Baroness Williams of Trafford
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for their points on these amendments. They have been grouped together as dealing with the functions of the designated authority and the criteria applied by it in certifying requests.
Amendment 4 proposes a new criterion for certification. This would require the designated authority to be satisfied that the request is not politically motivated. Making consideration of political motivation a precondition of certification for the designated authority would reverse the present position for arrests under the Extradition Act 2003. Presently, the courts are required to consider during the substantive extradition hearing whether any of the statutory bars to extradition apply. These statutory bars include whether the request for extradition is made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing an individual on account of their political opinions—that comes under Section 81 of the Extradition Act 2003. The Government’s position remains that it is right that the judge considers these points based on all the evidence before him or her during the substantive hearing and not the NCA prior to arrest. It is the judge who is ultimately accountable.
Furthermore, we are all aware that the Extradition Act contains substantial safeguards in respect of requests motivated by reason of the requested person’s political views. These safeguards will continue to apply, and we fully expect the courts to continue to exercise their powers of scrutiny as usual.
Arguments of political motivation are of course not usually simple. It is right that the question of whether an individual extradition request can be described as politically motivated should be assessed by a judge before an open court. It is vital, of course, that the requested person should be able to put their arguments on this basis to a judge, but it is also crucial, in the fulfilment of our obligations under the international arrangements on extradition that give rise to such proceedings, that the requesting authority should be able to respond to such arguments and put their own case as to why the request is not politically motivated. This should be openly and fairly arbitrated, so importing this consideration into the process for determining whether an individual may be arrested would be at odds with existing extradition law. Noble Lords will be aware that judges and justices of the peace are not required to consider such factors when deciding whether to issue an arrest warrant under Section 71 or Section 73 of the 2003 Act.
Were the designated authority to make such a deliberation in effectively, it would need to be able to invite representations on the point from both the requesting authority and the requested person in each case before certification. Not only would this be hugely resource-intensive, it would also advertise to the wanted person that they are wanted. I should note that the designated authority, as a public body, would already be under an obligation to act compatibly with convention rights under Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. At the point of certification, this will include consideration of whether an arrest is ECHR-compatible.
I bring the attention of noble Lords to the types of territories proposed as appropriate specified territories. These are democracies whose criminal justice systems are rooted in the rule of law. I am certain Parliament would not accept the addition to the schedule of territories that we believed would send the UK politically motivated arrest requests. I hope I have been able to persuade the noble Baroness that there is no gap in safeguards here and that, consequently, she will be content with withdraw her amendment.
She also asked what is meant by the “seriousness of the conduct”. The language mirrors the test in Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003. As she thought, there is indeed case law on the point. The intention is to capture only conduct sufficiently serious to ensure that the power is used only where proportionate. For example, the minor theft of an item of food from a supermarket or a very small amount of money is unlikely, without exceptional circumstances, to be sufficiently serious. Only when the designated authority decides that the offence satisfies the test will it be able to certify the request.
I turn now to Amendment 5, which seeks to define the designated authority as the National Crime Agency in the Bill. Our approach here mirrors that of the designation of the authority responsible for certification of European arrest warrants under Part 1 of the Act. The Government consider that the designation of the authority responsible for issuing a certificate is an appropriate matter to be left to secondary legislation. A regulation-making power affords the appropriate degree of flexibility to amend the designated authority in light of changing circumstances, including alterations to the functions of law enforcement bodies in the UK. To future-proof the legislation, the Government believe that the current drafting leaves an appropriate amount of flexibility. As I said, the Government’s intention is initially to designate the NCA, which is the UK’s national central bureau for Interpol, as the designated authority. I hope I have persuaded the noble Lord that we have got the balance right and that he will be content not to press his amendment.
I turn finally to Amendment 11, on requests made in the “approved way”. My noble friend’s amendment suggests that a request should be considered to have been made in the approved way only if it is made by an authority that has the function of making such requests in the territory concerned, rather than an authority which the designated authority believes to have this function.
Perhaps I may momentarily be a bit philosophical. The amendment attempts to base the assessment of the authority’s function on an objective truth. That is admirable from the point of view of legal certainty, but the designated authority does not have a monopoly on truth. The best it could do in practice, when making the assessment described in the amendment, would be to decide, to the best of its ability, whether the authority in question has the function of making such requests, arriving at what I think we would characterise as being a belief that it does so. Of course, the designated authority, as a public body, must take decisions that are reasonable and rational.
As such, we expect there to be no difference between how the assessment would be made in practice under the amendment and how it would be made under the existing text. The benefit of the text, as we have proposed it, is that it mirrors language elsewhere in the Extradition Act—for example, when the designated authority under Part 1 may issue a certificate in relation to a warrant and when the Secretary of State may issue a certificate under Part 2.
On the perceived risk implicit in Amendment 11A—that an arrested person could be rearrested for the same thing, having been discharged by a court, perhaps because they were not produced at court on time or for some other failing—I reassure the Committee that this is neither the intention nor the effect of the new sections in the Bill. New Section 74A(8) makes clear that an arrested person may
“not be arrested again in reliance of the same certificate”
if they have previously been discharged. The intention of this drafting is to stipulate that an individual may not be arrested again on the basis of the same international arrest request once a judge has discharged them. This mirrors Section 6 of the Extradition Act 2003, which provides for the same thing, where a person provisionally arrested on the basis of a belief relating to a European arrest warrant may not be arrested again on the basis of a belief relating to the same European arrest warrant.
On top of that, new Section 74B(3) requires that a certificate has to have been withdrawn before any arrest takes place to allow a new one to be issued relating to the same request. This again illustrates that a further certificate cannot simply be issued on the basis of the same request once an individual arrested under this power has been discharged by a judge.
Of course, it is vital that a certificate can be issued on the basis of a new request, or on the basis of a wholly different request, so that an individual wanted for another crime is not immune to any further arrest because they were once arrested and discharged for a different crime. Organised transnational offences, such as people trafficking, often involve offences in different countries, on different dates, with different victims, and no individual should be able to avoid answering for more than one serious crime using a legal loophole. The amendment would create that impunity. For that reason, I hope I have been able to persuade the noble Baroness and that she will be happy not to press that amendment.
Amendment 11C would require an affirmative resolution procedure to apply to any statutory instrument that designates an authority as a “designated authority”. Given that the framework and criteria for the issuing of a certificate are provided for in the Bill, we consider that the negative resolution procedure affords an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny. We have plainly set out what the designated authority will do and how they must do it. Which particular body exercises that function is not, in our view, a matter that needs to be subject to debate in both Houses. The use of the power to designate an authority is necessary to accommodate any changing circumstances, including alterations to the functions of law enforcement bodies in the UK, and we consider it appropriate that we can respond to this promptly. The application of the negative procedure is also, again, completely consistent with the procedure for designating an authority for the purposes of issuing a certificate in respect of a European arrest warrant under Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003.
I am sorry for my long-winded response to these several amendments. I hope the noble Baroness and the noble Lord are happy not to press their amendments.