Dáil Éireann - Volume 544 - 23 November, 2001

Extradition (European Union Conventions) Bill, 2001: Second Stage.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

I regret the Opposition is not in the House. Woodrow Wilson, the former US President, once said that he believed in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being. Obviously, the Opposition's energy has been sapped and we have not even had the general election yet.

The purpose of the Bill is to enable the State to ratify two European Union conventions on extradition, the 1995 convention on simplified extradition procedures between member states of the European Union and the 1996 convention on extradition between member states of the European Union. The Bill also proposes some substantive and procedural changes to our general extradition law.

The Bill will facilitate more effective co-operation in combating crime by facilitating the bring[1318] ing to justice of suspected criminals who seek to avoid prosecution by leaving the jurisdiction where the crime has been committed. It forms part of a package of measures to ensure a coherent and effective international response to the threat of terrorism in the changed world after the appalling attacks on the United States on 11 September. The Justice and Home Affair's Council of 20 September 2001 urged member states to take all the necessary steps to bring the two conventions on extradition into force on 1 January 2002. As Deputies will be aware, the JHA Council on 20 September and the European Council on the following day approved the commencement of negotiations among member states on a framework decision for a European arrest warrant. Intensive negotiations are continuing at official level on this proposal.

I cannot, at this stage, say what shape the final instrument will take. There are divergent views among the member states on how best to achieve the desired result. Our position in the negotiations so far has been that the proposals which the Commission has spent two years preparing raise difficulties. In normal circumstances, these proposals would require detailed examination and discussion and they could not, in practical terms, be adopted in the broad framework proposed by the Commission in a period of about two and a half months. We have, therefore, agreed with the majority of member states that work should concentrate on identifying clearly the areas where agreement can be reached within the short timespan envisaged. The negotiations are ongoing and discussions in a number of important areas have yet to be advanced to the stage where it can be said that consensus is close.

Terrorism poses a serious threat to the lives of people, the economic and social stability of countries and even to the rule of law and democracy itself – indeed, it is a threat to the very fabric of society. In the circumstances, it is incumbent on all of us to examine ways of improving co-operation in combating crime and to ensure that fugitives cannot escape justice by fleeing to another country. In this context, the proposals in the Bill to simplify extradition arrangements between member states of the European Union are indeed timely and welcome.

Before proceeding to examine the provisions in the Bill, I will briefly sketch our existing extradition provisions. Our primary legislation is the Extradition Act, 1965, which provides for both the simplified arrangements Ireland operates with Britain and Northern Ireland – Part III – and our extradition arrangements with other countries – Part II. Part II is modelled on the 1957 Council of Europe convention on extradition to which Ireland is a party. It provides the basis for extradition between this country and most of the other Council of Europe member states. It also governs our extradition arrangements with certain other countries such as the United States of America and Australia, with whom we have extradition agreements. In addition, Ireland is a [1319] party to a number of international conventions which provide special extradition arrangements in relation to specific offences – for example, in the aviation field. The Extradition Act, 1965, has been amended on a number of occasions, twice in 1987 and once in 1994.

The Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987, is based on the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. It restricts the circumstances in which a person can avoid extradition on the grounds that the offence in question is a political offence or an offence connected with a political offence. The terrorism convention was drawn up in the light of the prevalence of terrorist attacks and the practice of their perpetrators to flee the country in which they had carried out the attack. The underlying principle of the terrorism convention was that perpetrators of acts of terrorism should not be immune from extradition by pleading that the act they had committed was a political offence.

The second Extradition Act in 1987, the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987, contains safeguards in relation to extradition to Great Britain or the North of Ireland by giving the Attorney General power to veto a request for extradition unless he is satisfied that there is a clear intention to prosecute and that the intention to prosecute is founded in the existence of sufficient evidence.

The Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1994, amended, clarified and extended the range of offences that could not be regarded as political for extradition purposes.

I will now to turn to the present Bill. By way of introduction, the 1995 Convention on Simplified Extradition Procedure between the member states of the European Union provides for a simplified procedure where the person sought consents to his or her surrender, such consent to be given before the High Court which must be satisfied that the consent is given voluntarily and in full awareness of the consequences. Once consent is given and, where the person claimed is a citizen of Ireland, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform agrees, the person will be extradited.

