Parliament scrutiny committee savages EU arrest warrant proposals


The Bill proposes fundamental changes to the current system of extradition to and from the UK. In particular, it makes provision in UK domestic law for the introduction of a European Arrest Warrant by implementing the EU framework decision of June 2002. The Bill creates two categories of countries: category 1 territories which will qualify for "fast-track" extradition arrangements, based on "taking on trust" those countries' judicial and administrative systems; and category 2 territories which will be subject to a streamlined version of the existing extradition procedures. The Government intends that all EU member states will be in category 1.

The Committee express concern about some important aspects of the decision to adopt the European Arrest Warrant. In particular, they are concerned about the erosion of the safeguard of "dual criminality" (whereby the offence for which extradition is sought must also constitute an offence under UK law) and the ill-defined nature of the 32 categories of offence which will be exempt from the dual criminality requirement. They note in particular the fact that no debate on this issue was held on the floor of the House of Commons. They acknowledge that the UK is now committed to the adoption of the European Arrest Warrant, but recommend that the Home Secretary give consideration to a proposal aimed at providing some safeguard against abuses of this new procedure. This is that in each case, when the judge is of opinion that the alleged offence is not a crime in the UK, a separate decision as to whether to extradite should be taken by the Home Secretary.

The Committee then examines the Government's proposals in detail. They welcome some of the changes made by the Government following earlier consultation. However, they have serious concerns about some provisions in the Bill. In particular:

1. The Committee rejects the proposal that the Government should be able to add non-EU countries to category 1 (thus enabling them to benefit from fast-track procedures). They are further concerned about the Government's proposal that this should be done at its own discretion and without appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.

2. The Committee recommends that countries which retain the death penalty should be ineligible to be added to category 1.

3. The Committee expresses dismay at what it calls the 'extraordinary' decision by the Home Office to go further than is required by the EU (by removing the dual criminality protection in relation to offences carrying a maximum penalty of at least 12 months, instead of the three years required by the EU).

4. The Committee recommends that the list of 32 categories of offence be imported directly into the Bill, to prevent extra categories being added without parliamentary approval.

5. The Committee opposes the Government's intention to permit other EU member states to charge a person extradited from the UK with an offence other than that for which the person was extradited.

6. The Committee expresses concerns about proposals to relax the requirement that extradition requests from non-European countries must demonstrate that there is a prima facie case to answer.

7. The Committee draws attention to several other provisions which are likely to erode the rights of UK citizens and circumvent parliamentary scrutiny, and recommend that those provisions be withdrawn or amended.

Chairman, Chris Mullin MP said:

"We are not happy with the Bill as it stands and we want to see some significant changes."

SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Part 1 of the Bill

1. We recommend that, in order to provide some safeguard against clear abuses of the new procedure introduced under the framework decision, the Home Secretary give consideration to the following proposal: that in each case the district judge should look at the terms of the offence specified in the European Arrest Warrant and make a statement as to whether dual criminality applies. In<

 

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