Committee (7th Day)
Relevant documents: 12th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 4th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Schedule 7: Powers to seize invalid passports etc
56YG: Schedule 7, page 169, line 38, leave out paragraph (b)
My Lords, in moving Amendment 56YG I shall speak also to Amendment 56YH. I have to say that I am amazed by the influence of my noble friend the Chief Whip, who just by sitting there has prevented anyone walking in front of me.
Schedule 7 deals with the powers to seize invalid passports, and these are two quite small, probing amendments, although they are serious. The first amendment would leave out the provision for a constable, who has various powers of search and seizure, to authorise a person—any person,
“to carry out on the constable’s behalf a search under this paragraph”.
That is a search which may involve the use of force—reasonable force, but nevertheless force. I question whether it is right for such powers to be authorised—perhaps not technically delegated, but to the outside world they would seem to be delegated.
My second amendment would leave out the requirement to return an expired travel document, but not where it is thought that it might be intended to be used for purposes for which it is no longer valid. My question, of course, is: why not? If the document has expired, what harm is there? Are there no other systems that are sophisticated and efficient enough to pick up whether an expired travel document is, in fact, expired? This seems an odd sanction, merely on the basis of reasonable belief. My particular reason for questioning it is that it might really irritate people quite unnecessarily. I have written “unnecessary aggro” against this, and I genuinely think that we should avoid causing unnecessary aggro, because there are enough sensitivities around passport and immigration controls and so on without adding one which, to my mind at any rate, is not necessary. I beg to move.
I thank my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who explained that these two amendments relate to the powers to seize invalid passports. As she has said, they are probing in nature. Such powers may be necessary where a passport has been withdrawn in the public interest; for example, to disrupt a person’s travel overseas due to the serious issue that they may be engaged in terrorism.
Amendment 56YG relates to the ability of a constable to authorise a person to carry out a search on their behalf. The purpose of this provision is to allow a constable to make use of support if required when carrying out a search at places other than a port. Such support would be exercised under the authority of a constable, and I reassure my noble friend that, in view of the type of case to which this paragraph applies, it would in practice be likely to be carried out in the presence of a constable. The authorised person—such as a police community support officer—would not be empowered under the provision to use reasonable force or to require a person to hand over the passport for inspection purposes.
Amendment 56YH, which I think my noble friend labelled the “avoiding unnecessary aggro” amendment, relates to expired travel documents. I agree with my noble friend that there is often little harm in returning an expired document to the passport holder. Indeed, there is provision in paragraph 4 of Schedule 7 for that very purpose. The provision recognises that the passport holder may wish to retain the expired passport because, for example, it may include extant visas for travel to other countries. It may even provide memories of places that they have travelled to previously; as well as a visual record, for good or bad, of how we may have looked some 10, or even 20, years ago.
However, on a more serious point, the British passport does of course remain the property of the Crown at all times. There is no entitlement to a passport and no statutory right to have access to it. If a person intends to make use of an expired passport for a purpose for which it is no longer valid—in other words, for a fraudulent purpose—it is right that a constable should be able to remove the document. This would prevent it being used elsewhere for fraudulent purposes, where the level of checks may not be so robust.
It is also entirely inappropriate that a constable should hand back an expired passport to a person where he or she reasonably believes that it is intended to be used for a fraudulent purpose. It would send out the wrong message to the passport holder and would simply allow—if not, indeed, encourage—them to continue to make use of the document for wrong and potentially unlawful reasons. I hope, in light of the explanation I have given, that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I will do so but I have to say that, first, on the issue of the expired passport, there are some good reasons which a passport holder may not even think of at the time. One that immediately occurs to me is the need to be able to show the number of days you have been in the country, which involves showing when you have travelled out of and back into the country. There are tax reasons why a number of people need to be able to show that. It is a matter of the officer’s discretion and reasonable belief but I find it difficult to imagine how the conversations would be conducted. I should perhaps ask my noble friend whether he can tell the Committee how one challenges an officer’s decision. His notes may say, even if I did not think of it beforehand.
As regards whether someone other than a constable can exercise the powers of search and seizure, my noble friend says that, in practice, it would be the constable. If that is the case, the obvious question is: why allow for anyone else to do it? Another question is whether there will be instructions to officers—guidance, codes of practice or whatever—that might deal with this. I do not know whether my noble friend can deal with either of those at the moment—I know that colleagues are here particularly to talk about the next group of amendments—but if he has anything to say, that would be good. If not, perhaps he could write to me.
I will just assure my noble friend that I do not think I can add to what I have said other than, on the first point about why we should not restrict the power in that way, it is important that there is a level of flexibility that allows the constable to exercise it. In most cases, as I have said, the person would be someone such as a community support officer. As far as the document is concerned, my noble friend raised the point about other reasons. Of course it is at the discretion of the officer, but one hopes that at that point a case could be made. She raised the issue of tax, which is not one that I was thinking through as she spoke. I am sure that there is a list of other circumstances. However, ultimately, it boils down to the document being the property of the Crown, and it should remain so.
Perhaps after today the Minister could let me know what arrangements there will be for a challenge, and about a code of practice. He nods and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 56YG withdrawn.
Amendment 56YH not moved.
Schedule 7 agreed.
Clause 132 agreed.
56YJ: After Clause 132, insert the following new Clause—
“Report by Secretary of State
The Secretary of State shall, no later than three months after the coming into force of section 132, report to Parliament his or her recommendations—(a) for the introduction of safeguards in respect of legally privileged material, excluded material and special procedures material in respect of a person detained under Schedule 7 or 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000, and(b) for the introduction of a statutory bar to the introduction in a criminal trial of admissions made by a person detained under Schedule 7 or 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 56YJ I will speak also to Amendment 56YK. I also have Amendment 100A in this group, which is a consequential amendment. The whole of this group deals with Schedule 8, which is Schedule 7—port and border controls—in the previous legislation. My amendments have come up as a curtain raiser, though in this debate they are probably more of an epilogue. They relate to future possible action rather than to anything that might happen immediately, as would other actions flowing, in most cases, from the work of the JCHR. I am not suggesting that noble Lords who are moving and speaking to them are merely acting as mouthpieces—I know that that is not the case.
My noble friend Lord Lester is unwell and very sorry not to be here to speak to amendments in his name and to which he has added his name; my noble friend Lord Avebury has his instructions. I do not want to make a Second Reading speech at this point—perhaps speeches on these issues will be longer on Report—but I will make some general remarks. I acknowledge that the Government have moved forward a little on the relaxing of the arrangements to which this schedule applies, but like others I am eager for more.
I was interested in some of the comments that the Government included in their publication responding to the response to the review of the operation of Schedule 7. We do not have the responses published, but there are some interesting and telling comments. A self-declared police officer says:
“Schedule 7 should also incorporate a clear commitment and implementation process to the Equality Act 2010 general duty of ‘fostering good relations’”.
There are comments about,
“More tactful or less intimidating examinations”.
The report says of the community engagement events which the Government undertook that,
“The conduct of examinations was raised repeatedly”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission commented at length on the lawfulness of stopping without suspicion. It said that,
“there should be no power to detain and question for more than 1 hour”,
on the basis that if an officer cannot articulate suspicion after 30 minutes of questions, he certainly should not detain for up to nine hours.
The Government asked whether respondents had any personal experience of being stopped and detained. I note that the proportion of those who said that,
“Schedule 7 powers are unfair, too wide ranging and should be curtailed”,
was considerably higher than the proportion who said they had personal experience. Even if you add the “prefer not to say” responses, it is still a higher proportion.
I was also interested to see the advice to examining officers following the recent case about,
“the right to consult a solicitor in private, in person and at any time during the period of detention”.
I know of a man who was detained but did not exercise that right because he was told by the officer who detained him that this was bound to lead to a delay, meaning that his wife and his elderly, infirm mother, with whom he was travelling, would be left even longer not knowing what was going on—a practice that I hope never to hear of again. Clearly, training in this is an issue.
Of course, my underlying point is about the balance between protection and security, and individual liberty, some of which is about what the Government can do through officers and some of which is about safeguards written into the legislation.
My amendments anticipate what we might be seeking if this debate were following the report by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation when we know the outcome of the Miranda case, but I have picked up on his evidence to the recent Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into this. Amendment 56YJ picks up two of his recommendations, 4 and 7, on the introduction of safeguards in respect of legally privileged material and on a bar to the use in a criminal trial of admissions made in the circumstances of such a detention.
Amendment 56YK shows that I am ever the optimist. I would never expect wording such as this to be used in legislation, but we are only in Committee. It seeks assurances from the Government about following through on—although I would say, for the purposes of the debate, looking seriously at—recommendations made by the independent reviewer following the Miranda case. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will give assurances about that. I remain optimistic but also vigilant. As I said, Amendment 100A is consequential. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 57 to 64. It is important to consider the backdrop here. Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is a highly intrusive police stopping power and it operates outside the normal regulatory framework that covers other police powers of stop and search.
Under Schedule 7, individuals are stopped and they are not under arrest but they are examined for up to nine hours, under the current arrangements, where they can be questioned, searched and have their belongings searched; they can be strip-searched; and they can have samples of their biometric data, including their DNA and fingerprints, taken from them, regardless of the outcome of the encounter and in the absence of a lawyer. People are stopped under it and are obliged to co-operate or face arrest, a period of imprisonment or a fine for any refusal. In addition, there is no right to compensation or assistance in rearranging any flights or other transportation that they might have missed as a result of this examination or detention. It is important to see just how extraordinary these powers are.
Recent research has shown that in 2011-12—the examination of this material has only just been encapsulated in a report—63,902 stops were carried out under Schedule 7. Of these, 2,240 lasted more than an hour and 680, which is less than 1%, resulted in a detention. Although no information has been provided on the number of people convicted, and on what charges, there were just 10 terrorism-related convictions between 2009 and 2012. I have been involved in most of the cases and can tell you that none was as a result of a stop at an airport or any port. We have no convictions based on these stops.
Black and minority ethnic groups make up the majority of those subject to the stops—some 56%—even though they account for approximately 14% of the national population. Asians accounted for 27% of Schedule 7 stops but are only 7.5% of the national population. Blacks accounted for 8% of stops but they are only 3.3% of the population. People from mixed backgrounds accounted for 3% of stops but are only 2.2% of the population. People from other ethnic groups, including Chinese and other, accounted for 18% of stops, although they are only 1% of the population.
The targeting of black and minority ethnic groups continues to be even more marked when we consider the most intensive Schedule 7 stops. It appears that shorter stops are made, basically, of white people. The people who are detained for any length of time almost invariably are from ethnic minority groups. Of those stops that lasted for more than an hour, 36% were of Asians, 14% were of blacks, 3% were of people from mixed backgrounds and 24% were of people from other backgrounds. Fewer than 12% of stops that lasted more than an hour were of white people. Therefore, when a police officer says, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned, that this is interfering with the fostering of good relations, we can understand why.
Politicians in this House and in the other place have raised concerns, as have civic groups and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Indeed, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has expressed grave concerns over the use of counterterrorism measures in this country and was particularly concerned over what it judged to be religious and ethnic profiling in the use of these powers. It should concern us as a House that this is the perception.
David Anderson QC—the terrorism watchdog if you like—said:
“I have not been able to identify from the police any case of a Schedule 7 examination leading directly to arrest followed by conviction in which the initial stop was not prompted by intelligence of some kind”.
He is basically saying that when the police make stops that go on to lead to further investigation it is invariably because there has been a reasonable suspicion. Yet, reasonable suspicion is not what is required. The police can stop people without any reasonable suspicion at all. Despite this, official statistics on the use of this power illustrate that it has not been used in an intelligence-led approach and that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be subjected to the more extreme aspects of the power, particularly people from Asian backgrounds. That is the basis on which I bring these amendments to this legislation.
I know, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, that a number of groups are calling for a reduction of the maximum period of detention to one hour. However, I am not taking it down as low as that. In my amendments I am suggesting that going down to six hours, as the Government have promoted in this Bill, is an advance and to be welcomed, but it should be much lower than that. I am suggesting that we should take the moderate course and reduce it to three hours, at which point the person should either be released or arrested. It is worth noting that 97.2% of examinations take less than an hour, so if we give the police, or those who are involved in exercising these powers, the additional couple of hours that I suggest in my amendments, we will give the authorities as much practical power as they need.
I turn to the issue of the power to take non-intimate biometric data, including DNA and fingerprints. I suggest that that should be repealed in the light of the huge concern about its impact. The Government have already said that they will repeal intimate samples being taken, but I am asking that that be extended to non-intimate samples.
Most of the community, legal, academic and equality groups are calling for a much greater awareness among officers of the way in which special powers should be used and that there should be better training. Advice and assistance should be provided to people who miss their flights, and so on. The kernel of the amendments is that the minimum threshold of suspicion should be reasonable suspicion. It should be on that basis that any individual is stopped. Otherwise, it is impossible to have any independent scrutiny of the exercise of those intrusive powers. We cannot test the use of the powers if someone says, “It was my sense of smell. It was my policeman’s nose that told me that I should stop this person”. That is not good enough.
The independent reviewer suggested that there might be some test of subjective suspicion, but that cannot be a test that could be scrutinised in any acceptable or sensible way. The PACE code, which governs other stop powers, should be extended to cover stop and searches conducted under Schedule 7, and Schedule 7 stops should be monitored under the same framework as all the stop and search powers that we currently have, and data should be shared with community and monitoring groups.
That is the basis on which I have put forward my amendments, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to those recommendations to the House.
My name is attached to the amendments in this group in the name of my noble friend Lord Lester, who, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee has already said, is unfortunately indisposed and unable to be present for this debate.
Let me say at once that I agree with all the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, as well as those in our name. She made a convincing argument, particularly on the ineffectiveness of the legislation. In spite of the vast number of stops and searches that have taken place, we have not had a single conviction. This is not a device for catching terrorists or even being able to question them—the noble Baroness added that none of them had even been charged. This matter has caused enormous concern to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with which we have an opportunity to discuss the amendments. It is as worried as we are that Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act could violate human rights and equality laws and cause immense damage to community relations because of its widespread negative impact, particularly on our Muslim population. The EHRC made submissions to the Home Office consultation on Schedule 7 powers, and again, in 2013, it made a further submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in relation to its scrutiny of the Bill. It seems to me that the EHRC has been ignored.
We recognise the importance of stop and search powers as a tool for crime detection and prevention, and we acknowledge that Schedule 7 forms part of the UK’s counterterrorism strategy, which is aimed at protecting people in ports and airports and on the chief modes of transport which have been targeted by terrorists in the past. It could also prevent terrorists from entering UK territory.
However, we believe—with others—that the legal form and practical exercise of these powers should comply with equality and human rights legislation. The powers have to be used appropriately, proportionately and in a non-discriminatory manner. In its report, The Impact of Counter-terrorism Measures on Muslim Communities, the EHRC noted that Schedule 7 is eroding Muslim trust and confidence in policing and called for greater transparency and accountability around its use. Following the consultation already mentioned, Clause 132 and Schedule 8 to the Bill propose certain changes to the provisions in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 for stopping, examining and detaining people at ports. However, I agree with the EHRC that to do this without the need for reasonable suspicion or other limitations is far too broad, lacks efficient safeguards, and could be a breach of the requirement that such an interference should be prescribed by, and in accordance with, the law pursuant to Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This point has also been made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and several of the amendments in this group are based on its recommendations. This is especially the case when an individual is questioned about his political and religious beliefs and activities, as well as those of others in his community and family. The Islamic Human Rights Commission says it has received dozens of complaints of inappropriate questioning, such as officers asking Muslims whether they pray, whether they would be willing to spy on their communities and which party they voted for at the last election. The commission concludes that,
“Schedule 7 has done more to alienate people than address the issue of national security.”
I will give two examples from my own experience. First, a British Shia imam, returning to the UK through Heathrow terminal 1, was detained, interrogated at length and had his fingerprints and DNA taken. I was told the samples would be retained indefinitely, for comparison with samples taken at the scene of terrorist offences. I wrote to Jacqui Smith, then Secretary of State for the Home Office, on 5 December 2008, asking for the samples to be destroyed, in the light of the case of S and Marper at the European Court of Human Rights. I finally got the samples destroyed and the imam’s name expunged from the database on 25 January 2010 after 13 months of correspondence and telephone calls with Ministers and their offices and various branches of the police, including SO15, or Counter Terrorism Command.
In a second case, which is still ongoing, a friend of mine, who is a Bahraini national, has been stopped several times at Heathrow and King’s Cross and his complaint was taken over by the IPCC, which issued proceedings against the Metropolitan Police on 10 October 2013 because it would not investigate the basis for the stops. It was expected that some months could elapse before the case was heard in the High Court, and I would be grateful if my noble friend could give me an update on that. As I said to the Security Minister, James Brokenshire, it is clearly unacceptable that our police should be harassing and intimidating Bahraini refugees here, including British citizens, when they are entitled to protection from the regime that persecuted them. Instead, it is clear that our police are acting as agents of the al-Khalifa oppressors. It is odious that peaceful opponents of any state which violates human rights should continue to be persecuted after they seek asylum here. It is not simply an operational matter for the police, but one that touches on our obligations under the refugee convention. As I also said to Mr Brokenshire, I do not believe the police would have acted in this disgraceful way unless they had been told from on high that this is how they were expected to behave.
More widely, the EHRC’s statistical analysis of examinations and detentions under Schedule 7 suggests that disproportionately high numbers of black and Asian passengers are being stopped and the disproportion increases further with over-the-hour examinations and still further with detentions. The code of practice on Schedule 7 prohibits reliance on ethnicity as the sole reason for examining a person, so the EHRC suggests that an investigation be undertaken to see whether that is the practice. However, statistics alone cannot prove that a power is being used in a discriminatory manner; a more comprehensive study is needed to see whether the conduct of the police under Schedule 7 breaches the Equality Act. I hope that my noble friend will say that in light of the experience, such an inquiry will be undertaken.
To look at the amendments for a few minutes, Amendment 57 would ensure that Schedule 7 powers cannot be used inappropriately where the dominant purpose is to gather general intelligence, or evidence for the security services or others, to use in legal proceedings beyond the statutory purpose of the power, which is solely for the examining officer to determine whether the person appears to be,
“concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.
Amendment 57 provides that there is adequate ongoing monitoring and analysis of the use of the power, and that no individual can be forced to answer questions under the threat of criminal sanction unless they are arrested as a suspected terrorist who is or has been “concerned in ... terrorism”.
We are advised that statements made by individuals during Schedule 7 stops cannot lawfully be relied upon in control order or terrorism prevention and investigation measures proceedings, nor in asset-freezing proceedings, because that is not the statutory purpose of Schedule 7. That needs to be made clear. This amendment adds safeguards by ensuring that Schedule 7 powers should not be used where the dominant purpose is to gather general intelligence, or evidence for the security services or others, to use in legal proceedings beyond the scope of the statutory purpose of Schedule 7.
Amendments 57A, 61A and 61B, in the name of my noble friend Lord Lester, concern the accessing, searching, examining, copying and retention of data on personal electronic devices. The JCHR said in paragraph 122 of its fourth report that these powers in Schedule 7 were,
“so wide as not to be ‘in accordance with the law’”.
It welcomed the express reference to necessity and proportionality in the working draft of the revised code of practice but does not consider that the code is sufficient to circumscribe the width of the powers. The Joint Committee said that the powers should only be exercisable on reasonable suspicion; these amendments give effect to its recommendations.
