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Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]

Volume 802: debated on Monday 23 March 2020


Schedule: Power of arrest for extradition purposes

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: The Schedule, page 3, line 15, leave out from “judge” to end of line 19 and insert “as soon as practicable.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is to make the period within which a person must be brought before a judge consistent with other provisions of the Extradition Act 2003.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who has led for the Liberal Democrat Benches until now, regrets that under the advice of the Government and the Lord Speaker she cannot be here today.

Amendment 1 addresses new Section 74A, which requires someone who is arrested to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. However, no account is taken of weekends and bank holidays in calculating 24 hours—so, for example, someone could be arrested without judicial involvement on the Friday afternoon before a bank holiday until the following Tuesday. Concerns were expressed about this on Second Reading, and in Committee on 5 March in debate on my noble friend Lady Hamwee’s then Amendment 3. We have now reworded the amendment so that this Amendment 1 would add that someone should be brought before a judge “as soon as practicable”. The Government claim that wording other than that in the Bill is operationally unworkable because the courts do not sit at the weekend, but in Committee the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who sadly also cannot be in his place today, said in support of changing the wording:

“Would you believe it, there is a judge on duty all weekend, every weekend, and all night”,

and that, if the provisional arrest happens over the weekend,

“it can be treated as urgent business.”

Both the noble and learned Lords, Lord Judge and Lord Mackay, took issue with what the phrase “brought before” means in 2020, with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, pointing out that:

“It is questionable whether the word ‘brought’ requires the physical presence of the judge and the particular person so that they should be facing each other directly. Nowadays we have all sorts of technology that enables people to encounter each other while not in one another’s physical presence.”

The noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said on behalf of the Government in Committee that it was

“the statutory intention that the person should be brought before a judge in person. It is an additional safeguard and a better situation for them to be seen in person before a judge.”

I am not really in a position to assess it, but I must admit that I am not convinced that is necessarily the case. We will of course see remote digital contacts in the justice system rolled out even more in present circumstances. In any case, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, responded:

“If that is the problem, we need to amend the legislation to make it clear that ‘brought before’ does not mean that there is a personal, direct, physical confrontation.”

He said he was very willing to talk to the Government about that.

On another angle, we were told in Committee that it was the Government’s

“intention to replicate the … provisions under the Extradition Act”,—[Official Report, 5/3/20; cols. GC 367-368.]

with the implication that new Section 74A did that. But the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, also explicitly acknowledged that the words in that Extradition Act 2003, in Sections 72(3) and 74(3) covering both an arrest under warrant and a provisional arrest in a Part 2 scenario, say:

“The person must be brought as soon as practicable before the appropriate judge.”

That is precisely the wording we want in Amendment 1. We on these Benches remain simply puzzled. If the Bill replicates or mirrors an existing provision—one we have not managed to find—can the Government explain precisely how? At the moment I cannot see how that is the case. In the absence of that explanation, we continue to believe that the Government need to change course. As far as we can see, it is Amendment 1, not the wording in the Bill, that mirrors that in the 2003 Act and aims for—and, we believe, achieves—clarity and consistency.

My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, highlights the need for caution over any period of detention before an individual is brought before the judge. From the points just made, I think the House can agree that it is unclear why these detention periods are inconsistent in different cases. The efforts to draw the House’s attention to this certainly have the support of this side of the House. I hope the Minister can offer the House an explanation as to the reason behind this inconsistency between urgent cases under the 2003 Act’s category 1 and category 2.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, for her explanation and the noble Lord, Lord Wood. As noble Lords will know, the courts to which all extradition suspects must be taken, whether arrested under Part 1 or Part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003—as currently or as amended by this Bill—are Westminster Magistrates’ Court for England and Wales, Edinburgh Sheriff Court for Scotland and Belfast magistrates’ court for Northern Ireland. Currently, the person arrested under the Act must generally be brought before the appropriate judge “as soon as practicable” following arrest. Under the new power of provisional arrest in this Bill, it must occur “within 24 hours”.

The reason the Bill was originally drafted in this way was to strike a balance between getting arrested individuals before a judge as quickly as possible—the point the noble Lord, Lord Wood, makes—and allowing the police sufficient time to gather supporting information. This mirrored, in a more stringent form, the approach to provisional arrest in Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003, which requires an individual to be brought before an appropriate judge within 48 hours of arrest. But I am conscious that the drafting departs from the general requirement currently imposed on the police after they make arrests under other existing powers in the Extradition Act 2003—the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, makes.

I listened carefully at Second Reading and in Committee, and I have concluded that the new power of arrest in the Bill should be consistent in this respect with existing law and practice in relation to Part 2 of the 2003 Act and should therefore mirror the wording “as soon as practicable”. This will ensure that individuals are not detained for any longer than is strictly necessary. If, for example, an individual is arrested in central London, “as soon as practicable” would in all probability be within 24 hours. Our operational partners have already proved themselves effective at producing wanted persons before courts within strict timeframes, and the three UK extradition courts have proved strict arbiters of police actions under the “as soon as practicable” requirement.

