the judge to ask whether the police have wildly disregarded the detainee's rights, in which case he can go, or whether there has been a mild administrative mess-up that stopped the warrant getting to the arrested person for a couple of hourswhen he was asleep, anyhowand that it can be overlooked.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, we thoroughly support the amendments, which bring a great deal more clarity to the current drafting in the Billin particular, the phrase "taken to be discharged". Like the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, I found the phrase ambiguous and potentially confusing. We welcome any amendments that would make this complex legislation more user-friendly in its language and phraseology.
However, I have one query that I do not wish to overlook. The same point was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. Clause 4(4), if amended as the Government propose in Amendment No. 35, would read:
In response to the comments made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, there is a balance to be struck in the language of the Bill. We think that we have got it right. We are supported in that by the way in which the police and all quarters of the Committee expressed concern. I take the noble Viscount's point, but we must have confidence in getting the processes absolutely spot on. We will do that because of the serious nature of such cases. I hear what the noble Viscount says, but he must trust us to take into account the points made. In the circumstances, the wording that we have proposed can be lived with, is practical and will work.