Amendment 58 provides that the power to detain and question for more than an hour can be exercised only if the examining officer has by that point formed a reasonable suspicion that the person being questioned is or has been “concerned in … terrorism”. This is another of the amendments recommended by the JCHR. I hope that your Lordships would agree with the distinction that it draws between, on the one hand, the powers which can be exercised without reasonable suspicion—such as the power to stop, question and request documentation, and physically search persons and property—and, on the other, the more intrusive powers such as detention, strip-searching, searching contents of personal electronic devices, the taking of biometric samples and the seizure and retention of property, including personal information on electronic devices, which should be exercisable only if the examining officer reasonably suspects that the person is or has been “concerned in … terrorism”. This amendment gives effect to the JCHR proposal for a reasonable suspicion requirement before the more intrusive powers under Schedule 7 are exercisable, and to its suggestion that the threshold for these powers should be the point at which the person being examined is formally detained, after one hour of questioning.
As to Amendments 59, 60 and 61, paragraph 2 of Schedule 8 removes the current nine-hour maximum time for questioning under Schedule 7. Paragraph 2(3) proposes new paragraph 6A that provides that a person may be questioned for up to one hour under paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 7. If the examining officer wants to question the person for more than one hour, then the person will have to be detained under new paragraph 6 of Schedule 7, which triggers the safeguards contained in Schedule 8 to the Terrorism Act 2000. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, pointed out, between 1 January 2009 and 31 March 2012, only 3% of examinations continued for more than one hour, and only one in 2,000 examinations lasted more than six hours. It is therefore correctly proposed in these amendments that the maximum length of detention under Schedule 7 should be reduced from six to three hours. That is appropriate.
On Amendment 62, paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 inserts new paragraph 11A in Schedule 7 to the 2000 Act enabling examining officers to copy anything which is given to them or is found during a search and to keep a copy of such material for as long as it is necessary for the purpose of determining whether the person is or has been “concerned in … terrorism”.
This is a very wide power, which could lead to sensitive personal data being retained for indefinite periods of time. Even with a reasonable suspicion that the information retained may prove that the person is “concerned in... terrorism”, this power has the clear potential to infringe the Article 8 rights of persons examined under Schedule 7, because of its highly intrusive and open-ended nature. In addition, even if further safeguards were implemented, such as limits on the length of time the data could be retained or prohibitions on sharing the data, there is still the potential for breaches of Article 8 to occur, resulting from the retention of the data. Therefore Amendment 62 correctly proposes that this provision should be removed entirely from the Bill.
I will not go through the remaining amendments because time is short, but your Lordships may wish to note the recent Administrative Court decision in the case of Elosta v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, in which it was held that it is unlawful to restrict a person who has been detained at a port or airport under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act to being entitled to have legal advice from a solicitor on the telephone only prior to a police interview, rather than having the right to have a solicitor present in person during the questioning where the detainee has specifically asked for that greater form of protection. I am pleased to see that Amendment 63 would give effect to that provision.
Finally, Amendment 64 would prohibit the collection of non-intimate DNA samples without consent from people who have not been arrested or charged. Taking and retaining samples from a person who has not been arrested or charged, and who is not the subject of reasonable suspicion, has serious privacy implications and should not be allowed.
I hope that all these amendments will be acceptable to the Government.
My Lords, before the Minister rises, perhaps I may indicate, as I did not specifically mention it, that I, too, am urging that the threshold of reasonable suspicion should be the standard before downloading, retaining and copying material on electronic devices of any kind. Even if the Government do not accept the amendment on stopping—that there should be reasonable suspicion at that point—at the very least we should move on to reasonable suspicion before we start taking people’s devices and entering into private material and retaining it.
I, too, am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Discussion, as your Lordships will anticipate, ranged far and wide over this new Schedule 8 amending Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act. Giving the perfectly proper right to stop and seize and, at the same time, preventing so far as possible any abuse of that power is a difficult balance to strike. However, it is worth recording that we concluded that the Government had made out a case for a without -suspicion power to stop, question and search travellers at ports and airports, given the current nature of the threat from terrorism, the significance of international travel, the overall threat picture and the evidence seen by the independent reviewer demonstrating the utility of non-suspicion stops at ports in protecting national security. Therefore, we also concluded that the retention of this power under Schedule 7 was not inherently incompatible with Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We are in the slightly unfortunate position of still awaiting the report by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation on the David Miranda case, which will perhaps shed some light on this power generally. The Government clearly pay considerable heed, quite rightly, to what the independent reviewer of terrorism recommends but, with great respect to my noble friend Lady Hamwee, simply subcontracting responsibility, as her Amendment 56YK would, from the Secretary of State to the independent reviewer would go rather too far.
This is a very difficult balance to strike. The Government have come some way towards a balance in favour of those who might become the victims of an abuse of power. The question is whether they have come far enough.
My Lords, this has been a useful debate. The issues that have been raised are around the difficult balance between civil liberties, national security and counterterrorism measures that the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, referred to. The points made today about those issues are extremely useful and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on them.
We are greatly assisted today by the supplementary written evidence of David Anderson QC. We are indebted to him because, when giving evidence on 12 November, he was asked to spell out what changes he would recommend to the port powers in Schedule 7 and the Minister, Damian Green, had already said in the other place that he expected recommendations. At Second Reading in your Lordships’ House, I said that I thought it was optimistic of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, to hope that we would be able to see any such recommendations from David Anderson while we were still debating the Bill. I thought he was being optimistic but that optimism was well founded. We are indebted and grateful to David Anderson for the efforts that he must have gone to in order to ensure that we had his recommendations before we had completed our deliberations—indeed, as we were having our Committee debates. I hope that the Minister will endorse that. That is very helpful and greatly welcomed.
I shall not comment on each individual amendment, but a number of the amendments before us today relate to his report. As I said, I will be interested to hear the Government’s response to them as there are areas to which the Government may want to give further consideration and on which they may want to bring forward amendments before the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill.
On Amendment 56YJ and the issue of privileged material, although David Anderson reflects that identifying the details of changes is difficult before we have the Miranda judgment, he identifies this as an area where there need to be safeguards and clarity around those safeguards. It is not an area where there should be any confusion or ambiguity. It would be helpful today if the Minister were to say on behalf of the Government whether they accept the principle of David Anderson’s recommendation in this regard. We are certainly sympathetic and would welcome the opportunity to consider further the kind of safeguards that could be introduced.
Also on Amendment 56YJ, I think it was in the Beghal v DPP decision that the court supported the introduction of a statutory bar to Schedule 7 admissions in a subsequent criminal trial, although it also recognised that this would have to be given detailed consideration. David Anderson has now added his support to that of the court and that also forms part of his recommendations. Again, we would be very sympathetic to that and would be interested to know whether the Government intend to support that recommendation, which this amendment reflects.
Amendments 56YK and 100A refer to a process by which effect could be given, almost automatically, to the recommendations of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. There is some merit in looking at how recommendations could be acted on more quickly but we would welcome the opportunity to see more detailed proposals. It would be helpful to have a mechanism to take action more quickly than always having to wait for the next legislative slot for primary legislation in the Government’s timetable. However, whether secondary legislation, even with the affirmative procedure, would give adequate opportunity for effective scrutiny by Parliament, which should be making the decisions, has to be looked at in some detail.
On Amendment 62A, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Avebury, we would certainly be supportive of removing the restrictions if the interview takes place in a police station. Amendments 57A, 61A and 61B would establish limits on the duty to give information and documents that are held electronically. We have concerns about how this law is currently being applied. I note that David Anderson has also called for appropriate safeguards regarding the use and retention of such data. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister whether the Government consider that the problem is a lack of clarity in the existing law or whether further action needs to be taken.
We would also be sympathetic to Amendment 64ZA on the periodic review of an individual’s detention. I would welcome the Government’s comments on David Anderson’s recommendation that the intervals for review should be specified in the schedule, as outlined in the amendment, and not just in guidance. There can sometimes be a lack of clarity around the purpose of guidance. The importance of it being in the schedule and not just in guidance was also included in the JCHR report. The Government have indicated that they may support this, so I am optimistic about a positive response on that one.
This is quite a difficult area in which to find the appropriate balance. The House has heard about the attention to detail that has been given to this range of issues. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify in his response the Government’s views on these issues, particularly in the light of the amendments which reflect so much of what is in David Anderson’s recommendations.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for the way in which she has contributed to the debate. All noble Lords have recognised the seriousness of this issue. I understand that all noble Lords who have spoken have tried to exercise their best judgment in this particularly sensitive area. My noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Avebury, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and my noble friend Lord Lester—I am sure we all wish him a speedy recovery in his absence—have all raised a number of issues through their amendments.
As has been pointed out, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, has recently made some recommendations for further reforms to the powers contained in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act. These recommendations, as my right honourable friend Damian Green reported, are being considered by Ministers. We are grateful to the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation for his report.
I have to say that, as Mr Anderson has also observed, there is a limit to how far these matters can be considered before the conclusion of the judicial review proceedings in the case of David Miranda. That being the position, while I welcome the opportunity to air these important issues in debate now, I propose only to set out the Government’s preliminary view of the amendments before us today. Subject to the timing of a judgment in the Miranda case, I hope to give a more definitive view before the Bill moves on to Report—I will make sure that noble Lords are aware as soon as we are in that position.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, invited me to do, I begin by touching on Amendments 56YJ and 56YK, which deal with some complex issues. The first of these is around safeguards for legally privileged and related material and the use of admissions in criminal proceedings. It is right that the Government are considering these matters and they are doing so now. There is no need for the Bill to require that consideration in future.
I would like to be clear that the current compulsion under Schedule 7 to the 2000 Act to answer questions means that admissions made in an examination would not normally be considered admissible in criminal proceedings. Both the High Court and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation have suggested that a statutory bar be introduced to this effect, and this is something that we are examining carefully.
It is right that the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation makes recommendations, but Amendments 56YK and 100A seek to tie the hands of the Secretary of State by, in effect, requiring her to implement the recommendations of the independent reviewer. It is for the Government and Parliament to decide what legislative changes should flow from the independent reviewer’s recommendations. Given the importance of these issues, any such legislative proposals should be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny—as with the provisions in this Bill—rather than implemented through secondary legislation, as my noble friend has suggested in Amendments 56YK and 100A.
Amendments 57 and 58 deal with fundamental principles of the powers. First, Amendment 57 seeks to qualify the definition of the purpose for which these powers can be used. The legislation is already clear: they are for the purpose of determining whether a person appears to be someone who has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, has expressed concern that the powers may be used in a discriminatory way. Accordingly, Amendment 57 also includes requirements on collecting data. Requiring examining officers to collect data on all protected characteristics from all individuals examined under Schedule 7 would be both very intrusive and extremely bureaucratic. It would also prolong the majority of examinations, of which 63% are completed within 15 minutes. There is a question as to how useful such data would be.
Direct comparison with the UK population is not really relevant here. A significant proportion of those who travel through ports are not UK residents. The use of the powers is based on the current terrorist threat to the United Kingdom, meaning that certain routes are given greater focus. Consequently, some ethnic groups may be more likely to be examined, but not because the powers are being used inappropriately. As the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation reported in his recent annual report:
“If the power is being properly exercised ... one would expect”
that those examined, in terms of breakdown, would,
“correlate not to the ethnic breakdown of the travelling population, but rather to the ethnic breakdown of the terrorist population”.
He went on:
“Police are however entitled and indeed required to exercise their Schedule 7 power in a manner aligned to the terrorist threat. As in previous years, I have seen no evidence, either at ports or from the statistics, that Schedule 7 powers are exercised in a racially discriminatory manner”
That said, we are working with the police and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to find a balance between increasing transparency without increasing the bureaucratic burden. I would also like to reassure the noble Baroness that the statutory code of practice for examining officers makes clear that someone cannot be examined based solely on their ethnicity or their religion.
The final element of Amendment 57 would remove the compulsion on individuals examined at ports and airports to provide information. This would fundamentally undermine the whole purpose of the legislation. Schedule 7 examinations have led to individuals being convicted for terrorist-related offences and have produced information which has contributed to long and complex intelligence-based counterterrorist investigations and the disruption of terrorist activity. If someone could simply refuse to answer questions, the utility of the provision would be fundamentally brought into question.
Amendment 58 seeks to introduce a reasonable suspicion test to be met before an examining officer may detain a person under Schedule 7. Again, this would undermine the capability of the police to identify individuals who are involved in terrorism as they passed through our ports and borders. Examinations are not simply about the police talking to people who they know or already suspect are involved in terrorism. They are also about talking to people travelling to and from places where terrorist activity is taking place or emerging to determine whether those individuals appear to be involved in terrorism, whether that is because they are or have been involved, are going to become involved or are at risk of becoming involved either knowingly or unknowingly.
For those reasons, I am not persuaded that it would be right to introduce a test of reasonable suspicion. I am pleased that my noble friend Lord Faulks has been able to explain that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has supported this position. However, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has recently recommended that detention be permitted and continue on periodic review only when an officer is satisfied that there are grounds for suspecting that the person appears to be a person concerned with terrorism. We are reflecting on this recommendation ahead of Report.
Amendments 59, 60 and 61 would further reduce the maximum period of detention. The police need time to carry out checks and questioning. The person may have a lot to say, detailed or complex questioning may be required, inconsistencies in the person’s account or documentation may need to be understood, or time may be needed to allow the person to consult privately with a legal adviser or to allow for interpretation. We are already reducing the maximum period by a third but there is a balance to be struck, and for that reason I do not believe that it should be reduced further.
Amendments 57A, 61A, 61B and 62 seek to restrict examining officers’ powers in respect of the property of people who are examined. The power to search for and examine property, including on personal electronic devices, is an essential part of the Schedule 7 powers. As the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has observed,
“it is of vital importance that the copying and retention of data from mobile phones and other devices should be provided for by a law that is clear, accessible and foreseeable”.
New paragraph 11A of Schedule 7 to the 2000 Act, by clarifying the law, meets a requirement of the European Convention on Human Rights that interference with convention rights be in accordance with law that is adequately accessible and foreseeable. Amendment 62 would take away that clarification.
On Amendment 62A, noble Lords will understand that ports, airports and international rail terminals are quite different from police stations, and, as such, recording facilities are not always going to be available. If recording were mandatory, more individuals would be liable to being transported from the port to a police station where facilities are available, extending the duration of the examination. The questioning of any person detained for examination under Schedule 7 at a police station already falls under a code of practice for the video recording of interviews.
Amendments 63, 64 and 64ZA relate to areas where we are already introducing reforms through the Bill. While the Bill ensures that all persons detained under these powers will have a right to consult a lawyer and to have someone informed of their detention, Amendment 63 would extend those rights to everyone examined. As I have explained, some 63% of examinations last less than 15 minutes. More than 96% are concluded within an hour. Extending statutory rights to all those being examined, even briefly, would create an unnecessary burden and could well lead to longer examinations than are necessary. I would also like to remind noble Lords that the Bill already ensures that anyone examined for more than an hour must be formally detained, so there is no question of prolonged examination without these rights applying.
Amendment 64 relates to biometrics. Biometrics play an important part in establishing the identity of those travelling through the ports and in assisting the determination of those involved in terrorism. Samples are taken from less than 1% of people examined under Schedule 7. However, a small but significant number of samples have provided links to counterterrorism investigations and identified individuals using alias details. It is therefore important to retain this power. However, perhaps I can reassure my noble friend Lord Avebury that DNA and biometric material obtained under a Schedule 7 examination must be destroyed in line with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. If the person has not been convicted of an offence, the sample cannot be retained indefinitely. We recognise the impact that taking a sample could have on a person’s privacy and we are taking steps to limit it. I would remind the noble Baroness that the Bill will repeal the current provision in Schedule 7 to obtain intimate samples.
Finally, Amendment 64ZA would build on one of the key changes we are making in the Bill: we are introducing a statutory review of detention. We recognise the importance of clear review periods as part of the new provisions. Our intention is to address this in the code of practice for the examining officer, and this is clearly set out in the draft code we have published. However, in the light of the debate today, the Government will reflect further on whether these periods should be set out in the statute itself.
This debate has been well worth while. It has given me an opportunity to explain how the Government are responding to the independent reviewer’s report and how the Bill is moving this issue forward. I hope that I have been able to give noble Lords some reassurance on the issues raised. As I said at the start of my remarks, we continue to consider these issues in the light of the recommendations in David Anderson’s recent evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. That evidence was submitted only on 20 November and noble Lords would expect us to take a little time to consider our response given the sensitivity and complexity of the issues. However, above all, we are awaiting the outcome of the judicial review in the David Miranda case. We want to reflect carefully on the points made in the debate today because they have been valuable.
On that basis, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment and that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, will not press her amendments in the knowledge that we will come back to this issue at Report with clarification of the Government’s position in the light of the report and the judicial review.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very considered response to the matters that have been raised. I am grateful to him for indicating that further thought will be given to some of the matters that have been part of the debate here. I know that there will be no movement on certain things, but that there might be some movement on others. On that basis, I will not press my amendment.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for his very helpful response and I am glad that there will be further opportunity to discuss these things. He has given some important assurances on a number of points. My amendment 56YK was really rather tongue-in-cheek, of course. It was also a bit of a nod to my honourable friend the Member for Cambridge, who had it down in the Commons but did not really manage to speak to it. I would not subcontract such matters, but the assurances of further consideration are very helpful to hear. I have never doubted the very serious way in which the Government are considering this.
A number of noble Lords will want to take part in discussions of this on Report. In particular, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, was not able to stay long enough this afternoon, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Lester will be back to discuss it. I think that I can assure the Committee that there will be a pretty substantial debate next time round. Most importantly, we will be looking at where the Government’s thinking is going before we come back onto the Floor of the House. There are clearly very important discussions to be had. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 56YJ withdrawn.
Amendment 56YK not moved.
Schedule 8: Port and border controls
Amendments 57 to 64ZA not moved.
Schedule 8 agreed.
We come to Amendment 64A. I call the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach. I am sorry; I call the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.
64A: After Schedule 8, insert the following new Schedule—
SchedulePowers of community support officersIntroduction1 Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (powers of community support officers) is amended as follows.
Additional powers to issue fixed penalty notices2 (1) In paragraph 1 (powers to issue fixed penalty notices), in sub-paragraph (2)(b), for the words after “in respect of an offence” there is substituted “listed in sub-paragraph (2B)”.
