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Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 (Cases)

Volume 957: debated on Thursday 9 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many cases have been instituted under the provisions of the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 on each side of the border, respectively, and with what result.

Prosecution under the extra-territorial legislation is a matter for the legal authorities in whose jurisdiction the suspect is located. Three persons have been charged in Northern Ireland under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, and I understand that one person has been convicted in the Republic of Ireland by virtue of certain provisions of the Irish Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his reply means that there has been virtually no progress under this Act? Does he not agree that those figures illustrate that it is not any inadequacy in the law, or in the administration of justice, but the lack of a will to co-operate which holds up progress towards a settlement in Northern Ireland?

One of the problems is that the Act deals only with cases since June 1976. I hope that he will not damn the co-operation that is building up. Co-operation is forthcoming. For example, Captain Nairac's death is now subject to court proceedings in Northern Ireland and the Garda are helping in the North at present.

The main difficulty is that there are two jurisdictions responsible for the operation of the Act, and, if a suspect is located in the South, it is difficult for the RUC to interrogate that suspect; they are allowed to attend but not to interrogate.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the ideal situation would be a proper extradition treaty, and will he continue to press for that?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman knows quite well our position. We have signed the Council of Europe's convention on the suppression of terrorism. The Republic and Malta have not yet done so. However, I think that they are likely to sign an associated agreement—perhaps with reservations. But the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that extradition is really the best answer to the problem.