A person who has consented to his or her surrender may also renounce his or her right to the Specialty Rule, which is the rule whereby a person extradited for one offence may not be tried for other offences committed before his or her extradition, such renunciation to be recorded before the High Court. The consent of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is also required.

The 1995 convention also provides that consent or renunciation may not be revoked but allows parties to opt out of this requirement by making a declaration to that effect on ratification. It is proposed that Ireland will make such a declaration.

The 1996 convention relating to extradition between the member states of the European [1320] Union, as well as extending the range of extraditable offences, also provides for the further improvement and simplification of procedures in a number of respects. Extradition requests, documents and correspondence may be sent by facsimile transmission provided the facsimile machine is fitted with a cryptographic device to ensure authenticity and confidentiality. Changes are also proposed in relation to the authentication and certification of documents. The convention also requires all states to designate a central authority to be responsible for transmitting and receiving extradition requests and supporting documentation, and it is proposed that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be the central authority for Ireland.

The Bill also gives effect to a number of changes in our general extradition law. All extradition proceedings will in future be held in the High Court. Evidence may be given by a witness outside the State through a television link or by affidavit in any extradition proceedings. The Bill also deals with other miscellaneous matters such as foreign seals, laying of orders before the Houses of the Oireachtas and the content of such orders.

Both conventions, to which the Bill will give effect, include a provision that the terms of the conventions will not affect more favourable bilateral arrangements already in existence between any member states. This means that, as far as implementation of the conventions is involved, the backing of warrants procedure with the UK contained in Part III of the 1965 Act will not be affected. However, the Bill will bring about a number of changes in our extradition arrangements with the UK in addition to those changes to our general extradition law which I have already mentioned. For example, there is a new definition of correspondence to deal with difficulties that may arise because acts that constitute offences by the law of both states may be designated differently. It is now being provided in effect that the offence in the State need not be in the same category or of the same description as the offence in the UK. Offences will correspond where the acts of the person sought would constitute an indictable offence if committed in Ireland or are punishable on summary conviction by at least six months imprisonment. In addition, the UK has a provision in the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act making revenue offences extraditable in the context of the backing of warrants arrangements with this country and this Bill will do likewise. Revenue offences will also be extraditable between Ireland and other member states of the European Union by virtue of the 1996 convention.

Regarding the sections of the Bill, the first substantive section is section 4. This section provides that the Minister for Foreign Affairs may, by order, designate countries that have adopted the convention of 1995. The 1995 convention is a European Union convention and open only to EU member states.

[1321] Section 5 deals with provisional arrest. This section amends section 27 of the 1965 Extradition Act and implements Article 4 of the 1995 convention. It sets out the information that must be provided to enable the simplified procedure to go ahead. This information has to be communicated also to the arrested person who must also be informed of his or her right to consent to surrender.

Section 6 relates to consent to surrender. It inserts a new section 29A into the 1965 Act. It provides that where a person in extradition proceedings is brought before the High Court under a provisional arrest warrant or under a warrant of arrest, he or she may consent to being surrendered to the convention country concerned. The procedure is elaborated on in subsections (2) to (4) of the new section. Where the person claimed is a citizen of Ireland, the Minister has to consent. This is provided for in subsections (2)(f2>e) and (3)(f2>f).

Subsection (5) of the new section provides that if a person who is provisionally arrested consents to his or her being surrendered, the Minister shall inform the convention country concerned not later than ten days after the person is arrested. This is also a requirement where the person does not consent to being surrendered. Subsection (6) of the new section provides that a person who has consented to his or her surrender may subsequently, but before the making of a surrender order by the Minister, withdraw such consent. Section 6 also makes a technical amendment to section 14 of the 1965 Act to take account of the new consent provisions.

Section 7 concerns a person's option to waive his or her right to the rule of specialty, which provides that a person extradited for one offence may not be tried for other offences committed before his or her extradition unless certain conditions are complied with. This section amends section 20 of the 1965 Act and inserts a new section 20A. A person who has consented to his or her surrender may also waive his or her right to the specialty rule, such renunciation to be recorded before the High Court. The consent of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is also required to such renunciation.