(2) In sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph, after paragraph (ca) there is inserted—
“(cb) the power of an authorised officer of a borough council to give a notice under section 15 of the London Local Authorities Act 2004 in respect of an offence under section 38(1) of the London Local Authorities Act 1990 or section 27(1) of the City of Westminster Act 1999 (unlicensed street trading);”.(3) After sub-paragraph (2A) of that paragraph there is inserted—
“(2B) The offences referred to in sub-paragraph (2)(b) are—(a) an offence under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 (riding on a footway) committed by cycling;(b) an offence under section 5(1) or 8(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 involving a contravention of a prohibition or restriction that relates to—(i) stopping, waiting or parking at or near a school entrance,(ii) one-way traffic on a road, or(iii) lanes or routes for use only by cycles, only by buses or only by cycles and buses;(c) an offence under section 24 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (more than one person on a one-person bicycle);(d) an offence under section 35 of that Act (failing to comply with traffic directions) committed by the rider of a cycle;(e) an offence under section 36 of that Act (failing to comply with traffic signs) committed by the rider of a cycle who fails to comply with the indication given by a red traffic light;(f) an offence under section 42 of that Act of contravening or failing to comply with a construction or use requirement about—(i) lighting equipment or reflectors for cycles,(ii) the use on a road of a motor vehicle in a way that causes excessive noise,(iii) stopping the action of a stationary vehicle’s machinery,(iv) the use of a vehicle’s horn on a road while the vehicle is stationary or on a restricted road at night, or(v) opening a vehicle’s door on a road so as to injure or endanger a person;(g) an offence under section 163 of that Act (failing to stop vehicle or cycle when required to do so by constable or traffic officer).(4) After sub-paragraph (4) of that paragraph there is inserted—
“(5) In this paragraph “cycle” has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Act 1988 (see section 192(1) of that Act).”Powers to issue fixed penalty notices: consultation with local authorities3 In paragraph 1, after sub-paragraph (2B) (inserted by paragraph 2(3) above) there is inserted—
“(2C) Before a chief officer of police makes a designation applying this paragraph to any person and specifying or describing an offence listed in sub-paragraph (2B)(b)(i), the officer shall consult every local authority any part of whose area lies within the officer’s police area.
(2D) In paragraph (2C) “local authority” means—
(a) in relation to England, a district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly; and(b) in relation to Wales, a county council or a county borough council.”General power of seizure4 After paragraph 2A there is inserted—
“General power of seizure2B Where a designation applies this paragraph to any person—
(a) that person shall, when lawfully on any premises in the relevant police area, have the same powers as a constable under section 19 of the 1984 Act (general powers of seizure) to seize things;(b) that person shall also have the powers of a constable to impose a requirement by virtue of subsection (4) of that section in relation to information accessible from such premises;(c) subsection (6) of that section (protection for legally privileged material from seizure) shall have effect in relation to the seizure of anything by that person by virtue of sub-paragraph (a) as it has effect in relation to the seizure of anything by a constable;(d) section 21(1) and (2) of that Act (provision of record of seizure) shall have effect in relation to the seizure of anything by that person in exercise of the power conferred on him by virtue of sub-paragraph (a) as if the references to a constable and to an officer included references to that person; and(e) sections 21(3) to (8) and 22 of that Act (access, copying and retention) shall have effect in relation to anything seized by that person in exercise of that power or taken away by him following the imposition of a requirement by virtue of sub-paragraph (b)—(i) as they have effect in relation to anything seized in exercise of the power conferred on a constable by section 19(2) or (3) of that Act or taken away by a constable following the imposition of a requirement by virtue of section 19(4) of that Act; and(ii) as if the references to a constable in subsections (3), (4) and (5) of section 21 included references to a person to whom this paragraph applies.”Powers with regard to charity collectors5 After paragraph 3A there is inserted—
“Power to require name and address etc: charity collectors3B Where a designation applies this paragraph to any person, that person shall, in the relevant police area, have the powers of a constable—
(a) under section 6 of the House to House Collections Act 1939 to require a person to give his name and address and to sign his name; and(b) under regulations under section 4 of that Act to require a person to produce his certificate of authority.”Power to stop cycles 6 In paragraph 11A (power to stop cycles), in sub-paragraph (2), for the words after “has committed an offence” there is substituted “listed in paragraph 1(2B)(a) to (e), (f)(i) or (g)”.”
One of the memorable parts of the Bill’s passage has been my attempts to be my noble friend Lord Taylor—which I have succeeded in doing on a number of occasions now.
We have made significant reforms to policing to enable the police to respond to the individual concerns of their communities and to give local communities direct access to engage with and challenge their local force. Community-focused policing is key to improving satisfaction rates and public perceptions of police legitimacy, as well as to reducing the fear of crime and perceptions of local disorder. Police community support officers are, of course, vital in delivering this method of policing. Taking time to engage and really get to know their communities, the problems they face and their priorities is central to building these strong links and helps to shape an effective police response.
When the Bill was considered in the other place, my honourable friend Steve Barclay, the Member for North East Cambridgeshire, highlighted inconsistencies in police community support officers’ powers. We have already taken steps to remedy the specific issue he raised by adding Clause 135 to the Bill, but we want to go further to support the important role that PCSOs play. We want to ensure that they have the necessary tools to keep the public safe and tackle the issues that really matter to the communities they serve. We believe that 18 new discretionary powers introduced by these amendments will do just that. These provisions will give chief constables greater discretion and flexibility in how they deploy police community support officers to tackle low-level crime and anti-social behaviour.
I turn first to new cycle powers. Failing to comply with road regulations can expose both cyclists and their fellow road users to danger, including pedestrians, as we sometimes see. That is why we want to do more to ensure that road safety regulations are well understood and adhered to. In addition to giving police community support officers the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for cycling without lights, the amendments will give them power to issue a fixed penalty notice for cycling through a red light, failing to comply with a traffic direction and carrying a passenger on a cycle. We believe that giving police community support officers a more comprehensive package of cycle-related powers will put them in a better position to drive improvements in cycle safety.
I turn to new traffic powers. We are introducing a new package of measures to give police community support officers additional powers to issue fixed penalty notices. These include for failing to stop for a police constable, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, sounding a horn at night, sounding a horn when stationary, not stopping the engine when stationary, causing unnecessary noise, contravening a bus lane and opening a door so as to cause injury or danger. Paddy Tipping, the police and crime commissioner for Nottinghamshire, has indicated a desire to see PCSOs tackling traffic offences. While we do not agree that they should be given the power to issue notices for more serious traffic offences, we believe that the new package I have outlined is practical at this time. I want to be clear that these measures are not intended to provide a means to pick on drivers or cyclists, or to raise revenue. Our focus is improving safety for all road users and to do that we must ensure that road regulations are respected and enforced.
A third area we are covering is parking outside schools. The power to tackle dangerous parking outside schools is an issue that has been raised in previous debates and it is something we wish to address. We know that patrolling outside schools is a core function for many PCSOs and this makes them well placed to use their engagement and problem-solving skills to educate drivers about the risks of dangerous parking. However, we recognise that, on occasions, stronger action is needed and to address this issue we are giving them the power to issue fixed penalty notices to individuals who park in restricted areas outside schools. Local authorities currently play a core role in parking enforcement and we know that a collaborative approach to tackle these types of offences is essential. We believe that chief constables should consider the role a local authority plays before making any decision to designate this power and we have therefore imposed a duty to consult within this provision.
Illegal street vendors and house-to-house collectors is another area of concern. In addition to the measures I have outlined, the amendments aim to support the role PCSOs play in promoting crime prevention and tackling anti-social behaviour issues. Illegal street vendors and bogus house-to-house collectors can cause a nuisance to communities and have a detrimental impact on those working legitimately. Tackling this type of behaviour is important. We recognise that illegal street vendors may be more common within highly populated cities and that is why we are giving PCSOs in London the power to issue a fixed penalty notice to illegal street vendors. This is in line with existing local authority powers. Giving PCSOs the power to confirm the identity of house-to-house collectors will support their role in providing community reassurance and tackling nuisance behaviour.
Finally, we will be aligning the powers of PCSOs to seize and retain material during premises searches with those of police officers. PCSOs already play an important role in supporting police officers to execute search warrants but their authority to seize material is limited. Granting PCSOs this power will free up police time by enabling PCSOs to operate more independently of police officers when carrying out this function.
We know that the public value the presence of PCSOs within the community and we have been clear that engagement is at the heart of their role. This should continue to be their core function. We believe that a distinction between the role of a constable and a PCSO should remain and that is why we have taken time to fully consider the implications of conferring the powers contained within this proposal. We are confident that they will enhance, not dilute the community engagement role of PCSOs and I commend the amendments to the Committee. I beg to move.
I should like to raise one or two questions about this proposal. As the Minister has said, the role that we currently associate with police community support officers is one of public reassurance through visible street patrols and, as again the noble Lord said, through community engagement, including engaging residents more actively in local policing. Indeed, in my own personal experience, on one occasion two police community support officers knocked on my front door—fortunately they were not there to take me away—to ask me what issues, if any, were causing me concern in my own particular locality. Presumably they were doing a survey of residents’ opinions about issues of concern to them. What we now have is a list of additional powers for police community support officers to issue mainly fixed penalty notices. It could therefore be argued that these powers will put police community support officers potentially into a more confrontational position with members of the public than perhaps we normally associate with their role at present.
As I understand it, under the original terms of this Bill it had not been the Government’s intention to make considerable additions to the powers of police community support officers. Indeed, in the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, kindly sent to us setting out the Government’s intentions in this amendment, he referred, as has the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, to Stephen Barclay’s amendment in the other place that led to the Government tabling a new clause, which I think is Clause 135, conferring powers on police community support officers to issue fixed penalty notices for cycling without lights. As a result of that, something led the Government to say, “Let’s have a further look at what additional powers we can give to police community support officers”. We now have before us a much greater list. The original Stephen Barclay amendment was one additional power, but now we have a long list of additional powers not just affecting cyclists and not just in connection with traffic-related powers; they go further than that. One could make a case for saying that this is beginning to change the role of PCSOs.
We are not standing here opposing this, but my question is this: what led the Government to believe that the extension of powers now being proposed—in Committee stage here, the Bill having been through the other place—is appropriate when they did not believe it to be so at the time it was drawn up and when, bearing in mind the title of the Bill, we can presume that virtually all issues related to policing and the powers of the police were in fact under review and up for consideration? I would be grateful for an explanation of why this has been brought forward at this stage, but was not considered appropriate when the Bill was being drawn up. I understand that these further powers are the Government’s own view of what they want to do and are not, subject to what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, may say to me in response, due to any particular pressure from someone. I can see why the Stephen Barclay amendment was made. He raised and then pursued it, and obviously Government Ministers said that they would accept it and take action.
Since it appears that these additional powers have been put forward at a pretty late stage, and therefore presumably over a short timescale, who has actually been consulted on this proposed extension? Has there been wide consultation with those who might have an interest in this change of approach? Have the police themselves been pressing for this extension for some time but to no avail, and now they find that, metaphorically speaking, they have hit the jackpot, because what they have been pressing for has now been agreed at a rather late stage in the proceedings?
I am putting these points as questions for the Minister and my final question is this. Since the Government have clearly now had a look at what additional powers it would be appropriate to give police community support officers, powers that begin to change the nature of the job—the operative word is “begin”—without taking away their former functions, are the Government now going to carry out a full review of the role and responsibilities of PCSOs? I ask this because what is now in front of us gives the impression, again subject to what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, may say in reply, of something that has been drawn up in quite a short time and is being put forward in the Bill now when it had not been the Government’s intention to do so not very many months ago when the Bill originally arrived in the House of Commons and throughout its passage through that place.
My Lords, I should like to say a few words arising from my policing background and experience. I support to some extent the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in what he said, at least initially. Police community support officers, if they have a useful role, are seen by the police as a bridge between police officers and the community. Part of the reason they are able to perform that role is that they have very limited powers when it comes to enforcement. They can be seen as friends of the community and not necessarily come into conflict with it. As we know from what happened with traffic wardens when they were introduced, they in fact became the enemies of motorists. We certainly would not want to erode the useful role that police community support officers play in terms of being friends of the community and a bridge between the community and what it increasingly sees as enforcement officers; that is, police officers.
The second issue is the need to keep a very clear distinction between police officers and police community support officers. The recruitment standards and the training that police officers receive are far higher than is the case for police community support officers, particularly in the training of police officers in the use of discretion. If we are asking police community support officers to use their discretion as to whether they issue fixed penalty notices to erring motorists or cyclists, considerably more training needs to be given to them on the circumstances in which they should use that discretion. As I say, there is a clear danger that the distinction between the police and police community support officers will be eroded if slowly but surely we give police community support officers more and more powers.
Thirdly, there is already confusion in the minds of the public as to what police community support officers can and cannot do. When police community support officers arrive at the scene of an incident, the public look to them to act as police officers would, and are surprised to find that they do not have the powers or the ability to intervene in a way that the public expect of them. Gradually giving police community support officers more powers will add to that confusion among the public.
My Lords, perhaps I may say first that when those PCSOs arrived at the door of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I am glad that they did not take him away. We would have been without his expertise and input in this Bill, so we are grateful for that. Equally, he made an important point in mentioning it. I come back to a point I made earlier: PCSOs are distinct from police officers, and I think I made that clear in my comments. What they do in terms of reassurance is something that the police themselves do. Again, speaking from my experience of working with neighbourhood teams when I was a local councillor, the police also did similar reassurance exercises.
I turn now to the specific questions that have been put to me. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked why we are proposing this now. Of course, we are responding in line with the scrutiny of the Bill in the Commons. My honourable friend Stephen Barclay raised the issue, but it did go wider and beyond the specifics of his amendments. This is not something that the Government have only just thought about. I referred in my earlier comments to a Labour police and crime commissioner, Paddy Tipping, who wants us to go further. We have consulted on this and we have looked at the position with relevant experts in the field to understand the implications of the change. We have included discussions with the police at both the operational and the strategic level, the College of Policing, the partnership agencies and, indeed, national police leaders. As I said in my earlier remarks, this is about enhancing the powers of PCSOs and not about taking away from their engagement. We believe it is right that the engagement role performed by PCSOs is vital in making police accessible to all, and we do not want to overburden them with enforcement powers that would detract from that. That is why we have taken a considered position on these new packages.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also asked whether we will consider more powers. These changes will mean a significant increase in the number of powers available for designation to PCSOs. That is an important distinction: this is not something that is carte blanche; it is right that the chief officers should have the freedom to take account of local circumstances and priorities when determining how their PCSOs are deployed. That will be the case in these additional powers that are being proposed. That is why we have taken the time to consider and, while we will be exploring a wider role for PCSOs, the Government believe that their particular role is being enhanced.
I hope that I have covered the specific questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.
Were local authorities consulted?
There was not a general consultation with all local authorities but, in our consideration, as I have said, we talked to partnership agencies and national police leagues; that, of course, in some respects includes local authorities’ opinions. This is not trying to take away from local authorities: anyone who has worked at local government level knows that local authorities, the police et cetera all work in partnership in ensuring that we get the maximum level of reassurance.
I turn briefly to the points raised by my noble friend, who speaks with great expertise in this area. I would not in any sense seek to challenge that. I believe that the vital distinction remains between police officers and PCSOs. We are merely seeking to enhance the functions of PCSOs to allow them to engage more effectively in the community and to address the very issues he has raised about their effectiveness when they arrive at a particular point. Our proposals are a proportionate response to what is needed. It will help in community engagement and effective enforcement in respect of some of the lower-level issues that are raised. Neighbourhood policing will be in a better place for that. I beg to move.
Amendment 64A agreed.
Clauses 133 and 134 agreed.
Clause 135: Power of community support officer to issue fixed penalty notice for cycle light offence
64B: Clause 135, leave out Clause 135 and insert the following new Clause—
“Powers of community support officers
Schedule (Powers of community support officers) (which amends Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002) has effect.”
Amendment 64B agreed.
Clause 135, as amended, agreed.
64C: After Clause 135, insert the following new Clause—
“Long-term police authorisation requiring independent approval
(1) The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is amended as follows.
(2) After section 32A (authorisations requiring judicial approval) insert—
“32AA Long-term police authorisations requiring independent approval
(1) This section applies where a relevant person has granted a long-term authorisation under section 29.
(2) The authorisation is not to take effect until such time (if any) as the relevant independent body has made an order approving the grant of the authorisation.
(3) The relevant independent body may give approval under this section to the granting of an authorisation under section 29 if, and only if, the relevant independent body is satisfied that—
(a) at the time of the grant—(i) there were reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements of section 29(2), and any requirements imposed by virtue of section 29(7)(b) are satisfied in relation to that authorisation, and(ii) the relevant conditions were satisfied in relation to that authorisation, and(b) at the time when the relevant independent body is considering the matter, there remain reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements of section 29(2), and any requirements imposed by virtue of section 29(7)(b) are satisfied in relation to that authorisation. (4) For the purposes of subsection (3), the relevant conditions in relation to a grant by an individual holding an office, rank or position in a relevant law enforcement agency, that—
(a) the individual was a designated person for the purposes of section 29,(b) the grant of an authorisation was not in breach of any prohibition imposed by virtue of section 29(7)(a) or any restriction imposed by virtue of section 30(3), and(c) any other conditions that may be provided for by the Secretary of State were satisfied.(5) In this section—
“relevant law enforcement authority” means—
(a) a police force in the United Kingdom, and(b) the National Crime Agency;“relevant judicial authority” means—
(a) in relation to England and Wales, the High Court of Justice in England and Wales,(b) in relation to Scotland, the Court of Session, and(c) in relation to Northern Ireland, the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland;“relevant person” means—
(a) an individual holding an office, rank or position in a police force in the United Kingdom, and(b) an individual holding an office, rank or position in the National Crime Agency.(6) In this section—
“relevant independent body” must be set out by the Home Secretary in a motion passed by both Houses of Parliament before this section is enacted;
“long-term” must be set out by the Home Secretary in a motion passed by both Houses of Parliament before this section is enacted.””
We indicated at Second Reading that we intended to propose a new clause on this issue since it was clear that action had to be taken to address how covert policing operations were authorised and managed. Of course, we support undercover policing, since such operations are a vital part of the fight against organised crime and terrorism and are essential in keeping communities safe. We recognise the dedication and bravery of those officers who undertake this work. However, any such operations must be subject to the highest ethical and operational standards. That is essential for both their operational effectiveness and public confidence. Our amendment today, therefore, seeks to deal with the issue of accountability.
There are two cases that highlight how important it is that changes of the kind that we are proposing are made. The first is the case of Mark Kennedy who, as a police officer, infiltrated—I think that is the word—protest groups over a period of years: groups which said that they were involved in lawful demonstrations, rather than crime. The former policeman, it appears, had relationships with women in the protest movement and travelled to eco-protests across Europe. He later told a Channel 4 documentary of his remorse, including his regrets about and feelings for a woman with whom he had had a long affair. HMIC reviewed the activities of Mark Kennedy and other undercover officers and stated that his actions had led to the collapse of a trial of environmental protesters and that he had “defied” management instructions. The report found that Mr Kennedy had helped to unearth “serious criminality”. However, Mr Kennedy said that, while the subject had never been broached directly, it was “impossible” that his superiors had not known he was having a sexual relationship with some protesters. The report suggested that an independent body might be required to authorise such undercover operations. It also said that Mr Kennedy was inadequately supervised and that oversight of undercover officers needed to be strengthened.
The second case is that of the Lawrence family. Twenty years ago, Stephen Lawrence was murdered at the age of 18. He was, of course, the son of Neville and Doreen, who is now my noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, a Member of your Lordships’ House. Stephen was cruelly murdered by racists and there was evidence of racism in the way the police inquiry was conducted. Serious allegations have now been made that the police spied on the Lawrence family with a view to discrediting them. Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer and a member of the somewhat controversial Special Demonstration Squad, has spoken of his activities as part of an operation to spy on and attempt to smear the Lawrence family.
These two cases and other incidents have led to serious concerns about the accountability of the undercover police operations that were undertaken and raised questions about the accountability of future undercover police operations. Our amendment seeks to ensure that all long-term undercover operations are signed off by a relevant independent body, to ensure that, where needed, covert operations are used proportionately, sensitively, only when necessary and with clear and improved accountability arrangements. Additionally, we do not currently have effective oversight of these operations. There are various options we can explore and we hope that the Government will look at these options carefully. Judicial oversight is just one that could be considered.
