The House of Lords continued their inquiry into Extradition in Law and Practice with a debate held on 16th September. The Lords revisit this issue having received the Home Secretary response to their recommendations in July. A number of issues, contained in the report, were chosen to be the subject of debate with the Government’s position being presented by Lord Keen QC, Advocate General for Scotland.
On balance the Lords agreed that the extradition regime was working well and that it is a vital tool for fighting crime across EU and the wider world. However, a number of qualifications to this were set out. The first key issue raised by the committee’s chairman Lord Inglewood was the question of assurances for individuals relating to the country to which they are being extradited. Noting that the Home Office will conduct a review into this later in the autumn he called for this to be subject to review before both Houses of Parliament and the conclusions be made public. The Government position can be summarised as calling for a system of “give and take” in terms of standards, bail, imprisonment and sentence as the extradition regime is built on collaboration and comity. The Lords however expressed serious concerns for the individual involved and the need to respect fundamental rights.
The Lords welcomed changes that had been brought in to address proportionality issues and cases being brought for trivial matters. They noted that changes had been made in requesting states – Poland was cited as an example – alongside developments in this jurisdiction.
The thorny question of funding was repeatedly raised, with the Lords countering the Government position that there was no reason to restrict means testing for legal aid in relation to extradition cases. The Government in turn resisted the call for special qualifications or accreditation for solicitors in extradition cases. On the contrary it was argued that effective legal advice and support may indeed save time and costs.