I draw Deputies' attention to the fact that, under the Article 7 of the 1995 convention to which this section gives effect, consent and renunciation of speciality must be given before the judicial authorities of the requested state. There is also a provision for a waiver of specialty in Article 10 of the 1996 convention in certain limited circumstances contemplated by Article 10 but in that case the waiver is to be given after his or her surrender before the judicial authority of the requesting state. I will deal with this in more detail when I come to discuss section 15 of the Bill.

Section 8 deals with consent to surrender and provides for the insertion of a new section 33A in the 1965 Act which sets out the procedure where consent to surrender has been given – Articles [1322] 10 and 11 of the 1995 convention deal with surrender. The date of consent will be the date on which the consent is made and recorded before the High Court.

Subsection (1) of new section 33A provides, in accordance with the convention, that the Minister shall notify the requesting country of that decision within 20 days of its making and subsection (2) provides that the Minister shall make an order for the surrender of the person sought not later than 20 days after the giving of notification. Subsection (4) of the new section provides for the person to be released if he or she has not been surrendered to the requesting state within the specified period. However, subsection (3) allows a derogation from this period if surrender within the specified period has been prevented by circumstances beyond the control of the Minister.

Part 3 of the Bill, i.e., sections 9 to 19, gives effect to the 1996 convention relating to extradition between member states of the European Union. I have already described the purpose of the 1996 convention.

Section 9 inserts a new subsection (1B) into section 3 of the 1965 Act and defines “Convention country” for the purposes of amendments being made to that Act by Part 3 of this Bill.

Subsection (1C), also being inserted into section 3 of the 1965 Act, provides for a central authority. The explanatory report to the 1996 convention dealing with the designation of a central authority by each member state states that “the central authority will be a focal point for transmission and reception of extradition requests and necessary supporting documents”.

Section 10 provides that the Minister for Foreign Affairs may, by order, designate countries that have adopted the convention of 1996. The 1996 convention is a European Union convention and open only to EU member states.

Section 11 amends section 10 of the 1965 Act and gives effect under a new section 10(1A) to the reduction in the threshold for extradition as between contracting states provided for in Article 2(1) of the 1996 convention. This provides that offences will be extraditable if they are punishable by six months imprisonment in the requested member state and 12 months in the requesting member state. The present general threshold, as provided for in section 10(1) of the 1965 Act and Article 2 of the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, is 12 months in both states. Where extradition is sought in respect of a person who has been convicted and sentenced for such an offence, he or she must have been sentenced to at least four months imprisonment.

It is also being provided in a new subsection (2A) that where extradition is granted for an offence that complies with the minimum sentence requirements, i.e., 12 months and six months in the requesting and requested state, respectively, extradition may also be granted for certain other offences, i.e., minor offences, that fail to comply with this requirement.

[1323] Section 12 concerns the political offence exemption. This section amends section 3 of the Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987. Article 5 of the 1996 convention requires that, as between contracting countries, no offence may be regarded as a political offence but it allows member states to confine this requirement to the offences referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of the Suppression of Terrorism Convention. It is proposed that Ireland, on ratification, will make a declaration to this effect setting out the offences under our law that may not be political, for example, the offences set out in section 3 of the 1987 Suppression of Terrorism Act and in the Schedule to the 1994 Extradition Act.

The current position in our law in regard to the political offence exception is that since all of the EU states are parties to the Suppression of Terrorism Convention and orders applying Part II of the 1965 Act have been made in relation to all EU states, our Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987, as amended by the Extradition Act, 1994, will apply – without more – to all EU states, there is, therefore, no need to include any political offence provision in the Bill in relation to those states. This section is being included to cater for the possibility that, post-enlargement, new EU member states may become parties to the Convention on Extradition between Member States of the European Union, which are not a party to the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.

Section 13 removes the present bar on extradition for revenue offences. This section gives effect to Article 6 of the 1996 convention which makes revenue offences extraditable between EU states. Section 13 of the 1965 Act contains an absolute bar on extradition for revenue offences. The amendments being made to the 1965 Act by this provision will also enable simple amendments to be made to existing bilateral extradition agreements – for example, those we have with the United States of America and Australia – to provide for extradition for revenue offences, if that is so desired. It will also be possible to allow for extradition for revenue offences to be included in any future bilateral agreements that may be negotiated. I have already stated that the UK has already made provision in its legislation – the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994 – for revenue offences to be extraditable in the context of the backing of warrants arrangements with this country. The amendments in subparagraph (c) of the section will do likewise in our law.