There also appears to be an anomaly, because currently, if the police or security services want to enter—perhaps to break in, to bug a room or to intercept a phone call—they need justification that to do so is in the interests of national security in order to get a warrant. Attaining a warrant requires judicial approval. However, those undercover police officers who entered into relationships in an attempt to retrieve certain information needed no warrant.
Of course—and we appreciate this—undercover operations vary. Some will be as short as an hour or so and may involve relatively minor matters; it would be impractical to ask for independent approval for all such operations. However, our proposed new clause is intended to target long-term covert police operations, and these can span from six months to 12 months or even several years. When such operations are undertaken, there needs to be clarity about the goals, the methods and the priorities. Therefore, there should be independent approval prior to any such lengthy operation. It does not necessarily have to come from a judge, but it must be truly independent, and the very process of seeking such approval would help to ensure proportionality, and clarity of objectives and methods. Our proposed new clause would help to ensure that operations such as the hugely inappropriate and totally wrong campaign against the Lawrence family cannot take place again. That campaign and operation against the Lawrence family showed appallingly bad judgment. Surely, we all want to ensure that any operation undertaken is accountable, justifiable and in the wider public interest.
On Report in the other place, the Minister Damian Green stated that it was the Government’s,
“intention to legislate to enhance oversight of undercover law enforcement officer deployments”,
and this could,
“be done through secondary legislation”.
He outlined the Government’s proposals to increase accountability and oversight. However, proper scrutiny is necessary and we need the opportunity to scrutinise those proposals as part of this Bill. Damian Green promised in the House of Commons that he would,
“lay the appropriate order before the House shortly”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/10/13; col. 634]
As I understand it, we have not yet seen the order, although I may be wrong in saying that. However, we feel that it would be much better to deal with an issue of this importance in what the Government regard as a flagship Bill on crime and policing. I hope the Minister, when he replies, will be able to give a helpful response.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for tabling this amendment because I agree with him that the whole question of undercover policing is very important. I do not think that any noble Lord should be in doubt that covert techniques, including undercover policing, are an important weapon in the fight against terrorism and other serious and organised crime. Undercover police officers play a crucial role in keeping us all safe. It is difficult and dangerous work and I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to all who undertake it.
The new clause proposed by the noble Lord seeks to introduce a system of independent authorisation for undercover policing operations. I do not believe there is any great difference of view between the noble Lord and me on this point. We both believe that there must be proper safeguards to ensure that these covert techniques are used only where appropriate and that the mechanisms for approving all such deployments are fit for purpose. However, I hope that it will help noble Lords if I set out why I do not believe that this amendment is required, not least because the Government have already instigated changes that are designed to meet the concerns that have arisen in the light of some allegations of past misconduct, which were sympathetically described by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.
Undercover deployments are authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, commonly known as RIPA, which stipulates that the use of an undercover deployment can be authorised only at a senior level within the police force or other law enforcement agency concerned. In giving an authorisation, the authorising officer must balance the seriousness of the crime being investigated, and the value of the evidence likely to be gathered, against the right to privacy of the person under investigation and of those others who are likely to have their privacy intruded upon, such as family, friends and other associates.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary conducted a rigorous and independent review of undercover policing last year and made a number of recommendations to improve the way authorisations and deployments are made. Earlier this year, the inspectorate reported on the progress made in implementing its 2012 report and was generally positive about the work already done. The noble Lord referred to the role played by my ministerial colleague, the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, the right honourable Damian Green, who announced to the Home Affairs Select Committee our intention to strengthen this regime to enhance oversight of undercover law enforcement officer deployments. I am pleased to say that the order to give effect to this commitment was laid in October and is due to take effect on 1 January next year.
I will set out the effect of the changes that the Government are bringing forward. First, law enforcement agencies will need to notify the surveillance commissioners —all retired judges—of undercover deployments. In practice, what will happen is that a surveillance commissioner will see the same papers that were presented to the authorising officer and will have the opportunity to raise any concerns. Noble Lords will appreciate that most deployments are short-term in nature and, in many cases, last no more than a few hours. However, some are long-term, and these may give rise to the greatest concern. Initial authorisations last for a maximum of 12 months. Accordingly, the second change we are putting in place is that an authorisation can be renewed beyond 12 months only with the prior approval of a surveillance commissioner—who, I remind your Lordships, is someone who has held a senior judicial office.
In addition, we are increasing the rank of the authorising officer. Deployments of undercover law enforcement officers will henceforth need to be authorised at assistant chief constable level or equivalent. Any deployments lasting longer than 12 months will be authorised by a chief constable or equivalent, as well as by a surveillance commissioner, as I have already explained. The seniority of those who will now be required to authorise these deployments is an indication of how seriously the Government take proper oversight of undercover law enforcement activity. We believe that these changes will promote the highest standards of professionalism and excellence in this most sensitive area of policing. We also believe that they will achieve the aims of this proposed new clause by ensuring judicial scrutiny of long-term deployments while preserving the flexibility of law enforcement agencies to act swiftly where necessary.
Covert activity is a necessary part of the armoury of law enforcement but it is absolutely right, as is the intention behind this amendment, that it must be properly controlled and regulated. That is why the Government are making the changes that I have described. In the light of these changes and the new regime that we are now putting in place, I do not believe that this amendment is required and I hope the noble Lord will withdraw it.
I shall of course withdraw the amendment but, before I do, I have one question for the noble Lord. Does the proposal that is to be implemented in relation to the role of the surveillance commissioners also include, for particularly lengthy covert operations lasting many months, any sort of regular oversight of the operation by the surveillance commissioners, or is it a case of getting their approval beforehand and, once that prior approval has been given, that is the end of the independent oversight?
The prior approval is of course designed to make sure that there is no extension without the surveillance commissioner being a party to the decision. I cannot give the noble Lord a clear answer on this but I would suspect that the surveillance commissioner could make his approval dependent on an update at some point during the extended 12-month period. I will write to the noble Lord and give him some indication of how this would operate. I understand entirely what he is getting at and am quite happy to investigate and provide that to him.
I thank the noble Lord for his reply and for his offer to write to me on the issue that I have just raised. I will obviously want to reflect on the reply that we have received but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 64C withdrawn.
Clause 136 agreed.
Clause 137: Extradition barred if no prosecution decision in requesting territory
65: Clause 137, page 104, line 20, leave out “prosecution decision” and insert “decision to try”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 65, I will speak at the same time to Amendments 66 to 75. With this group, we come to Part 12 of the Bill, which is concerned with extradition. As this is the first time I have spoken at this stage of the Bill, I need to remind the Committee of my interest as a trustee of Fair Trials International. I am very grateful to that organisation for many of the real-life examples that underlie the amendments that I shall move to this part of the Bill in the next hour or so. I also acknowledge the help that I have had from Justice and several other interested parties.
I spoke about my general concerns about Part 12 at Second Reading and I do not wish to make a Second Reading speech tonight. But I hope that the Committee will forgive me if on this first group of amendments I explain some of the more detailed background factors that underlie my concerns and that have led to my tabling these amendments. They are the framework into which the seven groups of specific amendments that follow will fit, like pieces in a jigsaw.
These amendments are concerned with what is known as a Part 1 warrant, more familiarly known as a European arrest warrant, or an EAW. While the EAW has had some undoubted successes, there have been concerns about its practical application. To their credit, the Government asked Sir Scott Baker to undertake a review of the country’s general extradition arrangements, including specifically the operation of the EAW. Sir Scott Baker produced a report containing a set of recommendations. To their credit, the Government accepted some of them and to their additional credit they have gone beyond Sir Scott Baker’s recommendations in certain areas, such as the introduction of a forum bar. However, the Government did not accept all the Baker proposals and meanwhile the continuing operation of the EAW has led to further concerns about the way in which it is being practically applied.
A few minutes ago I referred to the successes of the EAW. It is incontrovertible that it has led to some very nasty people being returned to face justice in EU member states far faster than was possible under the legislation prevailing before the EAW was introduced. Nowhere is this more important and relevant than in this country’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland and its implication for the border in Northern Ireland. No doubt that is why the Government, having exercised their general opt-out over justice and security under the Lisbon treaty, have decided to opt back into the EAW directives, a decision I strongly support.
Understandably, governments of every persuasion have focused on the achievements that concern terrorists, serious criminals, paedophiles and so on. The overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens who become involved with the EAW do not fall into these high-profile categories. As I will attempt to illustrate with real-life examples, too often they concern what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”: people who are caught up in a process that their knowledge, experience and contacts—unlike, for example, Members of your Lordships’ House—do not equip them to challenge.
What is the scale of this issue? Every day, about four of our fellow citizens are served with an EAW, and about three of these will be surrendered. It is with this group in mind that I have tabled these amendments. If we are to deprive one of our fellow citizens of his or her liberty and hand him or her over to another state for trial and possible imprisonment, which by any yardstick is a very fundamental decision, we need to be sure that the appropriate level of safeguards is in place. While safeguards undoubtedly exist, they do not yet provide a sufficiently balanced position. As many noble Lords are aware, I am not a lawyer, so some of my arguments may seem to those Members in your Lordships’ House who are learned in the law to be legally clumsy. On this occasion, I am afraid that I am the man on the Clapham omnibus, or at least the man in the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck.
In so far as the man on the Clapham omnibus is concerned about these matters he is reassured by the fact that there are two hearings before British judges as part of the EAW process. He has a touching faith in the British judicial system. Unfortunately, in large measure this confidence is misplaced, because the hands of a British judge, in hearing an EAW, are substantially tied. The first hearing that takes place within 48 hours of arrest is essentially entirely procedural: it concerns issues of identity and whether the person arrested is the right one, a point I shall return to in the debate on my Amendment 94. It sets the date for the second hearing, normally within 21 days, and it decides whether to remand a person in custody or on bail, or to accept surrender if the person accepts the charge.
The second hearing is also highly restricted on the matters that the judge can take into account in determining whether the warrant should be executed. Here, there are some technical issues including double jeopardy and specialty, considerations of age and passage of time since the alleged offence was committed, and concerns about the physical and mental condition of the subjected person. What is not discussed are the facts of the case. So in as little as 35 days a person can be on their way to another jurisdiction, with all that that means for their family, their employment and indeed their whole life. In short, that is why I believe that proper safeguards need to be in place.
As I said at Second Reading, similar amendments were tabled at the Committee stage of this Bill in the other place. Not one was debated, because of the operation of the guillotine. Procedurally, the Government should have the chance to explain their thinking on this important issue of public policy.
With that perhaps overelaborate explanation of the background to my amendments I turn to the substance of this first group. As can be seen from the wording, Amendments 65, 66 and 67 seek simply to change the words “prosecution decision” to “decision to try” in that part of Clause 137 entitled “Absence of prosecution decision”. Amendments 70, 73, 74 and 75 are consequential amendments to the later parts of the clause.
This group brings us to an important issue raised by the different nature of the UK’s judicial system from most of those of our European partners. Along with Ireland and Malta, this country has a common law system, with a familiar adversarial judicial system where prosecution and defence parade their arguments before a judge and jury for them to determine. Other European states have an investigative system. This is not better or worse; it is just different. It does mean, however, that a decision to prosecute can mean a decision to continue to collect evidence that may or may not lead to a trial.
The current drafting is ambiguous and could be interpreted as allowing the execution of an EAW where a decision to prosecute has been taken, but a decision to try has not been. I am aware that under Section 2 of the 2003 Act and Article 1.1 of the EAW framework decision, an EAW is defined as a decision issued for the purpose of prosecution. However, I argue that the test for execution of an EAW should be whether the case is trial-ready in the issuing state. Concerns have been consistently raised about the lengthy pre-trial detention of those extradited prematurely as a result of EAWs being issued before the case is trial-ready.
A well known case is that of Andrew Symeou, a British student who was extradited to Greece in July 2009 to face charges in connection with the death of a young man on a Greek island. Andrew was extradited long before the Greek court was ready to try him and endured a year in appalling prison conditions before being granted local bail in Greece. Andrew was finally cleared by a Greek court in June 2011, almost four years after the events in question, during which time he had not been able to continue his university studies and his family had had their lives turned upside down. The fact that a decision is taken at some stage to charge may mean that the issuing state intends to proceed to trial, but as Andrew’s case showed, what matters is whether the issuing state is ready to do so. Accordingly, these amendments set the test for executing the EAW as trial-ready.
Amendments 68 and 71 address the problem of too-early extradition by putting pressure on the requesting state to make use of other less disruptive measures, such as videoconferencing and temporary transfers. These amendments would ensure that the issuing state could not rely on its own refusal to use alternative arrangements, such as videolinks or temporary transfers, to justify extraditing the person in order to charge them. I have already referred to the different legal investigative and adversarial approaches. The Government’s objective in the proposed Section 12A(1)(a)(ii) and 12A(1)(b)(ii) is to cater for the situation in which a decision has not been made formally to charge the person, but only because their presence is required in order to do so. In some countries, such as Sweden, it is a basic defence right for the person to be charged in person. Thus the English and Irish courts have accepted that an EAW issued in such cases can nevertheless be considered to be for prosecution even though it may include a decision to charge taken in the future. However, I repeat that one of the dangers of the EAW system is that people may be extradited too early in the process, when the case is not trial-ready, resulting in prolonged pre-trial detention and uncertainty.
I have already mentioned Andrew Symeou. Equally, Michael Turner was extradited to Hungary in November 2009 and was held in a high-security prison for four months before being allowed to return home. He then had to bear the cost of repeated trips to Hungary while the case was investigated further. He was finally tried in October 2012, three years later.
The issuing authority might legitimately insist that the person be present in order to be charged but I am concerned that this might simply begin a protracted process between charge and trial. In these circumstances, the use of a temporary transfer under proposed new Section 21B would be more appropriate, enabling the person to attend and be charged and then return to UK while the case is readied for trial. Equally, if the law of the issuing state allows the remote attendance of a suspect using video technology, and this does not risk prejudicing the suspect by reason of poor quality or lack of recording, this option should be used. These amendments allow the judge to refuse extradition where the issuing state unreasonably refuses to consent to use either method.
Amendment 72 requires the judge to consider external evidence when determining whether there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that no decision has been taken to charge or try the person wanted on an accusation EAW. Section 2(3) of the 2003 Act already requires the Part 1 warrant to contain the statement that the person is accused of the offence, and it is possible to raise the issue of whether the EAW has been issued as an aid to investigation. However, at present the courts will assume that if the EAW contains the statement in Section 2(3) of the 2003 Act that the person is accused, and is unambiguous in this wording, this correctly reflects the state of proceedings and external evidence will not normally be taken into account.
This approach is based on the mutual trust that needs to exist between judicial authorities, and the need to ensure that proceedings are swift and uncomplicated. There are concerns that under the current drafting of proposed new Section 12A no change to existing practice will result. It may be difficult for the requested person to establish that there are reasonable grounds for believing that no decision to prosecute has been taken if the EAW states unambiguously that the person is the accused and that the EAW was issued for the purpose of prosecution. In order to fulfil the intention behind the amendment, it should be specified that the judge should take into account external evidence, which might include documents from the case file or expert evidence on the state of the proceedings in the requesting state. The judge should also have sufficiently broad direction to be able to take into account evidence such as the past record of issuing states in this regard, as evidenced by other documented cases involving the same country.
To conclude, the Government’s proposed amendment of Section 11 of the Extradition Act by referring to a “prosecution decision” in Clause 137(1) has moved the game on, and I am grateful for that. But for the reasons explained, I do not think it goes far enough. In this very critical area, the decision to try must surely be the gold standard and these amendments will ensure this. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will add just a few comments to the excellent and clear introduction of these amendments by my noble friend Lord Hodgson. He stressed the importance of the matter being trial-ready before extradition takes place, and quite rightly drew a distinction between the adversarial system, which prevails here, and systems elsewhere of a more inquisitorial nature.
Of course, if somebody is awaiting trial here, the question of bail becomes highly relevant before a judge. Indeed, a judge will be able to exercise some pressure on prosecuting authorities to get on with it, in order to ensure that somebody is not kept in custody for too long. That becomes impossible once somebody has been extradited. The matter is then in the control of the local court, and there may be just the sort of delay described by my noble friend in the case of Symeou; not only was he in Greece for a very long time but when he was granted bail it was so-called local bail, which is not the same as being granted bail in your own country, because of all the compromises that have to be made in terms of work and family life.
As my noble friend acknowledged, the Government have responded to the Baker review but there is still anxiety, as he has so skilfully pointed out.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hodgson for giving us a chance to debate these issues. He has tabled a number of amendments—some in this group and some to follow—and it was good that he was able to put the different groups in context of the overall value of the European arrest warrant. The Government attach great value to this facility but are seeking to improve its operation by provisions in the Bill.
As the Committee will be aware, the Home Secretary announced in July that she would introduce legislation to reform the operation of the European arrest warrant in the UK and increase the protections offered to those wanted for extradition, particularly British citizens. My noble friend has drawn attention to circumstances in which the system did not operate as we would have wished. His amendments would revise the resulting provisions in the Bill.
Clause 137 will require the UK courts to bar surrender of the requested person where the issuing state has not taken both a decision to charge and a decision to try the person, except where the sole reason that such decisions have not been taken is that the person’s presence in the country is required in order for those decisions to be taken. This will have the same effect as that intended by my noble friend’s Amendments 65 to 67, 69 and 70 and 73 to 75; that is, a person will not be surrendered before the issuing state is ready to try the person. However, the clause has the added benefit of requiring the issuing state to prove that both a decision to charge and a decision to try the person have been made, if the judge has any doubt that either—or both—of those decisions has been taken. This provides greater protection for the requested person.
I can also reassure noble Lords that when deciding whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that the issuing state has not taken these decisions, the judge can consider any factors or external evidence that could inform his or her decision. We do not believe it is necessary to set this out in explicit terms, as Amendment 72 would.
Finally, Amendments 68 and 71 seek to add a further restriction, so that extradition could not occur where the person’s presence was required in the issuing state for the required decisions to be made, if that could have been achieved by temporary transfer or video-conferencing. I understand my noble friend’s concern about the need for safeguards. However, I do not believe that this additional restriction is necessary. As I have explained, Clause 137 already ensures that extradition cannot occur in the early stages of an investigation when the issuing state is nowhere near a decision to try.
In addition, if the judge is satisfied that the sole reason that a decision to charge and a decision to try have not been taken is the fact that the person is absent from the issuing state, there is no reason why the person should not be extradited so that those decisions can be taken and the case proceed to trial. In these circumstances, requiring temporary transfer simply to charge does not seem to us to achieve anything in terms of safeguards and seems unnecessary.
Having heard these explanations and assurances and the explanation of how Clause 137 is designed to meet my noble friend’s concerns, I hope he will be able to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to my noble friend for that full and very considered response. We are, of course, going around the track for the first time today and I have some difficulty understanding the conflation of prosecution charge and try and the interpretation of Clause 137 in which I think he said—I hope I have quoted him right—that the judge can consider any external factor. Certainly the advice I have received is that that is far from the case, that the judge’s hands remain very carefully circumscribed and tied and that the judge would not have the width and breadth of discretion that my noble friend’s remarks suggested. It would be helpful if one could read in some detail what he had to say, as it is obviously highly complicated and technical, and then see whether expert external advice believes that the extraordinarily plausible answer he gave actually holds up when we come to discuss it further. I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment 65 withdrawn.
Amendments 66 to 75 not moved.
Clause 137 agreed.