Therefore, I intend to introduce a government amendment to this effect at Third Reading to address those concerns. The amendment will leave out the words “within 24 hours” and insert “as soon as practicable” in their place, as well as consequently deleting the express exclusion of weekends and bank holidays in the calculation of the 24-hour period. While the language will not explicitly rule out production on weekends or bank holidays, these factors will, of course, be relevant to the practicability of bringing an individual before an appropriate judge. If public holidays or court opening times were to change in future, the legislation would not need to be amended to take account of that. It remains the Government’s intention that the arrested person be brought before a judge sitting in court and so the concept of “as soon as practicable” will remain subject to court sitting times, which are determined by the judiciary. There may, of course, be a multitude of other factors which affect, in the individual case, the practicability of bringing an individual before a judge, such as distance, natural disasters or illness of the arrested individual. We continue to think it is right, therefore, that the judiciary is the arbiter, in the individual case, of whether this test of “as soon as practicable” is met, and it will be able to do so in determining any application for discharge under Section 74D(10).

I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord are content with those intentions, which I will bring back at Third Reading, and that the noble Baroness will be happy to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for having productively reflected on this. I can see the original attraction of a rigid time limit, and the Minister is right that there is inconsistency in the Extradition Act 2003, because there is a 48-hour limit for provisional arrest in Part 1. Perhaps that is what guided the drafting of the original Bill. As the Minister said, the experience of the relevant courts dealing with extradition in the different jurisdictions is that they are prompt and do not sit on these things. Therefore we can rely on the operations of the courts to make sure that “as soon as practicable” happens and that it is only some kind of force majeure that stops that being very soon, taking into account what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said at Second Reading and in Committee about the ability of a judge to be available, certainly in the Westminster court, on a Saturday. I am very grateful and look forward to the amendment that the Minister intends to bring back at Third Reading.

Forgive me if, in all the turmoil at the moment, my knowledge of procedure has gone slightly AWOL: I think I still need to move the amendment. No? Okay, then I shall withdraw it. I am obviously not very good at this—that is why we need my noble friend Lady Hamwee here. I end by saying that on the basis of the assurances and promises of the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: The Schedule, page 4, line 38, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations made under subsection (7)(a) shall designate no more than one territory.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would require regulations which add, vary or remove a reference to a territory under Schedule A1 to contain no more than one territory. This will allow Parliament to reject a particular territory.

My Lords, again I am moving this amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. It is the same as Amendment 9 in Committee, though with a slight drafting change to refer to “regulations” rather than “orders”. We are pleased that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Kennedy, have added their names and we understand why they are not able to be here today. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, would have added his name had there been space.

As my noble friend Lady Hamwee explained in Committee, it is essential to allow additions to the Schedule for only one territory at a time. We can envisage a scenario in which the Government wish to add a whole raft of states to the Schedule all at once. For the sake of argument, let us imagine that would consist of all EU and EEA states and that in the list there is a country that might be an EU-associated country, such as Turkey, but one over which considerable human rights concerns exist. I seem to be quoting a lot from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, but he always says very wise things. In Committee, he said:

“We all know that there are countries in the world that do not respect the rule of law. I will not set about trying to give your Lordships a list because the list itself changes. Countries that respected the rule of law no longer do. Weimar Germany did; Hitler’s Germany did not. This is a moveable feast.”—[Official Report, 5/3/20; col. 378GC.]

That is a very good point. Turkey was making very good progress in democracy and human rights a decade ago, but it regressed, regrettably.

There is great concern that the Government want to give themselves wide powers for the Secretary of State to add countries to the list en bloc. I think it was in Committee that the Minister said that the Government had no intention of specifying countries likely to abuse the system to political ends. I utterly believe what she said, but I again quote the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who raised at Second Reading the fear that

“in the real world we are surely not going to be so naive as to believe that all sorts of motives—a possible trade deal, a plea just to be good friends with us, political beliefs, sympathy with a tyrannical regime—may not lead”—[Official Report, 4/2/20; col. 1731.]

to an addition to the list in the Schedule, although he certainly excused our present Minister from falling prey to such motivation.

The non-governmental organisation Fair Trials International, for which I have been pleased to work for 20 years and of which I am a patron, has done excellent work on the abuse of Interpol red notices where countries use them against political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists living in exile. The journalist Bill Browder was famously the victim of one from Russia and wrote a book called Red Notice. There are numerous examples of such countries and one would not expect them to be added to the list—Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Egypt and many others where Interpol red notices have been used in a very questionable way. I do not think that the argument the Minister used in Committee—essentially that “one at a time is not how we do things”—is quite good enough. She said

“it is common practice to allow for multiple territories to be specified together for similar legislation.”—[Official Report, 5/3/20; col. 382GC.]

But I am not convinced that it needs to be invariable practice. It may have been common practice up to now, but we are not obliged to follow that. It is perfectly simple to do it one country at a time. This will not cause Whitehall to collapse in shock.