Section 14 is a provision dealing with cases of pardon or amnesty. This section inserts a new section 18A in the 1965 Act. It provides that extradition shall not be granted where the person claimed has been granted a pardon under Article 13.6 of the Constitution, become immune by virtue of any amnesty or pardon in accordance with the law of the requesting country or, by virtue of [1324] any Act of the Oireachtas, become immune from prosecution or punishment for the act for which extradition is sought. The explanatory report to the 1996 convention dealing with this matter states, inter alia, “This Article [Article 9] provides that an amnesty declared in the requested Member State, in which that State had competence to prosecute the offence under its own criminal law, will constitute a mandatory reason for not granting extradition.”

I have already referred to the fact that section 15 modifies certain aspects of the rule of specialty for the purposes of the 1996 convention. Members will recall from what I said earlier that the 1995 convention and section 7 of the Bill dealt with the renunciation of specialty where a person sought consents to surrender. Section 15 amends section 20 of the principal Act and provides that a person extradited for one offence may be tried or prosecuted for other offences committed before his or her extradition if the offences do not give rise to imprisonment, or, where imprisonment is involved, if the person has expressly waived the benefit of specialty, such waiver to be made before the competent judicial authorities of the requesting state and to be shown to have been made voluntarily and in full awareness of the consequences.

As indicated, extradition to a convention country for an extraditable offence of a person claimed can also extend to offences which are not punishable by deprivation of liberty or offences where, upon conviction, the person might be liable to a term of imprisonment and another penalty that does not involve imprisonment and where the High Court is satisfied that the other penalty only, and not the term of imprisonment, will be imposed should he or she be convicted. The provision also comprehends offences involving measures not involving the deprivation of liberty, including a financial penalty or a measure in lieu thereof, even if failure or refusal to submit to any measure or comply with any such penalty may involve restriction of his or her personal liberty. On the other hand, in the case of an offence where imprisonment is involved, the person may only be proceeded against if he or she has expressly waived the benefit of specialty after his or her surrender and before the competent judicial authority of the requesting state and, in the case of an Irish citizen, the Minister also consents. Article 7(2) of the convention provides that a member state may declare that it will authorise extradition of its nationals only under certain specified conditions. Ireland's declaration is this respect will provide for the need for such consent.

Section 16 addresses the application of rule of specialty in the State that is the reverse of the situation I have just discussed in the context of section 15. This section amends section 39 of the 1965 Act which deals with the application of the rule of specialty in the case of persons extradited to Ireland and contains analogous provisions to the previous section. Article 10 of the 1996 convention provides that the consent of the [1325] requested state is not necessary in relation to those proceedings unless, of course, that state makes a similar declaration to Ireland in relation to its own citizens. Again a person has to expressly waive the benefit of specialty. Such waiver must be made before a judge of the High Court who has to be satisfied that the person consented voluntarily and in full awareness of the consequences.

Section 17 covers authentication of documents. Article 15 of the 1996 convention, which deals with authentication, aims at simplifying the formal requirements in relation to documentation for extradition. The general principle established is that any document or copy thereof transmitted for the purposes of extradition between convention countries shall be exempted from authentication or any other formality. A new subsection (2) is being inserted into section 25 of the principal Act and provides that for the purposes of an extradition request from a convention country, a document shall be deemed to be an authenticated copy if it has been certified as a true copy by the judicial authority that issued the original or by an officer of the central authority duly authorised to do so.

Section 17(b) of the Bill substitutes a new section for section 37 of the principal Act to simplify the requirements to be met for extradition documents from non-convention countries – subsection (1) – and from convention countries – subsections (2) and (3) – to be received in evidence without further proof. In respect of non-convention countries, the document will be required to be signed by a judge, magistrate or officer of the requesting country and to be certified by being sealed by another authority. The range of official seals which may be used for this purpose is being extended to facilitate the operation of the section. In respect of convention countries, it will be sufficient for a copy of a conviction and sentence order or of a warrant to be certified either by the judicial authority that issued the original or by the central authority. Other extradition documents from a convention country purporting to be copies will be received in evidence without further proof.