Clause 138: Proportionality
76: Clause 138, page 105, line 23, leave out from “proportionality” to end of line 24
My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 78. These amendments expand the issues a judge can consider in testing the proportionality of a European arrest warrant. Amendment 76 deletes the words,
“but the judge must not take any other matters into account”.
Amendment 78 extends judicial discretion as regards proportionality by a list of factors, including the cost of extradition, the consequences of extradition for the suspect and the public interest aspect.
Under the Bill, the judge must have regard to the specified matters relating to proportionality so far as he or she thinks it appropriate to do so, but must not take other matters into account. Thus, the judge is limited to the three specified matters but has discretion to ignore them. As a starting point, I would like the Government to justify why a judge should be able to ignore factors that will always be germane to the issue of proportionality. If an offence is serious, extradition is more likely to be proportionate but that does not mean that the proportionality test has no place in serious crimes. Amendment 76 therefore removes the discretion to ignore relevant factors.
Under the proposed test, the judge can take into account just three factors but it is unclear how they are supposed to relate to each other. In any case, the current list of specified matters does not allow a useful proportionality analysis. As drafted, the judge would be able to take into account the seriousness of the offence and the anticipated sentence, but since regard cannot be had to any other matter, the judge cannot balance these against the relevant considerations. For example, it is difficult to see how the judge can decide whether a less serious offence would make extradition disproportionate if the judge cannot also take into account the implication of extradition in terms of the human impact or, indeed, the costs for the UK taxpayer. The financial costs of extradition are high. The Government estimate that the execution of each EAW costs on average £20,000. In addition, the human impact of extradition can extremely severe. Recent cases under Article 8 of the ECHR have shown that the extradition of single parents can drastically disrupt the development of their children. There was the judgment of Lady Hale in HH v Deputy Prosecutor of the Italian Republic in 2012.
Recognising the need for proportionality checks on the operation of the EAW, the European Commission recognised that the issue was with,
“very minor offences which do not justify the measures and cooperation which execution of an EAW involves”,
and that there is a,
“disproportionate effect on the liberty and freedom of requested persons”,
when the EAW is used in such cases.
The point of a proportionality test should be to determine whether, on a case-by-case basis, the human and material costs are justified. Indeed, the Council of the European Union’s handbook on how to issue an EAW is 125 pages long and explains that,
“considering the severe consequences of the execution of an EAW with regard to restrictions on physical freedom and the free movement of the requested person, the competent authorities should, before deciding to issue a warrant consider proportionality by assessing a number of important factors. In particular these will include an assessment of the seriousness of the offence, the possibility of the suspect being detained, and the likely penalty imposed if the person sought is found guilty of the alleged offence”.
The Bill excludes a balancing exercise that takes into account all these relevant factors.
These amendments therefore provide the judge with sufficient discretion to consider these key factors and others, including the passage of time, since prolonged delays in prosecuting an offence and issuing an EAW may provide evidence of its very low level of seriousness, and the public interest in extradition, since this will vary in line with the seriousness of the offence. Other factors might include, for instance, the person’s conduct, in particular, whether they absconded in order to evade prosecution or left the issuing state unaware that they were being pursued.
I recognise that this will call for a case-by-case test and a fact-sensitive assessment. However, this need not affect the length or complexity of EAW proceedings. An issue raised in relation to human impact would in any event have to be considered under Article 8 of the ECHR. Under the operation envisaged by these amendments, the factors considered under Article 8 of the ECHR will be considered as part of the statutory proportionality test but alongside the cost of extradition to the United Kingdom and having greater regard to the seriousness of the extradition offence. Indeed, under the Government’s proposal, it can be argued that there will often have to be two separate proportionality analyses—one under the statutory test, excluding anything to do with family life, and another under Article 8 of the ECHR, potentially resulting in confusion and complication. Unifying the two tests, as would be achieved by these amendments, would, if anything, simplifying proceedings. I beg to move.
My Lords, Clause 138, “Proportionality”, will not be an easy one for a judge to interpret, as my noble friend has outlined. The question of proportionality under the Human Rights Act 1998 is one matter and then there is the statutory proportionality, which apparently is to be restricted to certain specific matters mentioned in subsections (2) and (3) of the new Section 21A that Clause 138 inserts into the Extradition Act 2003. I respectfully ask the Minister to explain why it is so necessary to distinguish between the two types of proportionality. Proportionality is a fundamental principle in EU law and, in particular, under the Human Rights Act. I suggest there is scope for confusion and therefore possible litigation if a judge misdirects himself or herself in applying proportionality in one sense and not in another.
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Faulks has just said, Clause 138 is dedicated to addressing this issue and bringing the fundamental concept of proportionality into extradition matters. Much of what my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots proposes has already been included within the Extradition Act 2003, as it will be amended by the Bill.
It is important to recognise that the judge will consider proportionality in addition to the existing bars to extradition, such as the passage of time and human rights considerations, including any impact on family and private life. Consequently, new paragraphs (d) and (e) as provided for in Amendment 78, which seek to merge these existing considerations into the proportionality bar, are unnecessary and would have little practical impact.
Turning to the proposed new paragraphs (f) and (g), which relate to the cost of proceedings in the UK and the duration and cost of proceedings in the issuing state, I do not believe that those considerations are relevant. The proportionality bar is designed to provide additional protection to those whose extradition is sought. It is appropriate that the matters concerned should relate to the alleged crime and the potential impact on the person concerned. Of course, costs are an issue for us all, and that is why the totality of our proposals is designed to improve the workings of the Extradition Act, including reducing unnecessary delays. However, costs to the UK arising from the extradition process should not mean a denial of justice where it is right that a person is extradited. On new paragraph (g), the costs and the duration of proceedings in the issuing state are a matter for the issuing state.
New paragraph (h) would require a consideration of the public interest. That is implicit in any consideration of extradition by the courts, which look at a range of factors alongside the proportionality bar. Taken together, the statutory bars to extradition provide a broad public interest test, so it is not necessary to include a separate test here in the Bill.
Finally, new paragraph (i), which refers to other matters that the judge believes relevant, is too open-ended and leaves too many issues that could be considered. It could lead to duplication and potential delay as a result of proportionality considerations overlapping with other considerations. My noble friend Lord Faulks talked about the complexity of these issues and the opportunity that he believed the provisions give for judicial consideration, deliberation and challenges. I think that the proposals in the amendment would complicate the matter further. I must emphasise that the proportionality bar is one among a number which must be considered already, not least whether extradition would be compatible with the requested person’s human rights.
Let me assure my noble friend that, in addition to the provisions in Clause 138, we will also take a more pragmatic approach to our administrative processes when an EAW is received. This will ensure that the most trivial requests are identified and, where appropriate, dealt with administratively before even getting to the courts. The aim will be to work practically with other member states to identify alternative solutions for trivial requests.
My noble friend Lord Faulks asked: why not merge proportionality and human rights? The proportionality bar deals specifically with the proportionality of extradition as a way to deal with the conduct alleged. Proportionality is indeed a factor when considering interferences with various rights under the ECHR, but it is considered when examining the specific rights one at a time. Our bar adds to that, but deals with the wider issue of human rights within the EAW.
I hope that both my noble friends are happy with the reassurances that I have given them and that my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots will be content to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to my noble friend. He rightly chided me about the list of matters in Amendment 78 and the wide-ranging nature of my proposed new paragraph (i), which would insert the text,
“any other matter which the judge considers relevant”.
Although I entirely accept that, I do not understand why three matters are chosen in subsection (3) and why a judge must not take any other matters into account. That seems to me to be erring on the other side of the argument. I hope that he will forgive me if I say that, when I hear Ministers say, “We should be pragmatic about this”, it does not reassure me, because in this area, where we are dealing with people’s liberty and livelihoods, pragmatism can go awry.
I understand the complexity of the issues that my noble friend is attempting to address in the amendments. If he feels it helpful for me to write a fuller explanation than I am able to give the Committee today, I would be very happy to do so. It may be easier if I do that; I hope that my noble friend will accept that.
Of course I would be delighted to receive a letter from my noble friend. That would also enable me to reflect fully on what has been said, take expert advice on the technical matters which we are discussing this evening and decide whether to take the matter further. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 76 withdrawn.
77: Clause 138, page 105, line 30, leave out “possibility of the relevant foreign authorities taking” and insert “availability, to the relevant foreign authorities, of”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 77, I shall also speak to Amendments 79, 80, 81 and 87. This set of amendments keeps us in the area we have just been talking about: one of the three specified matters. The amendments emphasise the importance of less coercive, less disruptive measures than a full European arrest warrant. Where a state issuing an EAW refuses to use them, the judge could take that refusal into account before granting an EAW.
New subsection (3)(c), which sets out the third of the three matters we have just been discussing, currently reads,
“the possibility of the relevant foreign authorities taking measures that would be less coercive”.
Amendment 77 replaces “possibility of”—a pretty low test, in my view—with “availability of”. Amendments 80 and 81 are essentially consequential.
The assumption underlying the provision relating to less coercive measures is that the severely restrictive measure of extradition, involving deprivation of liberty and the physical transport of a person away from home and family, should be used only as a last resort. The issuing state should therefore use that mechanism only when other, less restrictive measures are unavailable. If other such measures are available—for instance, because of the existence of mutual legal assistance mechanisms or, once it is negotiated, the European investigation order—extradition should be refused if they have not been used. The reference to the possibility of using such alternative measures may result in an issuing state avoiding their use due to a lack of resources and/or bureaucratic difficulties in liaison between the competent authorities of the issuing state and the judicial authority that issued the EAW.
I argue that, although the EAW system provides for extradition between judicial authorities, the physical transfer of a person under an EAW is still a process between two EU member states which are, as a whole, bound to observe the principle of proportionality. All their authorities, such as ministries of justice or the interior—where these are responsible for mutual legal assistance requests—should, therefore, be jointly expected to search for alternative solutions before choosing the heavy-handed option of extradition. Accordingly, if an alternative is available, under bilateral or multilateral arrangements between member states, this should be used before the EAW.
Amendment 79 would ensure that, if there are alternative mechanisms available to the issuing state, its failure to use them will always result in the refusal of the EAW, irrespective of the gravity of the offence or any other matter. The inclusion of the less coercive measures test appears to rest on the assumption that the step of issuing an EAW—which involves deprivation of liberty and serious human impact—should be taken as a last resort. The responsibility is on the issuing state to use less coercive measures if these are available. In the handbook on how to issue an EAW, to which I referred, the section on proportionality encourages the authority considering an EAW to use alternatives, including mutual legal assistance, videoconferencing or a summons. The logic that less restrictive alternatives should be used before issuing an EAW applies regardless of the seriousness of the allegation in question. The amendment therefore ensures that extradition is always considered disproportionate if other measures are available.
The case of Andrew Symeou demonstrates the need for it to be made clear that alternatives should be used in preference to the EAW, irrespective of the offence at issue. The Greek police and prosecution authorities could have made use of mutual legal assistance; for instance by asking UK authorities to obtain evidence from the witnesses who had allegedly incriminated Andrew. These witnesses would have been able to explain that they had been subject to police brutality and did not stand by their earlier evidence, which had been taken under pressure and without the assistance of an interpreter. Instead, the Greek authorities opted to have an EAW issued, requiring Andrew’s extradition to Greece to face trial for allegations which might have been found to be without basis much earlier if MLA had been used. The English court should have been able to refuse Andrew’s extradition on the ground that alternative measures were available. I beg to move.
My Lords, as my noble friend explained, his amendments in this group seek to widen yet further the proportionality bar to extradition in Part 1 cases. As I have already indicated, Clause 138 will allow the UK courts to deal with the long-standing issue of proportionality, which, as I have already said, is a fundamental principle of EU law.
Amendments 77, 79, 80 and 81 would require a judge to consider whether the requesting state has less coercive measures available to it. If so, the judge must bar extradition on proportionality grounds. However, even where such measures may exist, they may not be appropriate in each case, depending on the nature of the crime and other factors such as relevant previous criminal history. It would not be right to require a judge to bar extradition wherever less coercive measures are available. I therefore prefer the existing subsection (3)(c) of the new section inserted by Clause 138—to which my noble friend drew attention—which addresses the issue more attractively than the choice of words proposed in the amendment. That said, the existence of alternatives is clearly a relevant factor, and that is why the clause specifies that this is one of the factors that the judge must take into account when considering proportionality.
Amendment 87 to Clause 140 is consequential on the amendments to Clause 138. It would require a judge to conclude that less coercive measures were available if a person had made a request for temporary transfer, as envisaged by Clause 140, but the issuing state had refused that request unreasonably. This would mean that the judge would have to bar extradition on proportionality grounds. This would require our courts to make an assessment of the rationale of a decision made by the authorities in another member state. Given this, we do not think it appropriate automatically to link a decision not to agree to a temporary transfer with the consideration of proportionality. The EAW framework decision is clear that temporary transfer must be agreed by mutual consent, and it is therefore open to the issuing state to refuse a request, including the UK where we are seeking someone’s extradition to the UK.
I turn to the government Amendment 81A in this group. This seeks to build on the proportionality bar operated by the courts by ensuring that robust, pre-court administrative procedures are also in place. Amendment 81A amends Section 2 to stipulate that the National Crime Agency must not issue a certificate if it is clear to the NCA that a judge would be required to order the person’s discharge on the basis that extradition would be disproportionate. To facilitate this, the amendment will enable the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, with the agreement of the Lord Justice General of Scotland and the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, to issue guidance in relation to the proportionality bar to the NCA, which it must apply in deciding whether to issue a certificate under Section 2 of the Extradition Act 2003. The content of any such guidance will, as noble Lords will understand, be a matter for the judiciary.
I welcome the broad support for the principle of a proportionality bar to extradition. I recognise that my noble friend takes a slightly different view of how the proportionality bar should be constructed. However, I hope that he will accept that the provisions in the Bill, augmented by Amendment 81A, achieve much of what he is seeking and that he will understand our reasons for not wishing to deviate from this approach. I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment and support government Amendment 81A.
My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment. The point at issue is the extent to which we are determined to make the physical transfer of somebody the last resort. How easy is it for a state that cannot be bothered to take somebody, on an EAW, without taking all the measures necessary to ensure that the person’s life is interrupted as little as possible? I am not convinced that my noble friend has the balance right, but we need to read carefully the detail of his remarks. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment 77 withdrawn.
Amendments 78 to 81 not moved.
81A: Clause 138, page 106, line 5, at end insert—
“( ) In section 2 of that Act (Part 1 warrant and certificate), after subsection (7) there is inserted—
“(7A) But in the case of a Part 1 warrant containing the statement referred to in subsection (3), the designated authority must not issue a certificate under this section if it is clear to the designated authority that a judge proceeding under section 21A would be required to order the person’s discharge on the basis that extradition would be disproportionate.
In deciding that question, the designated authority must apply any general guidance issued for the purposes of this subsection.(7B) Any guidance under subsection (7A) may be revised, withdrawn or replaced.
(7C) The function of issuing guidance under subsection (7A), or of revising, withdrawing or replacing any such guidance, is exercisable by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales with the concurrence of—
(a) the Lord Justice General of Scotland, and(b) the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.””
Amendment 81A agreed.
Clause 138, as amended, agreed.
82: After Clause 138, insert the following new Clause—
“Person unlawfully at large: human rights and proportionality
(1) For section 21 of the Extradition Act 2003 there is substituted—
“21 Person unlawfully at large: human rights proportionality
(1) If the judge is required to proceed under this section (by virtue of section 20), the judge must decide both of the following questions in respect of the extradition of the person (“D”)—
(a) whether the extradition would be compatible with the Convention rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998; and(b) whether the extradition would be disproportionate.(2) In deciding whether the extradition would be disproportionate, the judge must take into account the specified matters relating to proportionality.
(3) These are the specified matters relating to proportionality—
(a) the seriousness of the conduct for which the requested person was convicted of the extradition offence;(b) whether the sentence which the person received in respect of the extradition offence was initially suspended;(c) the conduct of the requested person;(d) the passage of time since the person became unlawfully at large; and(e) any other matter which the judge considers to be relevant.(4) The judge must order D’s discharge if the judge makes one or both of these decisions—
(a) that the extradition would not be compatible with the Convention rights;(b) that the extradition would be disproportionate.(5) The judge must order D to be extradited to the category 1 territory in which the warrant was issued if the judge makes both of these decisions—
(a) that the extradition would be compatible with the Convention Rights;(b) that the extradition would not be disproportionate.(6) If the judge makes an order under subsection (5), he must remand the person in custody or on bail to wait for extradition to the category 1 territory.
(7) If the person is remanded in custody, the appropriate judge may later grant bail.”
(2) In deciding any question whether section 21 of the Extradition Act 2003 is compatible with European Union law, regard must be had, in particular, to Article 1(3) of the framework decision of the Council of the European Union made on 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States (2002/584/JHA) (which provides that that decision shall not have the effect of modifying the obligation to respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles as enshrined in Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union).”
My Lords, I now seek to move Amendment 82 and will speak to Amendment 93. The background to these amendments is the existence of two different types of European arrest warrant: a prosecution warrant where a person is to be prosecuted for a crime, and a conviction warrant where a person has been convicted and has fled to another country, knowingly or unknowingly. As drafted, the Bill provides for a proportionality check for prosecution warrants but not for conviction warrants. Amendment 82 seeks to remedy this by inserting the new clause shown. The amendment creates a proportionality check for EAWs to parallel the existing human rights bar in Section 21 which will, under the Bill, be relevant only to prosecution EAWs.
Fair Trials sees many cases where suspended prison sentences imposed in respect of minor offences have been reactivated, several years after the person left the category 1 territory, with an EAW then being issued on that basis. This leads to the drastic measure of extradition being used inappropriately in respect of minor offences. There is the case of Natalia Gorczowska, who was convicted of possession of 4 grams of amphetamines and given a 10-month suspended sentence. She left to begin a new life; several years later, with no apparent reason for the delay, the sentence was reactivated and, still later, an EAW was issued, leading to significant expense and very nearly to a drastic impact upon her young son’s life. The Committee might like to note that, had the same conduct been the subject of a prosecution EAW, it would probably have fallen to be considered as one of minor gravity and unlikely to attract a lengthy prison sentence in application of the specified matters relating to proportionality to be considered before granting a prosecution EAW but not in the case of considering a conviction warrant.
This rather lengthy amendment to Section 21 allows a proportionality analysis, including a broad range of factors tailored to conviction EAWs. Applying the proposed test, the judge would be able to take into account the person’s conduct and other circumstances when addressing proportionality—for instance, whether the person deliberately evaded onerous community obligations by leaving the country, or whether the sentence was reactivated systematically, long after the person left the country and without his or her knowledge.
Amendment 93 provides discretion to refuse a conviction warrant where the subject is a British national and will serve his or her sentence in a UK prison. The proposed amendment would allow the judge at the extradition hearing to refuse to surrender a person under a conviction EAW if that person is a British resident or national, and if it is possible for them to serve their sentence in the UK. It is worded in similar terms to Section 3(1) of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984, which also provides for the issue of a warrant to authorise a person’s detention to serve or complete in the UK a sentence imposed by a foreign court.
Currently, UK courts have no discretion to refuse to extradite a British national or resident to serve a sentence in another country on the basis that it is more appropriate that he or she serves that sentence in the UK. This issue has been highlighted in a number of Fair Trials cases. Individuals have been extradited from the UK following conviction in another jurisdiction yet, following surrender, have been transferred back to the United Kingdom after the lengthy and bureaucratic prisoner transfer process. This is a waste of time and money. UK courts should be given the option of refusing extradition and allowing the defendant to stay in the UK to serve the sentence. Other member states including Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Poland have included this ground for refusal in their implementing legislation.
