The House of Lords Select Committee on Extradition Law published its report on 10 March 2015. After receiving 93 written responses the committee sat through 16 sessions of public evidence, hearing live evidence from 43 witnesses. The report is a wide ranging yet comprehensive and up to date overview of Extradition Law. It focuses on many issues that extradition gives rise to and deals with concerns that have been voiced across the profession, by the media and the general public.
The list of witnesses included members of Parliament and of the Judiciary, prominent extradition practitioners, on the ground solicitors working daily at Westminster Magistrates’ court, their client’s and high profile NGO’s who are involved in the human rights issues that arise from extradition, including Fair Trials International and Justice.
The committee was tasked with conducting a post-legislative scrutiny into the law and practice relation to extradition and in particular to the adequacy of the Extradition Act 2003. In short the committee concluded “there is no systematic problem with the UK’s extradition regime” but there were concerns in certain aspects of the law and procedure.
The main area of concern was the increase in the trend for assurances to be given in extradition cases to offset the risk of human rights abuses occurring following removal. The adequacy of these assurances and their compliance with the Othman guidelines was examined and the ability to monitor compliance post-extradition. The committed concluded in this respect “it is questionable in our view whether the UK can be as certain as it should be that it is meeting is human rights obligations”. Recommending that this specific issue is presented to both Houses of Parliament for debate and that the Government and the CPS should be requesting details of subsequent monitoring when seeking assurances from requesting states as the current arrangements are “flawed”.
Another dominant area of concern was the adequacy of the European Arrest Warrant Scheme and the Government’s engagement with alternative methods in cases where the requested person is accused of a criminal offence. The reports states that the Government should be willing to make greater use of video-evidence, temporary transfer and pre-trial release on bail back to the UK.
The committee focused part of their examination on sensitive evidence being used n Extradition and recommended the Government bring forward proposals to amend the 2003 Act to provide mechanisms for the independent counsel procedure to be used akin to the procedure used in immigration proceedings where similar issues arise.
Although the pending leave to appeal provisions were examined, the committee expressed a somewhat apathetic view stating it should be introduced but not until the issues with access to legal advice were resolved.
The contentious UK/US extradition agreement was considered again and the committee did not propose there should be any changes despite finding through “moving” evidence received in the public hearings that pre-trial conditions in the US risk being excessively harsh.
Practitioners representing those who are resisting extradition will undoubtedly welcome these recommendations but the question left is what next? The Government followed few of the many recommendations made by Sir Scott Baker in the 2010 inquiry. Many of the same recommendations have been given in this report. It remains to be seen whether those made in 2015, in an arguably far more intensive review, will be followed and what impact this report will have in real terms.