Section 18 allows for the facsimile transmission of documents. This section inserts a new section 23A in the 1965 Act and is intended to give effect to Articles 13(3), (4) and (5) of the 1996 convention. The central authority provided for in section 9 is given the authority to receive extradition requests and documents from convention countries by fax. In order to guarantee the authenticity of extradition documents, the central authority of the requesting member state shall state in its request that it certifies that the documents transmitted in support of that request correspond to the originals. To ensure confidentiality and authenticity use will be made of cryptographic devices. Where the central authority in the State is for some reason not satisfied that the documents correspond with the originals, it may require the central authority of the requesting [1326] country to provide the original document or a true copy thereof.

Section 19 deals with transit of persons sought through Ireland. This section amends section 40 of the principal Act and is intended to give effect to Article 16 of the 1996 convention which deals with the transit of a surrendered person through Ireland from one contracting party to another. Any request for transit by a convention country must contain the information specified in new subsection (1A) of section 40, that is, information regarding the person's identity, whether there exists an arrest warrant in respect of the person being transited, the nature and description of the offence for which he or she is sought, a description of the circumstances in which the offence was committed, the date and place of its commission and other relevant information. A new subsection (2A) is also inserted into section 40 to deal with the unscheduled landing of an aircraft in the State which has on board a person who is being conveyed to a convention country upon his or her surrender to that country pursuant to extradition proceedings.

I will now turn to Part 4 of the Bill – sections 20 to 26 – which provides for a number of substantive and procedural changes to our general extradition law.

Section 20 provides for all extradition proceedings to be moved to the High Court. This is a change from current law where the initial application for the extradition of persons from the State is made to the District Court. In 1994 such applications were centralised in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court. However, since nearly all extradition cases end up in the High Court in any event, it is considered that the consolidation of all extradition proceedings in the High Court would provide for a more efficient and expeditious hearing of such cases. Since 1994 all bail applications in extradition cases must be taken in the High Court. The Presidents of the High Court and the District Court have been consulted and there has been no objection to the proposal.

Section 21 amends the procedure for the laying of orders before the Houses of Oireachtas. It amends section 4 of the 1965 Act. The effect of this section is to revert to the original requirement in that Act which provided that Government orders entered into force when they were made but were then laid before each House of the Oireachtas which could annul them if a resolution to that effect was passed within 21 days. Most such orders concern the accession of states to existing extradition agreements, and the requirement since 1987 that such orders required a positive resolution in each House of the Oireachtas has led to delay and administrative difficulties in the Department of Foreign Affairs where these orders are prepared.

Section 22 provides for giving evidence by affidavit. It inserts a new section 7B into the 1965 Act and provides that evidence as to any matter [1327] to which proceedings under that Act relate may be given by affidavit, or by a statement in writing that purports to have been sworn by the deponent in a place other than the State and in the presence of a person duly authorised to attest to the swearing of such a statement by the deponent. The High Court may, if it considers that the interests of justice so require, direct that oral evidence be given of the matters described in the affidavit or statement.

Section 23 amends section 8 of the 1965 Act. It inserts a new subsection (1A) and substitutes new subsections (3), 3(A) and 3(B) for the current subsection (3). It also makes a technical amendment to subsection (8). The purpose of the changes is to deal with difficulties which have arisen in practice from the current wording of section 8. For example, the existing section has been interpreted as requiring that every order made must embody the terms of the extradition agreement. Thus, as is most often the case, if the purpose of the order is merely to apply Part 2 to a new state on the accession of that state to the 1957 European Extradition Convention, for example, the text of the convention is set out in the order despite that the text will be available in the previous order which will be referred to in the new order and cited together with it.

The amendments to the section propose that, when an extradition agreement is made with another state or states, the text of the agreement will be included but that, when Part 2 is applied to a new state on the accession of that state to an existing agreement, the text of the agreement will not be included in the order. However, the order will recite or embody the terms of any reservation or declaration entered to that agreement by the country to which the order applies. When an amendment to an existing agreement is made the order need only contain the text of the amendment.