In the announcement that my noble friend referred to earlier, the Home Secretary stated:
“Where a UK national has been convicted and sentenced abroad, for example in their absence, and is now the subject of a European arrest warrant, we will ask”,
the issuing state’s,
“permission, for the warrant to be withdrawn, and will use the prisoner transfer arrangements instead”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/7/13; col. 179.]
The flaw in this approach is the possibility that the issuing state will simply not grant permission.
This amendment establishes a legal basis for the judge to refuse extradition and order that the person serves the sentence in the UK. This possibility is provided for in the EAW framework decision, in which paragraph 6 of Article 4 provides that the executing judicial authority may refuse to execute the EAW,
“if the European arrest warrant has been issued for the purposes of execution of a custodial sentence or detention order, where the requested person is staying in, or is a national or a resident of the executing Member State and that State undertakes to execute the sentence or detention order in accordance with its domestic law”.
Given this clear legal basis to provide the judge with discretion to refuse extradition and allow the person to serve the sentence in the UK, it is disappointing that the Government have opted for a slightly different policy, which is not placed on a statutory footing.
The reference to UK nationals in the Home Secretary’s announcement suggests that this reluctance may be because the Government wish the policy to benefit only UK nationals and not non-national residents. It follows clearly from the case law of the Court of Justice that, if the UK implemented paragraph 6 of Article 4 of the EAW framework decision, which applies to both nationals and those staying in or resident of the executing member state, it would not be able to reserve the benefit of this provision to UK nationals only. The drafting in the Bill appears to be a way of avoiding that constraint. However, the policy discriminates in favour of UK nationals and could be the subject of legal challenge, irrespective of whether or not it is placed on a statutory footing.
The policy adopted in lieu of implementation of paragraph 6 of Article 4 of the EAW framework decision is also an ineffective protection. If the issuing state refuses to use the prisoner transfer arrangements, there is no recourse and the person has to be extradited in any event. As the Home Secretary said in her announcement, the proposed change,
“could have prevented the extraditions of Michael Binnington and Luke Atkinson”,
UK nationals who,
“were sent to Cyprus only to be returned to the UK six months later”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/7/13; col. 179.]
to serve the rest of their sentences. However, this would have been dependent on the Cypriot authorities co-operating. Had Cyprus declined to use the prisoner transfer arrangements, the judge would not have had any legal ground on which to refuse extradition.
It would make more sense for the Government to put the policy on a statutory footing, providing proper protection for UK nationals and other residents whose social reintegration would be served by their serving their sentences in the UK, in line with the relevant provisions of the framework decision. These amendments allow the judge to identify residents on a discretionary basis; equally, Parliament could set reasonable statutory criteria. By example, I understand that Dutch law provides a five-year residence criterion, which has been considered lawful by the Court of Justice of the European Union. I beg to move.
My Lords, as my noble friend has said, Amendment 82 seeks to introduce a proportionality bar for post-conviction cases. As my noble friend Lord Taylor has said, Clause 138 will allow the UK courts to deal with the long-standing issue of proportionality, which is of course a fundamental principle of EU law in cases where a person is sought for prosecution. Under the EAW framework decision, an EAW can be issued in a post-conviction case only if a sentence of at least four months has been imposed. We believe that this is a sufficient proportionality safeguard in such cases.
Perhaps I might also reassure my noble friend that the courts will still consider any representations made that the extradition would breach a person’s human rights—I believe that he mentioned this in his comments. As now, a person would be extradited only if it was compatible with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. This includes and applies to those people who are wanted to serve a sentence.
I turn to my noble friend’s Amendment 93. I draw your Lordships’ attention to the terms of the Statement made in July by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary—again, my noble friend referred to this—about the reform of the operation of the EAW to enhance the safeguards available for British citizens wanted for extradition. In that Statement, the Home Secretary set out our commitment to make greater use of EU prisoner transfer arrangements. Where a UK national has been convicted and sentenced abroad, for example in their absence, and is now the subject of a European arrest warrant we will ask for permission for the warrant to be withdrawn and will use the prisoner transfer arrangements instead. My noble friend acknowledged that.
Whereas this policy is limited to UK nationals, Amendment 93, put forward by my noble friend, would broaden the scope of this safeguard beyond UK nationals to those who are resident in the UK, with the consequential impacts that would lead to, including those on the public purse. This Government’s policy is that foreign nationals should, wherever possible, serve their sentences in their home country. Therefore the scope in terms of broadening this beyond UK nationals is not something the Government subscribe to, based on the policy I have indicated. I hope, based on the explanations I have given which underlie the Government’s approach, that he will at this time seek to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I have just one question. As I understood my noble friend’s remarks, he said that we now have an effective proportionality test for conviction warrants. My advice is that we do not have that and that there is no chance of a proportionality test for that.
While he is reflecting, my other point is on the question of how we are going to be able to deal with situations where countries do not collaborate. I appreciate the point about non-national residents. I hope, however, the Government will consider following up examples like that of the Dutch. They have established cases where non-nationals would not qualify and therefore the issue which he very properly raises about the impact on public funds could be avoided.
Could he just confirm that there is a proportionality test for conviction warrants, because as I understand it there is not?
For clarification, I repeat that I said that under the EAW framework, an EAW can only be issued in a post-conviction case if a sentence of at least four months has been imposed. We believe that is the sufficient proportionality safeguard in such cases.
I will not try to absorb all that now; I will read about it in Hansard. In the mean time, I seek to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 82 withdrawn.
Clause 139 agreed.
Clause 140: Request for temporary transfer etc
83: Clause 140, page 107, line 26, at end insert “(which must include a specific timeframe within which the person must be returned to the United Kingdom)”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 83, I shall speak also to Amendments 84 to 86. With these amendments I am seeking to address some of the weaknesses of the temporary transfer system. Amendments 83 and 84 seek to ensure that temporary transfers remain temporary. Amendment 83 would insert in proposed new Section 21B the words,
“a specific timeframe within which the person must be returned to the United Kingdom”,
and Amendment 84 would insert the words,
“within the period specified in the judge‘s order made under subsection (5)”.
They make a temporary transfer conditional on the issuing state providing assurance that the person will be returned within the time allotted for the transfer. The purpose of the temporary transfer system is to enable the issuing state to complete certain steps in the criminal case which we referred to earlier, such as charging the person, and to allow the person to return home, without seeking their extradition. However, in the Bill as drafted, there is no system for ensuring the return of the person.
The concern is that a person brought before a judge or court in the issuing state in the course of a temporary transfer could rapidly find themselves processed in accordance with the usual course of procedure and detained pending trial. I believe that it is therefore necessary to enable the judge to obtain specific assurances that the person will be returned within a fixed period by the judge. The amendment allows the judge to refuse to grant a temporary transfer in the absence of such assurances.
Amendments 85 and 86 permit the temporary transfer system to be used more than once. The Bill allows for the temporary transfer scheme to be used once only. I entirely accept that there is a need to ensure that the temporary transfer process is not used repeatedly to delay extradition, but I believe the current restriction to one use may be too blunt. If a new point comes to light later in the proceedings suggesting that further progress could be made by the requested person attending again, then, provided it is not an abuse of the system, the procedure should be available again. It must also be unfair to prevent a requested person using a temporary transfer just because they have previously agreed to a request, perhaps by the requesting state. There is an issue here of equality of arms. I beg to move.
My Lords, the provisions in Clause 140 will allow a person to speak with the authorities in the issuing state before any extradition takes place. The clause allows for the person’s temporary transfer to the issuing state and for the authorities in that state to speak with the person while he or she remains in the UK, for example, via videoconferencing. I understand my noble friend’s concerns that there should be safeguards, but I believe that there are sufficient safeguards already in place.
Both parties must consent to a temporary transfer—a temporary transfer is only possible where the person concerned agrees to it—and in doing so the issuing authority would be agreeing that the person would be returned to the UK. If the person was not returned, the issuing state would, of course, be in breach of that agreement and the clear terms of the European arrest warrant framework decision. Neither are we aware of any cases among our EU partners where such agreements have been disregarded.
Amendments 85 and 86 relate to the circumstances in which a person may make a request for temporary transfer or videoconferencing. I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing to the Committee’s attention the suggestion of allowing more than one request to be permitted by a UK judge.
In this particular case the Government are not persuaded that there are sufficiently compelling arguments for making such a change. Allowing more than one request could be used to delay the extradition process to no good end. We would expect the cases to which my noble friend refers to be very rare, and if such a situation did arise, the individual would still be able to approach the requesting authorities via their legal representatives to provide further information to consider in that case.
Noble Lords are aware, as my noble friend Lord Taylor has emphasised, of the importance we place on getting the balance right between ensuring efficient extradition processes and the protection of the requested person. We believe that this potential for unnecessary delay would outweigh any marginal benefits it may bring.
I therefore hope, with the explanation I have given, that my noble friend will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
I certainly will withdraw it. I am convinced about Amendments 83 and 84, but I cannot see how the ability to get a second temporary transfer is going to cost the Government anything. In fact, it would greatly improve the efficacy in the administration of justice. If I were an EAW subject, I would be very disappointed that because the requesting state had used the temporary transfer system up for its own purposes, I was not then able to use it for myself. It is a shame that we do not have even a measure of equality of arms, always providing for the fact that this should not be allowed to detain and block up the process. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment
Amendment 83 withdrawn.
Amendments 84 to 87 not moved.
Clause 140 agreed.
Clause 141: Appeals
88: Clause 141, page 108, line 1, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b)
In moving Amendment 88, I shall speak also to Amendments 88A and Amendments 89, 90, 91 and 92. Clause 141 is about appeals against EAWs. I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, have tabled a stand part debate to remove this clause. I look forward to hearing their remarks in support of that fairly blunt instrument. My amendments, by contrast, offer my noble friend the Minister a focused, surgical approach to this issue.
Amendments 88 and 90 remove the requirement for leave to appeal. We have spoken about how extradition has an enormous impact on suspects’ lives and those of their families. Given the problems that, for example, Fair Trials regularly sees arising at first-instance extradition hearings, there are concerns about any measure that limits access to appeal courts. The vast majority of those subject to extradition procedures—the “little platoons” that I referred to in my first group of amendments —cannot afford a lawyer and are therefore represented by a duty solicitor. Many duty solicitors have little experience of extradition cases and therefore may not be familiar with the complex conditions of the 2003 Act and associated case law. This can be contrasted with the position of the requesting state, which is automatically entitled to representation by a specialist unit of Crown Prosecution Service lawyers. The complexity of extradition cases also means that there is often inadequate time at a first-instance hearing for consideration of all the relevant facts and issues. If suspects lose their automatic right to appeal then, so long as these problems at first instance remain, there may be cases that result in people being wrongly extradited.
These problems are demonstrated by the recent case of Krzysztof Juszczak, who in February 2013 appealed successfully against extradition to Poland on the basis that his removal from the UK would constitute a disproportionate interference with his family life under Article 8 of the ECHR. Although Mr Juszczak is the primary carer for his severely disabled stepdaughter, this was not raised by the duty solicitor before the district judge, an omission that was criticised as a failure of duty by Mr Justice Collins in his appeal judgment. As this evidence was obtained late in the process, there is a clear danger that under the proposed system Mr Juszczak would have been denied leave to appeal.
I recognise the problems raised in the Sir Scott Baker review in relation to the large number of unmeritorious appeals in the extradition process, and understand the need for a process to ensure that appeals with merit are heard and disposed of more quickly. It must be in the interests of both defendants and the state that the appeal process works to correct genuine errors rather than to delay the judicial process. However, it is surely equally true, and vital, that suspects are given a full opportunity to get a case together and identify any valid grounds on which their extradition should be refused, and any appeal process should reflect that.
The Sir Scott Baker review recommended that any leave-to-appeal test should follow the standard required for judicial review—namely, that the defendant must show an arguable case in order to be allowed to appeal. The inclusion of any higher standard of proof would be inappropriate, not least because the requirement to demonstrate an arguable case, as is the case in the judicial review process, would suffice to weed out those cases with no merit. Leave should be sought on paper, with written reasons provided for the outcome. Defendants must then have a right of appeal against refusal to a judge at an oral hearing. Only the judge at first instance or the High Court judge who would hear the appeal should consider applications for leave to appeal. If all these safeguards were guaranteed, a requirement for leave to appeal might be acceptable.
There has been concern that the lack of information about how the Government’s proposed amendments will work in practice makes it far from clear that they satisfy the above recommendations of the Sir Scott Baker review, and people could still have their lives ruined by an unjust extradition. As this concern remains unanswered in the Bill as currently drafted, the argument regarding appeal remains flawed and liable to create unfairness and inequality of arms. It has also been pointed out that the Government’s proposed amendments did not affect the requesting state’s automatic right to appeal if an extradition request is refused, thus introducing a further inequality of arms into proceedings that are already heavily weighted in favour of requesting states, which have far greater resources than individuals and benefit from a strict “no questions asked” regime that gives courts very little power to refuse extradition.
The Government have taken concerns in this regard into account, with the introduction of a requirement of leave to appeal against discharge at extradition hearing in Clause 141(2), but this amendment proposes that that requirement should also be omitted in line with the proposed approach to appeals against extradition orders in Clause 141(1).
Amendment 88A would extend the deadline for bringing appeals against extradition from seven days to 14. I reiterate my welcome for the introduction of flexibility in relation to appeal deadlines, but I remain concerned that the current drafting may be insufficient to address potential injustices, particularly when linked to the proposed removal of the automatic right to appeal. Given the impact of extradition on individuals, a standard period of seven days to appeal or seek leave is pretty short. This is often exacerbated by the need to obtain evidence from other jurisdictions and can raise enormous challenges when a person decides to change their lawyer after the first-instance hearing.
We have already discussed the introduction of the leave-to-appeal requirement of the person to comply with the appeal deadline, but it should also be taken into account if the leave requirement is to be introduced. If the proposal set out in paragraph 10.14 of the Baker review is followed, with leave to appeal being sought and granted or refused on paper, the drafting needed to produce the leave application could become more onerous, complex and time-consuming than for the current notice. It is therefore proposed that the timeframe flexibility introduced in the amendments to Sections 26(5), 103(10) and 108(5), as amended in accordance with paragraph 4.1 above, be retained but that the permitted period in Section 26(4) should also be extended to 14 days. This would follow the recommendations of the Baker review at paragraphs 11.75 to 11.76. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will be brief with what has been described as my blunt instrument on Clause 141. I will not repeat the detailed arguments put by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots. As he said, Amendments 88 and 90 seek to preserve the automatic right to appeal against an extradition order by deleting provisions in the clause that would make the ability to appeal against an order subject to obtaining the permission of the High Court. Essentially, it appears that the Government are now proposing to remove a key safeguard for individuals at risk of extradition by repealing the automatic right of appeal. We have real concerns about this change, which of course removes safeguards for UK citizens.
The automatic right of appeal is a key safeguard against the wrongful extradition of individuals, which allows them to raise new evidence that was not available at the time of the extradition hearing or to challenge the decision of the original judgment. It was surely this automatic right of appeal that allowed Gary McKinnon and his family to challenge the initial decision to extradite him to the US, leading ultimately to the decision not to extradite him at all. Without the right of appeal, he might have been extradited without any further consideration of the evidence, old or new, showing that extradition posed a serious risk to his right to life. Indeed, in the Statement that the Home Secretary made on 16 October 2012, she specifically referred to this issue when she said:
“After careful consideration of all of the relevant material, I have concluded that Mr McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/10/12; col. 164.]
Yet, subject to what the Minister may say, the Government appear to be introducing changes to the Act that would mean that if a similar case occurred after this Bill had been passed, the Home Secretary would not be able to make the same decision.
Clause 141 amends Sections 26 and 108 of the 2003 Act to provide that an appeal will lie only with permission from the High Court, and no indication is given in the Bill of what criteria will be used to decide whether permission should be granted. I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate the reason for the Bill being so vague over an issue—namely, the criteria—that could have significant human rights consequences. What in fact do the Government expect the criteria to be, do they expect them to be evidence-based and will they be available for scrutiny? What impact do the Government believe any likely criteria will have on the number of cases able to be appealed?
Once an individual has been extradited, of course, there is virtually nothing that can be done if new evidence arises to show that that was not the appropriate or fair decision and was contrary to the interests of justice or their human rights. Does the Minister not agree that, because of that, it is crucial that people effectively have an automatic right to appeal against a decision to be extradited, or at least some other means of ensuring that justice is done, and that we do not end up in a situation which, frankly, does our own extradition system no credit?
I cannot vouch for this personally, but Liberty says that extradition experts are of the view that a large number of cases that have been successful on appeal probably would not have been granted leave under the Bill. Removing the right of automatic appeal will potentially have considerable human rights and legal implications. If the Minister cannot offer some movement on this issue when he replies tonight, I hope that he will at least be able to explain why the Government appear to be taking such a major backwards step, having previously placed such emphasis on their concern for Gary MacKinnon’s human rights.
My Lords, as my noble friend has explained, Clause 141 makes the right of appeal against a decision to order extradition subject to the leave of the High Court. Similarly, it makes the requesting state’s right of appeal against a decision to discharge a person from extradition proceedings subject to the leave of the High Court. Clause 141 also allows the requested person to make an application for leave to appeal out of time in certain circumstances. This does not apply to the requesting state.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, using his blunt instrument, gives me the opportunity to broaden the debate beyond the immediate amendments and explain how this process will work and why the Government feel justified in introducing Clause 141. My noble friend Lord Hodgson, in tabling his Amendments 88 and 90, challenges us on why we are making these changes. At present, a person has an automatic right of appeal against a decision to order his or her extradition, and the requesting state also has an automatic right of appeal against a decision not to order extradition—an important factor to bear in mind.
As noble Lords are aware, the Government commissioned a review by Sir Scott Baker of the UK’s extradition arrangements. One of the key findings of his review was that the success rate of appeals was extremely low: less than 13% in 2010. In other words, the court system is burdened by unmeritorious appeals, a fact to which my noble friend Lord Hodgson referred, which then delay hearings for all appellants and means that justice is deferred. Clause 141 addresses this problem by making appeals subject to permission from the High Court. This filter applies to appeals against, for example, a judge’s decision to order extradition to a Part 1 territory, that is, another member state; a judge’s decision to send a case to the Secretary of State to consider extradition in Part 2 cases, that is, where the requesting country is not an EU member state; and to a decision by the Secretary of State to order extradition in Part 2 cases. To provide parity, it also applies to appeals against decisions to discharge a person.
My noble friend Lord Hodgson asked what sort of issues a court would consider in deciding whether to allow an application to be heard. This will be, as one would expect, a matter for the judge concerned. They will, of course, give full consideration to all the relevant factors raised by the appellant before reaching a decision. We do not think that they are appropriate to be set out in legislation, as it is a matter for the court itself to consider. I understand that noble Lords will have questions about what safeguards will be available. Let me reassure noble Lords that this provision does not prevent anyone from applying for permission to appeal. Once an application has been made, the High Court will decide which cases proceed to a hearing, but each application will be considered by a High Court judge. Furthermore, Clause 141 sets out that the High Court must not refuse to entertain an application for leave to appeal by the requested person solely because it has been submitted outside the normal time period, if the person did everything reasonably possible to ensure that the notice was given as soon as it could be.