Our amendment could actually help the Government, as it would avoid Parliament rejecting the inclusion of a list that had good states as well as a bad state. We would not have to reject them all because of the inclusion of a single bad state, if I can use that shorthand. It would allow for the sensible, responsible outcome of bringing the respectable states into the provisional arrest arrangement while excluding a state that did not respect the rule of law and human rights.

Accepting this amendment would not lead to any delay as two or more sets of regulations, each relating to a single territory, could be tabled at the same time. We would not lose time. Ministers have been keen to stress that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, supports the Bill, but I as I read his letter, he was supporting the general proposition, which is fair enough, but he was not commenting on this sort of detail, so will the Minister have a another look at this? We on these Benches would be happy to have a meeting to discuss it. We are keen to understand whether there is any substantive reason for rejecting the amendment, which, to be honest, we do not see at present.

In normal circumstances, we would be keen to test the opinion of the House on this, but since these are not normal times, will the Minister let us return to this matter at Third Reading, in the way that she has so helpfully promised that we could do on Amendment 1? We are firm on the substance of Amendment 2, in the same way as on Amendment 1, but we are flexible on the timing, so I hope that the Minister can respond in that vein. I beg to move.

I will speak to Amendment 2, and Amendment 3 in the name of my noble friend Lord Kennedy, who is unable to be here today. As we have just heard, Amendment 2 would require regulations that add, vary or remove a reference to a territory to contain no more than one territory. Allowing Parliament to reject a single territory would a create a valuable scrutiny mechanism for when either House has concerns to raise over a specific individual country that the Government intend to add, because there will be occasions when the merits of adding individual territories are disputed. The amendment would create an important safeguard to exercise scrutiny in such circumstances and we support it.

In recognition of the powers in this Bill to add, remove or vary territories, Amendment 3 would create conditions for when the Government choose to exercise these powers. To this end, the amendment seeks to create a new process that means that the Government must take three further steps before adding and removing territories. The first condition for the Government to meet is to consult with the devolved Administrations and non-governmental organisations—the devolved Administrations because there will be certain powers relating to justice, policing and prisons that are devolved, and the non-governmental organisations to understand better any issues that arise from individual territories relating, for example, to the human rights records of the countries concerned.

The second condition is that the Government must produce an assessment of the risks of each change, which would put on record the Government’s rationale for signing the agreement, and allow for parliamentary scrutiny. The final condition is that if a new country is added, the Government must confirm that the country does not abuse the Interpol red notice system. That would make it clear that the Secretary of State responsible must not sign agreements with countries that have questionable records on human rights.

Although we fully accept the need to add further territories as treaties are negotiated, the Government must add only those that comply with our values. I am sure that all noble Lords would agree with that. While we fully accept that it may be necessary to remove or vary territories, it is important that the Government are transparent about their rationale and offer themselves to the scrutiny of Parliament. Will the Minister allay our concerns about the rationale and availability of scrutiny and about consulting with the devolved Administrations and NGOs by confirming that the Government already intend to consult and open themselves to scrutiny when they add or remove further territories?

My Lords, we on these Benches support Amendment 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. We hope that the Government will confirm the involvement of the devolved Administrations and believe that there is a strong case to be made for consulting NGOs that have experience of the country concerned, however knowledgeable the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be.

On the “risks” mentioned in paragraph (b) of the amendment, I imagine that the noble Lord means that he expects the Government to make an assessment of balance and proportionality in whatever conclusion they reach on the suitability of a country to be included.

Of course, we totally support his reference in paragraph (c) to the need to avoid the abuse of Interpol red notices, to which I referred in moving Amendment 1. I have said that I am a patron of Fair Trials International and I want to give it a plug: it has done sterling work on this issue in the past few years and can, I believe, take considerable credit for the reforms that have been made to Interpol red notices so far. They do not go far enough but reference has been made in previous stages of the Bill to the fact that some reform is going on at Interpol; that needs to improve because there is still the problem of abuse. Perhaps one day there will not be and we can look again, but, for the moment, Amendment 3 is very appropriate.

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords who have spoken. I was looking at the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, slightly strangely because it is unusual to speak twice on the same group of amendments. It really does not matter because these are very unusual times, so it is not a precedent.

I do not know whether noble Lords want me to go through the full arguments today or whether they want to return to them at Third Reading; I sense that that is the mood of the House. Noble Lords have made their arguments. For the reason that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, is not here and would like a further crack at this whip, I suggest that we let this lie for the moment and return to it at Third Reading, if that is okay with noble Lords.

I am sorry to interrupt. The sensibility behind the noble Baroness’s comment is that this a matter that we can come back to at Third Reading. Without wishing to be overly bureaucratic about it, following her helpful line in allowing issues on Report to be taken in a more relaxed way, a rule in the Companion is quite clear that it is with the leave of the Minister that matters can be raised again. Is she saying that, if these amendments are withdrawn, she will accept that they may be brought back for further debate and discussion? That would be sufficient for the clerks to be able to allow us to do that.

I most certainly am saying that. For me to lay out arguments today, with the noble Baroness saying what she said about coming back to this at Third Reading, would seem a little futile. That is absolutely what I am saying.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Amendment 3 not moved.

Sitting suspended.