The current section 8(8) of the principal Act requires the publication in Iris Oifigiúil of the text of the orders made. The proposed new subsection (8) will merely require notice to be given in Iris Oifigiúil that the order has been made. Overall these changes will mean a more streamlined and efficient procedure than has existed before.

Section 24 provides that evidence may be given through television link by a person outside the State. It amends section 29 of the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, to provide for the possibility of a person, other than the person whose extradition is being sought, being able to give evidence from abroad in extradition cases via a live television link. Leave of the court will be required.

Section 25 deals with the issue of foreign seals. Section 21(3)(a) of the principal Act is substituted by a new provision to take account of the fact that some countries do not have ministerial seals and seal documents under the seal of a ministry or Department. It is now being provided that a seal of the relevant Minister, ministry or Department is sufficient. This amendment also [1328] requires a consequential amendment to be made to section 39(2) of the 1965 Act and this is provided for in paragraph (b) of the section.

Section 26 deals with any difficulty which may arise with correspondence of offences in Part III cases, that is, the backing of warrants arrangements with the United Kingdom. It provides that correspondence exists where the act constituting the offence in the United Kingdom would, if done in the State, constitute an offence under the law of the State, being an offence which is punishable on indictment or punishable on summary conviction by imprisonment for a maximum term of not less than six months. This definition will mean that, while the offence in the State may not be in the same category or of the same description as the offence in the United Kingdom, it will still be an offence for which a person may be extradited provided the act constituting the offence would, if done in the State, constitute an offence of the same gravity here.

Over the years the 1957 European Convention on Extradition has been the foundation which has served states well in dealing with extradition matters. However, as we develop and reinforce co-operation in the judicial area between member states of the European Union, it is inevitable that we should consider ways to update and improve arrangements, and the 1995 and 1996 EU extradition conventions mark another step in ensuring a more streamlined extradition procedure between member states. It is also in keeping with my strong commitment to update and modernise our criminal law that I present the Bill to the House. It will provide an effective and modern legal instrument to assist in bringing to justice suspected criminals who leave the jurisdiction where the crime has been committed. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. Kirk: I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this important legislation. It facilitates the ratification of EU conventions on extradition from 1995 and from 1996, under which a simplified procedure is provided to accommodate a consenting party to extradition. It is a measure of the progress of EU integration that this legislation is before the House. Crime and criminal activity know no boundary. Hopping from state to state within the EU is not a difficulty for well-heeled and cash rich drug barons, for example. The internationalisation of crime is obvious. Those who make millions from the drug trade would simply bolt to another state if extradition arrangements were not in place.

Much has changed in Ireland and Europe since the main Act of 1965 was introduced. Frugal lifestyles, a mainly rural based, agricultural economy and the safety valve of emigration have been replaced by a much higher level of expectation in an economy which is much less dependent on agriculture and which is driven by a range industries attracted here by the excellent education system we have developed.

[1329] Unfortunately, prosperity attracts and develops the sub-culture of drug abuse which, in turn, is a trigger for criminal activity which is used to finance drug purchase when dependency sets in. Those who import and distribute drugs are ruthless. Apparently in some instances they live openly in other EU states. This is intolerable and it is necessary to have extradition procedures in place to deal with this problem. The provisions in the legislation are designed to do this.

The Garda Síochána has had some notable success in the unrelenting battle with the drug barons and it certainly needs all our support. Having streamlined legislative provisions is essential, although the legislation is clearly about combating a range of crime apart from drug abuse, such as murder, kidnapping, offences against the State, robbery, criminal damage, explosives and firearms offences and others.

Every system needs safeguards. For example, the 1995 convention deals with consent. The provision the Minister has included in the legislation for revocation is advisable. For example, where a person of unsound mind consents and it is subsequently discovered that he or she should not have been extradited, a revocation procedure will be needed to rectify the position.

Extradition requests being made by fax reflect a reaction to modern communication methods. I assume the original documents will follow the fax requests from requesting states. The authenticity of fax documents or lack of it could lead to lengthy court arguments and debate. Is the Minister satisfied the security provisions for faxed extradition requests will not give rise to lengthy court debate and proceedings? The speciality rule needs further clarification. If a person waives his right, can he change his mind at a later stage? If so, can his right be upheld in those circumstances?