That point brings me to the matters that my noble friend Lord Hodgson raised in relation to this in his Amendments 88A, 89, 91 and 92. My noble friend proposes to amend Clause 141 to insert a requirement for the courts to allow an appeal to be made out of time if it is in the interests of justice to do so. As I said, Clause 141 allows the High Court to hear an out-of-time appeal where the person has done everything reasonably possible to bring the appeal as soon as possible. Our approach follows that of the Supreme Court, which ruled last year that out-of-time appeals should only be considered exceptionally. We believe that this provision gets the balance right: the timetable for an appeal is clear and there must be an onus on an appellant to meet the statutory requirements, as happens in the vast majority of cases.
My noble friend is also proposing to extend the time limit for appeals in Part 1 cases from seven days to 14 days. As he has explained, this was one of the recommendations that Sir Scott Baker made in his review of our extradition arrangements. We have therefore considered it very carefully in developing the provisions in the Bill. Our view is that extending the time limit in this way would have no practical effect beyond increasing the likelihood for delay. As I said, we have introduced new protections where people are unable to submit their appeals on time through no fault of their own. We believe that this new provision will address the concerns raised by my noble friend, and indeed by Sir Scott Baker, on this issue.
What safeguards will exist under these new provisions? We do not believe that we are removing any existing safeguards. We need to get the balance right between ensuring proper protection for those subject to an extradition request while ensuring that people do not delay their proper surrender by burdening the courts with unmeritorious appeals. We believe that this approach gets these matters right. The court itself will decide the issues and the relevance of any out-of-time considerations.
The changes set out in Clause 141 will allow the courts to focus their attention on the right appeals, removing the burden of unmeritorious appeals while ensuring that proper safeguards are in place for those subject to extradition. I commend the clause to the Committee and I hope that my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw his amendment, and that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will see the merit in the clause.
I am grateful to my noble friend for that fulsome reply. I am disappointed that the Government have not seen fit to follow up the Scott Baker proposal for 14 days instead of seven days, given the complexity of the appeal process, particularly when linked to the additional steps that the Government are taking to introduce prohibitions on and difficulties in getting an appeal process going in the first place. Obviously, however, this is not the time to take the argument further. I look forward to reading with care in Hansard tomorrow what the Minister has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 88 withdrawn.
Amendments 88A to 92 not moved.
Clause 141 agreed.
Clause 142 agreed.
Amendment 93 not moved.
94: After Clause 142, insert the following new Clause—
“Request of further information where suspicion of mistaken identity
In section 7 of the Extradition Act 2003 (identity of person arrested), after subsection (4) there is inserted—“(4A) If the judge decides that question in the affirmative, he must decide whether the person in respect of whom the warrant was issued is the person who is alleged to have committed, or to have been convicted for, the offence on which the warrant is based.
(4B) The judge must decide the question in subsection (4A) on the balance of probabilities, but if he considers there is reasonable doubt as to that question, he may not decide it in the affirmative unless he has first requested the issuing authority to provide further information within the time specified in the request (which must not be less than a reasonable time in all the circumstances) and the issuing authority has provided him with the information requested within that time.
(4C) If the judge decides the question in subsection (4A) in the negative, he must order the person’s discharge.””
My Lords, Amendment 94, which is concerned with mistaken identity, and Amendment 95 would insert two new clauses into the Bill. Amendment 94 would enable the judge at the extradition hearing—whether it is a prosecution or a conviction warrant—to request more information where there is a real doubt as to whether the person sought is actually the person suspected or convicted. This would be particularly valuable in cases where there is a reasonable belief that the person sought has had his or her identity stolen or where there is a clear case of mistaken identity. In these days of cybercrime, the former is an increasingly common occurrence.
There are currently no grounds in domestic law on which to refuse extradition where there are serious doubts about whether the person sought is the person who committed the crime or is suspected to have committed the crime. Such a situation has arisen in several cases where the person subject to the EAW has had their identity stolen by the real perpetrator or where that perpetrator has identified someone else as the person who committed the offence.
This is demonstrated by the case of Edmond Arapi, who was tried and convicted in his absence in Italy and given a sentence of 16 years. He had no idea that he was wanted for a crime or that the trial or subsequent appeal had taken place until he was arrested at Gatwick Airport in 2009 on an EAW on his way back from a family holiday. The British courts ordered that Edmond be sent to serve the sentence in Italy, despite clear proof that he was at work in the UK on the day of the alleged offence. On the day that the High Court was due to hear his appeal against extradition, the Italian authorities decided to withdraw the EAW following a campaign, admitting that they had sought Edmond in error. He narrowly avoided being separated from his wife and children, including a newborn son, and spending months or years in an Italian prison awaiting a retrial. This amendment is needed to give courts greater discretion to request further information where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person sought under an EAW is the victim of mistaken or stolen identity.
Amendment 95 seeks to clarify the approach that a judge should follow in relation to human rights and provide a stronger basis on which to refuse to execute an EAW on human rights grounds. Many have argued that the underlying assumption of the EAW system—that other Part 1 territories can always be trusted to respect the fundamental rights of those extradited—rests on shaky foundations. For instance, it has been reported that in the years 2007 to 2012, Greece violated Article 6(1) of the ECHR 93 times in criminal cases.
Garry Mann, giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, described his 2004 trial in Portugal as follows, stating that,
“the police … just told me it was some kind of public order offence … we went into court and there were 12 of us … we had one interpreter … she would try to say something and pass it down the line of 12, but we did not understand what was going on at all … They asked me what I thought in broken English, but again the judge and the lawyer did not speak much English … I never knew the charge that I was facing until 30 minutes before I was convicted at 11.30 that night … They said there was no time to call any witnesses. I said I would like CCTV; no time to call CCTV”.
An English court later called on to issue a football banning order against Garry refused, finding that the trial had not complied with Article 6 of the ECHR.
The courts have, however, given very short shrift to arguments alleging that extradition would lead to a violation of human rights. In accordance with the concept of mutual trust, on which the operation of the EAW is based, the courts assume that the issuing state will protect the extradited person against any unfairness and that past proceedings giving rise to convictions on which EAWs are based were fair. A person must show that they are at risk of a “flagrant” breach of their fair trial rights in order to resist extradition. The approach is difficult to sustain when there are ongoing systematic deficiencies in a justice system, which are liable to impact upon an extradited person. For instance, the European Court of Human Rights recently found Italy in violation of Article 3 of the ECHR and applied its pilot judgment procedure, recognising that widespread overcrowding was leading to systematic infringements of Article 3. The concept of mutual trust is difficult to defend in such circumstances. If an extradited person is going to be detained in the same prison, it is plainly likely that their human rights will be infringed.
The Government have taken the view that the EAW framework decision implicitly allows refusal to execute an EAW on human rights grounds, relying on recital 12 and Article 1(3) of the framework decision, which affirm that the latter shall not have the effect of modifying the obligation to respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles, as recognised by Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union and reflected in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. However, the precise content of those fundamental rights obligations is not clear. In her opinion on the Radu case, Advocate-General Sharpston suggested that, under the charter, the test was whether there was a “substantially well founded risk” of a violation which would,
“fundamentally destroy the fairness of the trial”,
a slightly different test from the ECHR flagrancy test. However, for the time being, the precise requirements of fundamental rights are not defined in EU legislation. Accordingly the member states enjoy some discretion to apply fundamental rights as they understand them, provided that this does not compromise the unity and effectiveness of EU law. This amendment therefore falls within the permissible bounds of the EAW framework decision. I beg to move.
My Lords, the additional safeguards that my noble friend has proposed through Amendment 94 seek to introduce matters of mistaken identity. It is not something that we believe is necessary. Clearly, we do not want the wrong people to be extradited; the wider issues relating to identity were carefully considered during the review of the UK’s extradition arrangements. Sir Scott Baker did not find any evidence that a person who was subjected to mistaken identity had actually been surrendered to stand trial. He concluded that there was no need to amend the Act to require a judge to request further information concerning the requesting person’s identity. Nor did the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service or the Crown Office raise concerns about the issue.
I agree with expert opinion and I am not persuaded that a change is needed here. My noble friend asked about the case of Mr Arapi—I will try to avoid talking about particular cases—but, as my noble friend will be aware, Mr Arapi was not extradited and the Italian authorities admitted their error in making the request for him rather than another person of the same name. In his review, Sir Scott Baker found that no amendment was needed to the protections already afforded in the Act with regard to identity as there are already sufficient procedures in place to protect people who are sought as a result of mistaken identity.
The amendment raises the particular issue of a judge being clear that the person who has been arrested and appears in court is the person who is alleged to have committed the crime. This goes to the heart of the trial in the issuing stage. It is not a matter for the UK courts. The courts’ consideration of an extradition request is not one of guilt or innocence but of whether any of the statutory bars to extradition apply.
Turning to Amendment 95, my noble friend seeks to make changes to a judge’s consideration of human rights in EAW cases, including expanding the matters to which the judge should have regard when considering whether extradition would breach a person’s human rights.
We believe that there are already sufficient safeguards in the Extradition Act to allow a judge to bar extradition on human rights grounds. The 2003 Act is drafted to allow the courts to give the fullest possible consideration to human rights issues. We discussed this matter in earlier deliberations in Committee. In all cases, the judge must decide whether extradition would be compatible with the convention rights and must discharge the person if he or she decides that it would not be compatible.
In his review of the UK’s extradition procedures, Sir Scott Baker found that the human rights bar to extradition did not need amending. The review found that the bar did not permit injustice or oppression, and the Government agree with that assessment. We do not accept that a judge’s approach to human rights needs to be changed.
In conclusion, I am very grateful to my noble friend for giving the Committee this opportunity to consider various aspects of Part 12 of the Bill.
Am I not right in saying that the European Commission has been quite critical of some of the new entrants into the EU’s legal systems and has instanced poor training of judges and problems of corruption? As long as the criticisms continue to be made, does not my noble friend’s amendment have a real point, or is the Minister saying that the human rights considerations that he has been talking about would cover that instance?
The European arrest warrant provisions are indeed Europe-wide, so they cover a number of different jurisdictions. None the less, proportionality and human rights considerations are written throughout these particular parts of the Bill. As I said, Sir Scott Baker investigated this. He felt that the human rights bar to extradition did not permit injustice, if it was believed to exist, or oppression, and the Government agree with that assessment. I hope that I have satisfied my noble friend and that he will accept that the Government are not operating this mutual extradition facility which the European arrest warrant provides for in a way which is unreasonable to people who are subject to extradition requests.
Perhaps I may assist the Minister in replying to the question that has been raised. Recently, the Supreme Court had to consider a case where an individual was being sought to be extradited to Albania. The court was told that there was a high degree of corruption among the judges and the extradition was stayed so that the degree of corruption could be investigated further. The matter is now in the hands of the Lord Advocate in Scotland. That is an example of the kind of phenomenon to which the noble Lord referred—where the standards in one of the new countries are not up to the standards that one might expect. However, I suggest that the courts are very astute in ensuring that the human rights protection in relation to a fair trial is preserved. That is a very recent example which I think meets the point that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, had in mind.
Not for the first time, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, for his intervention in this matter. I should say that Albania is not a member of the European Union at this stage. However, the principle applies, as the noble and learned Lord said. Section 21 of the existing Act already requires the judge to be satisfied that extradition is compatible with the human rights convention, and that includes the right to a fair trial. Therefore, that already exists in law.
In conclusion, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving the Committee an opportunity to consider various aspects of Part 12 of the Bill. On a number of the issues he has raised, I think that we share the same policy objectives, and in such cases where we have differences between us, they may well simply be a matter of drafting. Having had this important debate and in the light of my comments, I hope that my noble friend will agree to withdraw his amendment. If, on reading the record, he finds that there are still aspects with which he is concerned, I hope that he will not hesitate to raise them with me.
Of course, I shall not hesitate at all. Again, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend. He is quite right to remind me that Edmond Arapi was not extradited, although, in the words of the Duke of Wellington, it was “a damn close-run thing” in the sense that the appeal was heard on the day that he was about to go.
I acknowledge the points that my noble friend made concerning the Scott Baker issues of identity and human rights, although I think that identity is going to become more and more important because of cybercrime and people assuming other identities. I think that that will come back for discussion. I am disappointed that we have not been able to find a way through that because, in my view, it will rise in importance and relevance.
My noble friend Lord Lamont asked the critical question: do we have sufficient mutual trust? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said that we should have. The point, of course, is that unlike Albania, for which there would be a Part 2 warrant, the process of a Part 1 warrant, which the EAW would be, is a great deal swifter. Standing here on my feet at this moment, I do not know whether the court has more powers to make investigations in the case of a Part 2 warrant, as would be provided by my amendments, than it has in the case of a Part 1 warrant. That is something on which I cannot give an answer off the top of my head. However, I am grateful to my noble friend because I think that he has put his finger on it: is there enough mutual trust?
I am grateful to my noble friend and to the Committee for having let me rabbit on at some length about these issues. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 94 withdrawn.
Amendment 95 not moved.
Clauses 143 to 146 agreed.
Clause 147: Non-UK extradition: transit through the United Kingdom
Amendment 95ZA not moved.
Clause 147 agreed.
Clause 148 agreed.
95ZB: After Clause 148, insert the following new Clause—
“Electronic transmission of European arrest warrant etc
In section 204 of the Extradition Act 2003 (warrant issued by category 1 territory: transmission by electronic means), in subsection (5)—(a) for “subsection (1), a” there is substituted “subsection (1)—(a) a”;(b) at the end there is inserted—“(b) information contained in the warrant is treated as being received by the designated authority in a form in which it is intelligible if the authority receives—(i) a summary of that information in English, and(ii) the text of the warrant itself,in a form in which it is legible.”
My Lords, this group of government amendments to Part 12 and Schedule 9 deal with three distinct and largely technical issues.
First, Amendment 95ZB, and the associated Amendment 98B to Schedule 9, make minor amendments to Section 204 of the Extradition Act 2003. That section makes provision for cases where the information contained in a European arrest warrant is transmitted to the United Kingdom electronically.
The amendments to Section 204 are needed to support the implementation of the second generation Schengen information system, otherwise known as SIS II. Under SIS II, the NCA will be required to certify requests entered by other member states for,
“arrest for surrender or extradition purposes”,
from the information received electronically under the SIS II process. This information will be an English language summary of the information contained within the EAW, together with the original language version of the EAW. Section 204 therefore requires amendment so that certification can take place on the basis of this English language summary, rather than a translation of the full contents of the EAW.
Amendments 95ZC and 95ZD relate to Clause 149. That clause amends the Prison Act 1952 to ensure that, in all cases where a person spends time in custody in another member state awaiting extradition to the UK, that time is counted as time served towards the UK sentence. As it stands, Clause 149 provides only for cases in England and Wales. Therefore, following discussions with the Scottish Government, we have agreed that analogous provision for Scotland can be made through administrative means. However, with the agreement of the Scottish Government, we are taking the opportunity to update relevant provisions in Scots law in relation to cases where a person is extradited to the UK to be sentenced. Section 210 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 makes provision for taking into account time spent in custody awaiting extradition to the UK in cases where a person is extradited to be sentenced. It is out of date in that it refers to the Extradition Act 1989 which is no longer in force. Amendment 95ZC amends this provision to update it in respect of extradition.
In respect of Northern Ireland, Section 38 of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 makes equivalent provision to Section 49 of the Prison Act 1952 in cases where a person is sentenced before extradition to the UK. Amendment 95ZD, and the consequential Amendment 98A to Schedule 9, ensures that time spent in custody awaiting extradition to the UK from another member state is always credited. There is currently no legislative provision in Northern Ireland for taking into account time spent in custody awaiting extradition to the UK from another member state where a person is sentenced after extradition. Amendment 95ZD also amends the relevant law in Northern Ireland to ensure that such credit is given.
Amendments 104A, 104B and 104C to Clause 159 make consequential changes to the extent provisions arising from the two new clauses inserted by Amendments 95ZC and 95ZD. These new provisions will ensure that the UK law is fully in line with Article 26 of the EAW framework decision. Finally, Amendment 99 implements one of the recommendations in the 12th report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. That committee recommended that the order-making power in new Section 189E of the Extradition Act 2003 should be subject to the affirmative procedure. New Section 189E enables the Home Secretary to specify descriptions of persons, other than constables, who may exercise powers of detention, search and seizure in respect of people who are in transit through the UK and being extradited from one foreign territory to another. Such a power might be used, for example, to designate immigration officers. The Government are content to accept the committee’s recommendation in this regard. I beg to move.
Amendment 95ZB agreed.
Clause 149 agreed.
Amendments 95ZC and 95ZD
95ZC: After Clause 149, insert the following new Clause—
“Discount on sentence for time spent in custody awaiting extradition: Scotland
(1) Section 210 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 (consideration of time spent in custody) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1)—
(a) in paragraph (a), after “United Kingdom” there is inserted “otherwise than from a category 1 territory”;(b) in paragraph (c)(ii), for “for the purposes of this section” there is substituted “who was extradited to the United Kingdom otherwise than from a category 1 territory”.(3) After subsection (1) there is inserted—
“(1A) Subsection (1B) applies where—
(a) a court is passing a sentence of imprisonment or detention on a person for an offence, and(b) the person is an extradited prisoner who was extradited to the United Kingdom from a category 1 territory.(1B) The court shall specify—
(a) the period of time spent in custody awaiting extradition, and(b) the date of commencement of the sentence in accordance with subsection (1C). (1C) The date of commencement of the sentence is to be a date the relevant number of days earlier than the date the sentence would have commenced had the person not spent time in custody awaiting extradition.
(1D) In subsection (1C), “the relevant number of days” means the number of days in the period specified under subsection (1B)(a).”
(4) After subsection (2) there is inserted—
“(2A) In this section, “category 1 territory” means a territory designated under the Extradition Act 2003 for the purposes of Part 1 of that Act.”
(5) Subsection (3) is repealed.”
95ZD: After Clause 149, insert the following new Clause—
“Discount on sentence for time spent in custody awaiting extradition: Northern Ireland
(1) In section 38 of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 (arrest, etc, of persons unlawfully at large), for subsection (3) there is substituted—
“(3) The provisions of subsection (2) shall not apply to any period during which any such person—
(a) is detained in pursuance of any other sentence of any court in the United Kingdom in a prison or other institution, or(b) is kept in custody in a category 1 territory before, and only for the purpose of, being extradited to the United Kingdom to serve the term of imprisonment or detention referred to in that subsection,but shall apply in addition to any other provisions of this Act imposing any punishment for an escape. (3A) In subsection (3) “category 1 territory” means a territory designated under the Extradition Act 2003 for the purposes of Part 1 of that Act.”
(2) In section 26 of the Treatment of Offenders Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 (duration of sentence), at the end of subsection (2A) there is inserted “; or
(c) any period during which he was in custody in a category 1 territory with a view to his being extradited to the United Kingdom to be tried or sentenced for that offence (and not for any other reason).In paragraph (c) “category 1 territory” means a territory designated under the Extradition Act 2003 for the purposes of Part 1 of that Act.””
Amendments 95ZC and 95ZD agreed.
Clause 150 agreed.
95A: Before Clause 155, insert the following new Clause—
“Discretion in ordering victim surcharge to offenders under the age of 18
In section 161(A) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (court’s duty to order payment of surcharge), after subsection (4) there is inserted—“(5) In the case of offenders under the age of 18, the ordering of payment of a victim surcharge may be at the discretion of the sentencing body.””
