Clause 17 - Speciality

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 14 Ionawr 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:25, 14 Ionawr 2003

The clause relates to the rule of speciality, under which a person cannot be prosecuted for an offence other than the one for which he was extradited once he has been extradited to another country.

We had some doubt about whether amendment No. 95 was the right amendment. It would remove the possibility of another state being able to prosecute a person for an additional offence, even with the consent of the district judge after a hearing. There is no reason to do that. Speciality waivers, although rare, are a

long-standing feature of our extradition arrangements, and we should not create a situation in which we cannot agree to a request to put on trial someone who has been extradited from the United Kingdom if evidence comes to light that they are guilty of a different serious crime. I listened carefully to the example given by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. He admitted that it was not about speciality, but said that it highlighted a problem that may occur.

Speciality would not give other countries the ability that the hon. Gentleman alleges in the circumstances that he described to the Committee. All the evidence that he cited suggested that, in the case of a close European partner, justice would be served by making our lines of communication as short as possible and returning the person to that country as quickly as possible, where the case against him could be quickly dismissed. Under the existing arrangements, if the Belgian authorities wanted to make a fresh application in that case, they would have to make it to the country to which the person had returned, so they would have to reapply to the Dutch. I do not accept the lesson that the hon. Gentleman is giving.

I do not know the details of individual cases that are raised in Committee, but it is as likely that the problem was caused by long lines of communication as by our long-winded extradition arrangements before the introduction of the Bill. It is not likely that any problem would occur because of the current speciality agreement or the speciality agreement that will exist once the Bill has been enacted.

The framework decision allows countries to declare that other countries that make a similar declaration can, after extradition, presume our consent to a person being prosecuted for offences committed before the extradition took place but that were not part of the original request. It was, and is, our intention to make such a declaration. Requests for waiver of speciality and re-extradition are not common. However, if such requests are received, our response should be guided by the principles of mutual recognition. I believe that we can trust our EU partners not to abuse the trust that we place in them. They are all signatories to the European convention on human rights, which guarantees a fair trial.

Amendment No. 94 would remove the ability of the requesting state to prosecute for offences not punishable by imprisonment without the UK's consent. Let us suppose that we returned a person to stand trial for a very serious offence, and that, once the person had returned, the requesting state discovered that he had committed a string of minor offences. The amendment proposes that those offences should be subject to an entirely separate extradition request, and that they cannot be dealt with as part of the case being heard against the returned offender.