The 1996 convention requires all states to designate a central authority for transmitting and receiving requests. Clearly the provision the Minister has set out appears satisfactory from our point of view. Will similar arrangements be made by other signatories to the convention which will give effect to it in their jurisdictions if they have not already done so? What provision is there for co-ordinating all the authorities in the Union? Perhaps the Minister might elaborate on that when replying to the debate.

On the issue of the threshold for extradition, if the offence is punishable by imprisonment of at least six months in the requested country and 12 months in the requesting country, is there a potential for conflict with the new definition of correspondence set out? Perhaps the Minister will clarify that point as well.

There are a number of states, particularly in eastern Europe, in transition as part of the enlargement process within the European Union. What are the arrangements for these states to come on board, and at what point will they do so? Will they be offered full membership and at a certain point in the transition process? I [1330] referred to the internationalisation of crime. In that context, the availability of a bolt location in eastern Europe could have a negative influence on many of the provisions in this legislation. The sooner the eastern European states participate in this process, the better.

We have bilateral extradition arrangements with the United Kingdom. Will there be a difficulty with the harmonisation of this legislation and the bilateral arrangements or will it simply be a matter of consolidating specific aspects of those arrangements in the new legislation? If an application for extradition is made under the convention to extradite a person from a state within the convention arrangement, who previously has been extradited to a state that has a bilateral arrangement with a state outside the convention arrangement, what will be the position? Does the legislation provide for this or will there be a difficulty? Is there a stepping-out arrangement for extradition between the states linked by this legislation and those with bilateral arrangements?

What will be the position on crimes committed before the enactment of this legislation? Is there provision for retrospection or will the legislation only have effect in respect of crimes committed after it is signed into law? How soon will the states pursuing applications to join the European Union sign up to this process? Is there a timetable? The Minister should clarify this aspect of the Bill.

I welcome the legislation because crime levels, whether in this jurisdiction or the European Union generally, determine quality of life for ordinary law-abiding citizens. We will be in a serious situation if we do not have adequate provisions in place to cope with the expanding crime industry. The proposals which the Minister has brought before the House today will go a long way towards tackling the problem across the European Union. I commend him for bringing the Bill before the House.

Mr. Kelleher: I welcome the publication and presentation of the Bill which we are debating against the backdrop of some of the most horrendous terrorist attacks in history. However, it is about more than just those attacks. I commend the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for acting quickly upon the 20 September request of the Justice and Home Affairs Council urging EU member states to take all necessary steps to bring the two conventions on extradition into force by 1 January 2002. We are present to debate a Bill that will do this.

Extradition is an emotive subject in Ireland. For many years there have been high profile court cases and legal wrangles between the Republic of Ireland, Britain and elsewhere with regard to extradition. As we have now matured as a nation and the European Union as a whole has matured, this allows us to have a rational debate on the subject. We can bring the various forces and arms of the State to bear against terrorists of all types.

[1331] I particularly welcome the provision in the Bill relating to extradition for revenue offences. In recent years some of the most appalling attacks on our society have been carried out by drug barons and those who import heroin and other hard drugs to Ireland. This has caused mayhem throughout society. Areas of Dublin were devastated during the 1980s by the importation of heroin. Crack cocaine is now taking its place. Yet, in some member states, in what we think of as the civilised European Union, drug barons openly flaunt their wealth. They have their yachts anchored and live the high life, this despite everybody knowing from where their wealth comes. Because of cumbersome extradition legislation and the lack of a framework for extradition, they can go about their business unhindered throughout most of the European Union.

Part of the reason for this is that most of those involved have left this jurisdiction because of the success of the CAB in harrying them. For this legislation and the CAB to be truly effective it must be possible to pursue these characters and request their extradition from their new havens when a prosecution is pending with regard to the revenue aspect of their illicit businesses. This is one of the most important aspects of the Bill. I also endorse the provisions to which Deputy Kirk referred in section 13 which will be used as the main vehicle in addressing one of the biggest threats to society, and young people in particular, in the modern European Union.