My Lords, I rise to move the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, who cannot be in his place tonight. I shall be uncharacteristically brief. My noble friend draws the attention of the Committee, and indeed mine, to an anomaly in the present situation on victim surcharge orders. The payment may be ordered to be made by the parents of a young offender who are themselves the victims of a crime. That situation cannot possibly have been envisaged originally, but it appears to be the case and there seems to be no court discretion to avoid imposing what many of your Lordships would feel is a ridiculous outcome. The noble Lord may not be able to accept the amendment tonight, but I hope that he will look at it, as it seems to be anomalous and ought to be corrected.
My Lords, let me confirm at once that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, has been uncharacteristically brief. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, was unable to move his amendment because I know of his deep and continuing concern on these matters.
The Government are determined to provide the best support for victims of crime, which must be properly funded, but increasingly by offenders rather than taxpayers. In 2010-11, offenders contributed less than £1 in every £6 of funding that supports victims’ services. We intend to raise up to an additional £50 million from offenders to pay for services to support victims of crime. That is why we brought forward reforms to the victim surcharge last year, following public consultation, to ensure that all offenders bear a greater proportion of the cost of victims’ services. Proceeds from the surcharge are ring-fenced to fund support services for victims and witnesses. From October 2012, the victim surcharge for adult offenders was increased when ordered with a fine and extended to a wider range of in-court disposals such as conditional discharges, community sentences and custodial sentences. Similar provision was made for juvenile offenders who even before the changes made in 2012 were required to pay the surcharge when sentenced to a fine.
A key point of the victim surcharge is that all offenders, including juveniles, take responsibility for their offending behaviour and make a contribution towards funding victims’ services. Juveniles have therefore always been within its scope and I do not believe that it would be right to introduce discretion to exempt them. Having said that, I recognise the concerns of the noble Lord about the practicalities. When the offender is a juvenile, Section 137 of the Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 provides that the parent or guardian might become liable to pay a financial order made by the court. There may, therefore, be circumstances where the parent or guardian of a juvenile becomes liable to pay the victim surcharge when they have been the victim of the offence. We recognise the issue that such cases raise.
Let me reassure the noble Lord that the court does have the discretion not to order the parent or guardian to pay the surcharge if, having regard to the circumstances of the case, it considers that it would be unreasonable to do so. While the court would still need to order the surcharge in respect of the juvenile, there are a number of options open to it when it comes to payment. In this vein, the Justices’ Clerks’ Society issued a circular to its members in June this year outlining some of these approaches. These could include inquiring as to any income the offender may be receiving, particularly if they are older juveniles, in which case responsibility for paying the surcharge would fall directly to the young person. Additionally, in exceptional circumstances, the court has the power to defer payment of the surcharge until such time as it considers the offender would be able to pay it, again making responsibility for paying the surcharge the offender’s rather than that of his or her parents.
We believe that it is right that all offenders, including those aged under 18, should take responsibility and make greater reparation towards the cost of victim support services as a result of their actions. It is therefore appropriate that the surcharge should continue to be ordered when a court deals with an individual, whether as an adult or a juvenile. I hope that I have been able to reassure the noble Lord on the points he raised and that he will be content to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful for what I might best describe as an uncharacteristically helpful and informative response from the noble Lord, which I undertake to convey to my noble friend. We are, of course, entirely with the noble Lord and the Government in wanting to ensure that victims are compensated, especially by those who wrong them. He has adequately explained the situation and my noble friend’s fears seem to be unfounded. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 95A withdrawn.
Clause 155: Court and tribunal fees
95AA: Clause 155, page 125, leave out line 9
My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 95AB, 95BA and 95D in relation to the issue of court and tribunal fees. At Second Reading I described the Bill as not so much a curate’s egg as a curate’s omelette, comprising as it does so many ingredients, both good and bad, mixed up together. It is perhaps fitting that the Committee should end with a debate on a clause which impels me to produce another culinary analogy, for this clause and the process which has informed it can best be described as half-baked.
It is perfectly reasonable to update the fees for proceedings in courts and tribunals to keep pace with inflation and, in appropriate cases, to seek full-cost recovery, provided there is a reasonable and effective scheme for the remission of fees, in whole or in part, for those of modest means or less. Equally, I have few qualms about fees in cases such as those in the commercial court which the Government are anxious to promote internationally as a forum of choice, but the approach of the Government to this clause has been cavalier in the extreme.
On 4 December the Minister wrote to me to say that the Government had launched a consultation on the provisions of Clause 155, as announced the previous day, that is to say four working days before the clause comes to be considered by this House. Had progress been quicker on earlier clauses, we would have reached this clause on the very day that the Minister’s letter reached me. The consultation, incidentally, is to last seven weeks, including the Christmas and new year period. It will end on 21 January, by which time we will presumably have reached Report, if not concluded it, and there will be little or probably no time at all for the Government to give their response before the Bill’s final stage is reached.
That is not all. Impact assessments for these proposals published on 2 December say next to nothing about the impact on claimants applying to tribunals or to the courts, as opposed to the amounts the Government hope to rake in from increased fees. The Government’s attitude to consultation is underlined by paragraph 20 of the current consultation paper which refers to an earlier consultation, CP15/2011, Fees in the High Court and Court of Appeal Civil Division, to which, the consultation paper records,
“the Government has not yet responded”
after some two years, and which are, the consultation paper says, “superseded”—without, I may say, any explanation—by the current proposals.
The saga does not end there—perhaps I should say does not start there—for the Government launched yet another consultation last April, this time on fee remissions for courts and tribunals, with a four-week period for responses, and published their response, conveniently, no doubt, for them on 9 September, when Parliament was in recess. Interestingly, that document introduced a disposable capital test and airily dismissed concerns that this might have a deterrent effect on claimants. There is, incidentally, currently concern about an apparently significant drop in employment tribunal claims following the hotly contested introduction of fees, which were widely regarded as too high. Perhaps the Minister would save me the trouble of tabling a Question by agreeing to write to me in the new year with details of the number of claims before and after the imposition of charges. It is, after all, an analogous situation to that which this clause deals with.
The Government’s latest consultation paper refers to interviews and research, both of which are said to have been the subject of a full report published alongside the consultation, but for which no references are given. Painting, as ever, with a broad brush, the Government say that they believe,
“that all those who issue a court case benefit equally from the existence of the civil justice system as a whole and should share in contributing towards its indirect costs”,
and, therefore, they divide the indirect costs of the system between all cases that are issued. It is not clear to me whether the apportionment applies equally to all cases, or whether it is in some way proportionate to the amount claimed. On the face of it, this looks very like the application of the principle of the poll tax to the cost of making a claim to a court or tribunal.
Paragraph 60 of the consultation proposes to combine the fees for issue and allocation to a track—the small claims track, fast track or multi-track—without any clear explanation of the rationale. Paragraph 63 acknowledges that the hearing fees for the higher track cases are higher than the average cost of such, but it does not propose to adjust them, thereby importing the concept of more than full-cost recovery by the back door. In divorce cases, while the Government say, at paragraph 71, that they will maintain the issue fee at £410, already above the actual cost price of £270, they will impose an extra charge of £300 to cover the cost of the remainder of the proceedings. Given that, in many cases these will be a mere formality, this looks suspiciously like another example of more than full-cost recovery, though not, of course, for the complex cases where there are major issues as to income and property, where such charges might be thought to be not unreasonable.
Ominously, the Government propose changes to the fees in money claims, including, no doubt at the behest, yet again, of their friends in the insurance industry, in personal injury cases. They go so far as to say that their proposals, if applied in their entirety, would lead to reduced fees on claims of around £10,000 or less but, typically, they will not be changing those fees.
The Committee will understand that there are many questions about these proposals, but there is an overriding question about the abuse of the legislative process which, not for the first time, is being perpetrated by this Government. I acknowledge and welcome the concessions made in the Government’s amendments as far as they go. They will ensure that any increase in fees other than inflation-related increases will have to be approved by affirmative resolution, and that is a welcome improvement. But will the Government consider the amendments I have tabled, which seek to ensure that access to justice is a prime consideration before setting the size of the fee increases, and that the remission arrangements are properly scrutinised and agreed? Will they revise the existing remission arrangements in the light of the proposed major changes, and will they review the proposals to take disposable capital into account?
Given the shambles of the process thus far, I have to say that on Report the Opposition may well press for a sunrise clause along the lines of Amendment 95D to ensure that there is proper parliamentary scrutiny of the complete package when its final contents are developed. As I say, that is unlikely to be the case before this Bill receives its Third Reading.
In addition, in the mean time it will be helpful to know whether, in the indefinite age of austerity that the Chancellor has decreed for public services, the principle of full-cost recovery, and especially of more than full-cost recovery, will be extended to other services such as further and higher education, prescription charges or other parts of the health service. By what logic, one wonders, would the Government differentiate between some of the proposals they are making in this Bill, incorporating more than full-cost recovery for access to justice, and those or other public services? I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall not try to follow the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, down his culinary route. One of the pleasures of responding to the noble Lord is that it is almost like doing a school exam. So many questions are fired at you in quick succession. If I do not cover them all in this reply, I will carefully read what he has said, note the question marks that Hansard inserts and try to send suitable replies, including on the point he made in opening about the figures for claims at employment tribunals after the introduction of charges.
Perhaps I may deal first with the two government amendments in the group, namely, Amendments 95B and 95C. These give effect to the recommendation made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee relating to the power to charge enhanced court fees. Clause 155 currently provides that, when the power to set a fee or fees at an enhanced level is used for the first time, the relevant statutory instrument should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, with any subsequent changes to the fee or fees being subject to the negative procedure. The Government’s intention was that the principle of charging an enhanced fee should be subject to a full debate in Parliament, after which the negative procedure would provide the necessary level of parliamentary oversight for any subsequent changes to the fee.
However, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee was concerned that this would provide the Lord Chancellor with a very wide discretion to set the level of fees. Although the legislation requires the Lord Chancellor to have regard to the financial position of the courts and tribunals and to the competitiveness of the legal services market when setting fees, the committee felt it was possible that, in future, very different considerations might apply and that these should be taken into account. The committee therefore recommended that the power to set an enhanced fee should be subject to the affirmative procedure unless the amendment is being made solely to reflect the change in the value of money. The Government agree that this change would be appropriate and, accordingly, Amendments 95B and 95C will implement this recommendation.
I turn now to the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. Amendments 95AA and 95AB seek to require the Lord Chancellor to have regard to the principle of “access to justice” when setting fees. I can wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord that this is an important consideration. However, the Lord Chancellor is already under a duty to do exactly this when setting fees under Section 92 of the Courts Act 2003. Subsection (3) of that section provides that the Lord Chancellor,
“must have regard to the principle that access to the courts must not be denied”.
Amendment 95BA seeks to make the remission scheme subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. As noble Lords will be aware, there is already a remission scheme in place. Indeed, the scheme has been in place for a number of years, but was updated and revised as recently as 7 October 2013 when the Courts and Tribunals Fee Remissions Order 2013 came into force. It is the Government’s intention that the existing remission scheme will continue to apply in all cases where enhanced fees would be introduced.
The current scheme provides for certain court and tribunal fees to be remitted in whole or in part where litigants meet certain criteria based on their disposable capital and gross monthly income. The existing scheme is made under the same order-making powers as apply to the setting of fees, for example, Section 92 of the Courts Act 2003, which relates to fees payable in respect of proceedings in the senior courts, county courts and magistrates’ courts. As the remission scheme relies on the same order-making powers as the statutory instruments prescribing court and tribunal fees, they are subject to the same level of parliamentary procedure—namely, the negative procedure. In its seventh report of Session 2002-03, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee welcomed a government amendment to make the order-making power in what is now Section 92 of the Courts Act 2003 subject to the negative procedure. Given that previous endorsement by the committee, and the fact that the current arrangements have been in place for some years, I see no good reason why we should now alter the level of parliamentary scrutiny.
Finally, Amendment 95D would require the Lord Chancellor to report to Parliament on the outcome of the public consultation on these proposals and to obtain approval for its response. As the noble Lord indicated, the Government on 3 December set out their detailed proposals for using the power to set enhanced fees in the consultation paper, Court Fees: Proposals for reform. This seeks views on a series of proposals for charging enhanced fees, including for money claims, in commercial proceedings and for divorce, alongside proposals for reducing the current deficit of £100 million in the cost of running the Courts and Tribunals Service. The consultation closes on 21 January. In the normal way, we will publish a response to that consultation in due course and Parliament will have an opportunity to consider it when we lay a draft order under Clause 155. I therefore take Amendment 95D as a probing amendment rather than an attempt to enshrine in statute the normal process of reporting on the outcome of a consultation.
As I have said, it is our normal practice to publish a government response to a consultation once we have considered the views of consultees, and we will do so with the response to these proposals. Those enhanced fees we decide to introduce following the consultation will be brought forward by statutory instrument, subject to the affirmative procedure. The Government believe that a full debate in both Houses with the benefit of the consultation outcome will provide sufficient parliamentary scrutiny of the proposed enhanced fee increases.
For all these reasons, the Government consider the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, to be unnecessary. I hope that, as I intend to read his speech carefully to see his questions, he will read my speech carefully to see my answers. I hope he will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I always read the noble Lord’s speeches carefully and I am certainly willing to do so on this occasion. I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, and I suspect that this short debate will be seen as something of an aperitif for the rather more weighty matters that we are about to discuss when the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, moves his prayers to annul two other orders.
The Minister fails to acknowledge, however, that a negative procedure might be sufficient when one is dealing with a stable situation, but the Government are here proposing an entirely new basis for the levying of fees: in the first place, to ensure full-cost recovery, but, more significantly, potentially going beyond that to ensure more than full-cost recovery. That puts a whole different perspective on the likely impact of fees on litigants or applicants to tribunals. In these circumstances, a different procedure than the conventional negative procedure is required, at least in the early stages. This is a matter to which we may wish to return on Report.
The consultation effectively comes after the completion of the process of enacting this Bill, which will allow the Government to introduce new principles. It is the wrong way around: the consultation should have taken place and we should have had the result of that before we discussed this clause, which makes a significant difference to the way our courts operate. It is now too late for that to happen and that is a matter of regret. I am afraid that I do not resile for a moment from the criticisms I made, not of the Minister, who is not personally responsible—he is well aware of that—but of others occupying, perhaps, more senior positions, who ought to reflect on the way they are treating Parliament and its due processes when they push forward proposals of this kind in this way. Nevertheless, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 95AA withdrawn.
Amendment 95AB not moved.
95B: Clause 155, page 125, line 24, leave out “for the first time”
Amendment 95B agreed.
Amendment 95BA not moved.
95C: Clause 155, page 125, line 27, at end insert—
“(8) But subsection (7) does not apply if the statutory instrument only adjusts a fee to reflect changes in the value of money.”
Amendment 95C agreed.
Clause 155, as amended, agreed.
Amendment 95D not moved.
Clause 156 agreed.
Schedule 9: Minor and consequential amendments
Amendment 96 not moved.
Amendments 97 to 99
97: Schedule 9, page 193, line 21, at end insert—
“Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60)(1) Schedule 2A to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (fingerprinting and samples: power to require attendance at police station) is amended as follows.
(2) In paragraph 1 (fingerprinting: persons arrested and released)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (2), for “section 61(5A)(b)” there is substituted “section 61(5A)(b)(i)”;(b) after sub-paragraph (3) there is inserted—“(4) The power under sub-paragraph (1) above may not be exercised in a case falling within section 61(5A)(b)(ii) (fingerprints destroyed where investigation interrupted) after the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which the investigation was resumed.” (3) In paragraph 2 (fingerprinting: persons charged etc)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (2)(b), for “section 61(5B)(b)” there is substituted “section 61(5B)(b)(i)”;(b) at the end of sub-paragraph (2) there is inserted “, or(c) in a case falling within section 61(5B)(b)(ii) (fingerprints destroyed where investigation interrupted), the day on which the investigation was resumed.”(4) In paragraph 9 (non-intimate samples: persons arrested and released)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (2), for “within section 63(3ZA)(b)” there is substituted “within section 63(3ZA)(b)(i) or (ii)”;(b) after sub-paragraph (3) there is inserted—“(4) The power under sub-paragraph (1) above may not be exercised in a case falling within section 63(3ZA)(b)(iii) (sample, and any DNA profile, destroyed where investigation interrupted) after the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which the investigation was resumed.”(5) In paragraph 10 (non-intimate samples: persons charged etc)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (3), for “within section 63(3A)(b)” there is substituted “within section 63(3A)(b)(i) or (ii)”;(b) after sub-paragraph (4) there is inserted—“(5) The power under sub-paragraph (1) above may not be exercised in a case falling within section 63(3A)(b)(iii) (sample, and any DNA profile, destroyed where investigation interrupted) after the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which the investigation was resumed.””
98: Schedule 9, page 196, line 21, at end insert—
“Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30) In Schedule 4, in paragraph 1(2), the word “and” at the end of paragraph (ca).”
“Police Reform Act 2002 (c. 30)
In Schedule 4, in paragraph 1(2), the word “and” at the end of paragraph (ca).”
98A: Schedule 9, page 197, line 2, at end insert—
“Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 (c. 18)In section 38 of the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 (arrest, etc, of persons unlawfully at large), in subsection (4), for “the last foregoing sub-section” there is substituted “subsection (2)”.”
98B: Schedule 9, page 199, line 11, at end insert—
“(1) Section 204 of that Act (warrant issued by category 1 territory: transmission by electronic means) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsections (1)(c) and (2)(c), for “a qualifying form” there is substituted “a form in which it is intelligible and which is capable of being used for subsequent reference”.
(3) In subsection (6)—
(a) at the end of paragraph (a) there is inserted “and”;(b) paragraph (c) and the word “and” before it are omitted.”
99: Schedule 9, page 199, line 28, at end insert—
Amendments 97 to 99 agreed.
Schedule 9, as amended, agreed.
Clause 157: Orders and regulations
100: Clause 157, page 126, line 5, leave out “containing an” and insert “containing—
( ) an order under section 4(5),( ) an order under section 50(4), or( ) an”
Amendment 100 agreed.
Amendment 100A not moved.
Clause 157, as amended, agreed.
Clause 158 agreed.
Clause 159: Extent
Amendments 101 to 104C
101: Clause 159, page 126, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) sections (Information about guests at hotels believed to be used for child sexual exploitation) to (Offences);”
102: Clause 159, page 126, line 41, leave out “section” and insert “sections (Power to take further fingerprints or non-intimate samples), (Power to retain fingerprints or DNA profile in connection with different offence) and”
103: Clause 159, page 126, line 42, leave out “135” and insert “(Powers of community support officers) and Schedule (Powers of community support officers)”
104: Clause 159, page 127, line 5, leave out “, 101” and insert “to (Possession of firearms by persons previously convicted of crime)”
104A: Clause 159, page 127, line 21, leave out “and” and insert “to”
104B: Clause 159, page 127, line 23, leave out “Section 109 extends” and insert “Sections 109 and (Discount on sentence for time spent in custody awaiting extradition: Scotland) extend”
104C: Clause 159, page 127, line 24, leave out “Section 120 extends” and insert “Sections 120 and (Discount on sentence for time spent in custody awaiting extradition: Northern Ireland) extend”
Amendments 101 to 104C agreed.
Clause 159, as amended, agreed.
Clause 160: Commencement
Amendment 105 not moved.
Clause 160 agreed.
Clause 161 agreed.
Bill reported with amendments.