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Extradition Arrangements: European Union Member States

Volume 809: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what reciprocal extradition arrangements are in place for the surrender of nationals between the United Kingdom and the European Union member states where the surrender of such nationals to a third country is forbidden or restricted by law.

My Lords, some EU member states operate on the fundamental principle that they cannot extradite their citizens outside the EU. We have ensured in our new arrangements that there is a path to justice in each case—for example, by requiring a member state that refuses to refer the case to its own prosecuting authorities.

I thank the Minister for her Answer. We all know about the difficulties with the United States in the tragic Harry Dunn case; despite the pleas of the Foreign Secretary, it refuses to extradite an American lady for serious offences committed on British soil. Is it now the same with Europe? What differences are there between our arrangements today with the 27 EU states in our new status as a third country, so far as they are concerned, and our long-time arrangements with the USA?

The fundamental difference between then and now is the additional safeguards built into the proceedings, which in my view make them a more effective set of arrangements. There is also the notion of proportionality, which is crucial for both accused and victim.

My Lords, the Home Secretary claims that Brexit makes us safer. Is the sharp decrease in extradition cases at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, from about 10 cases a day to about one, a direct result of losing fast access to the European crime DNA databases? Does this reflect the position nationally?

We are on day 14 of the new arrangements so it is probably a bit difficult to give reliable data at this point. The agreement allows UK law enforcement to continue to share DNA and fingerprints so I am slightly confused by the premise of the noble and learned Lord’s question.

Will the Minister set out what the extra safeguards are to which she referred and how she envisages they will work in practice?

The additional safeguards, beyond those in the European arrest warrant framework decision, make clear that a person cannot be surrendered if their fundamental rights are at risk—which might include things such as political views, sexual orientation, race and religion—if extradition would be disproportionate or if they are likely to face long periods of pre-trial detention.

My Lords, the late, lamented European arrest warrant certainly brought benefits in cross-border justice, but there is a presumption that the rule of law is the same in all EU states, which it is not. Could my noble friend look at political interference and corruption in any extradition or asylum case, particularly in the case of Alexander Adamescu, a German national fighting extradition to Romania under some very dubious circumstances?

My noble friend outlines the answer to the previous question about extradition for political reasons. That is not allowed under our arrangements.

My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the additional cost of trials of those wanted in the UK having to take place in the accused’s home country, and to what extent will that be a consideration in deciding whether to pursue a prosecution?

As I said to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, it is probably quite early to say what those additional costs would be, but the decision on whether to pursue a trial would be based not on costs but on the likelihood of that trial being successful, either for the accused or indeed for the victim.

My Lords, many people felt that the European arrest warrant offered insufficient safeguards for the rights of those accused of crimes overseas. Can the Minister assure us that the replacement arrangements for the European arrest warrant offer solid and reciprocal protection, as far as possible, for the rights of the accused?

I can certainly assure my noble friend that the principle of proportionality is implemented in UK law through Sections 2, 12A and 21A of the Extradition Act 2003. It enshrines the principle of proportionality, which allows the UK to reject warrants where extradition would not be proportionate to the alleged conduct or where other, less intrusive measures could be used to progress an investigation. This is a much-needed improvement on the previous arrangements.

My Lords, what steps have been taken to identify and appoint those persons who are to serve as our representatives on the very important specialised committee to which Article 83 of the “Surrender” part of the trade and co-operation agreement refers?

As the Minister said, our trade and co-operation agreement with the EU makes clear that extradition can be refused where a person’s fundamental rights are at risk or where

“they are likely to face long delays of pretrial detention”.

What are the Government going to do to ensure that delays, particularly in the current situation, and an overreliance on detention do not prevent extradition or the pursuit of justice?

The pursuit of justice is paramount but so are the issues of fundamental rights. There is no reason why the new system should not be as swift but, as my noble friends have outlined, it is very important that some of those fundamental rights are upheld.

My Lords, what are we to rely on in these matters, the Panglossian statements of the Home Secretary or the experience of a former National Security Adviser, the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, who has said publicly that our position now in these matters is one of damage limitation?

By chance, I heard the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, outlining some of his concerns on the radio. I bow to his expertise but there is probably some difference in our interpretation of what he outlined, particularly on access to databases and the sharing of information.

My Lords, together with our departure from the Schengen Information System, there appears to be no replacement for the respective instruments on joint investigative teams, the enforcement of fines, the enforcement of non-custodial measures and prisoner transfer. Please will the Minister tell the House how these gaps will be filled?

The noble Lord will know that the EU maintained that it was legally impossible to offer SIS II to a non-Schengen third country so we have reverted to Interpol, which is a tried and tested mechanism of co-operation. Regarding the joint investigative teams, the UK will be able to continue running and participating in those with EU member states and third countries on a non-EU legal basis. Prisoner transfers are a Ministry of Justice lead. The EU did not want to include arrangements on them in the agreement but we will continue to transfer foreign offenders back to their home states using the existing Council of Europe convention, as well as accepting the repatriation of any British citizen imprisoned by an EU member state who is eligible and wants to return to the UK to serve their sentence.

My Lords, on the day when the United States has executed a woman for the first time in 67 years, it is fitting that we should be addressing the subject of extradition. Even without the death penalty, the plea-bargaining system produces unjust results. Would the Minister feel confident about UK citizens being extradited for a vengeful trial in the US legal system?

The noble Baroness will know that we are against the death penalty in all cases. I have talked about some of the fundamental rights and that may or may not be included in them, but we are against the death penalty. The noble Baroness is talking about the EU; it is important that people are brought to justice but it is also important that their fundamental rights are upheld.

My Lords, all supplementary questions have been asked on this Question, which shows that it can be done with sensible discipline.