With the advent of the peace process and the shifting of hearts and minds within the various traditions on the island, extradition is no longer as emotive as it was in the past. I remember High Court cases where, because of technical hitches – perhaps because a document was not authenticated or presented at the wrong place – we made heroes out of characters who were nothing but terrorists. I hope the Bill will address this and that we will have a smooth transfer of persons between the various EU member states. The last thing we want is to have cases tied up in court for years. A simple provision such as that in section 18 can help to prevent this. It addresses the changes required by the advent of modern technology when it states:

This section inserts a new section 23A in the Principal Act and is intended to give effect to Article 13(3), (4) and (5) of the 1996 Convention. The Central Authority is given the authority to receive extradition requests and documents by fax. In order to guarantee the authenticity of extradition documents, the Central Authority of the requesting Member State shall state in its request that it certifies that the documents transmitted in support of that request correspond to the originals.

That is a simple and straightforward step towards addressing changes in technology, and attempts to avoid the legal challenges that have been a fea[1332] ture of extradition proceedings between Britain and Ireland.

The Bill is quite technical, as is the explanatory memorandum. However, the thrust of the Bill and what we are trying to achieve as an EU member state is very positive. Some issues arise with regard to new member states. When will the conventions come into force in new member states? Will this happen immediately when a state accedes to membership, will it happen prior to membership, or will there be a transition period? This matter should be addressed as it could allow the people we are attempting to track down to move to different states as they might have another year or two of leeway prior to the conventions being ratified and enforced in the states concerned. There has been a change in the mindset throughout the civilised world with regard to terrorism. As a country which suffered its fair share of atrocities carried out by terrorist organisations, we understood how America felt on 11 September. However, it is important that we move forward on a number of fronts. First, all civilised countries now realise that all forms of terrorism must be rooted out. In the past, some countries have been apologetic with regard to terrorism. However, there has been a change in the attitude of countries such as Libya, which, for many years, condoned and encouraged terrorism. This is a positive development which must be encouraged at all times.

I congratulate the Minister on the expeditious manner in which he introduced this legislation at the request of the Council and I hope it achieves its objectives. Given the positive developments in Northern Ireland, the resources which were heretofore used to track down and counteract terrorist offences can now be used to deal with the new problems which confront society, namely, drug dealers and those who import hard drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine etc.

Is the Minister confident he will receive full co-operation, not from the legal systems of EU member states, but in terms of practical policing measures? This is an important issue. It is fine to talk about extradition and the ratification of various EU conventions on extradition. However, there will be problems if there is a lack of co-operation from EU police forces which track down and share information. This legislation is needed because of issues ranging from the events of 11 September to the drug problems we face.

Mr. Briscoe: The people of the EU realise the threat which has always existed against Europe generally. Terrorism is not a thing of the past but of the present and the future, and we should have laws in place to deal with it. Anyone who believes there will be no more acts of terrorism in any part of the world will be very disappointed.

I disagree with one comment made by my colleague, Deputy Kelleher, that Libya has joined the ranks of the righteous. Libya is still regarded as a terrorist state and has not yet been acquitted of its involvement in terrorism. The sooner we get [1333] real about terrorism the better. I congratulate the Minister and wish him well with this legislation.

Mr. Dennehy: I welcome this Bill. The legislation has been a long time coming, but that is not the fault of the Minister. It was not easy for all EU member states to reconcile the individual difficulties they face because of their own circumstances. I am sure the Minister's reservations about the completed document will be shared by all and we wish for assurances that our situation will be catered for.

We experienced difficulties reaching an agreed policy given our history and, in particular, our relationship with our nearest neighbour. When the original document was mooted in 1986, extradition was a sensitive subject. Before my election to this House in 1987, I was concerned about the extradition Bill. I was particularly concerned about people being extradited to Northern Ireland and Britain at a time when we had serious reservations about what we perceived as difficulties in their criminal justice systems. My view at that time was that a prima facie case should be established in our courts before any Irish citizen was extradited. The situation has changed considerably since then and there is now mutual co-operation between countries.

There has been considerable evolution in our extradition procedures since that time and it was sensible that in 1987 the new Fianna Fáil Government introduced a provision whereby the Attorney General would review any extradition warrant before the extradition could take place. There was evidence of difficulties in paperwork and so on so these checks and balances were necessary. Some of these checks are no longer required and there have been considerable changes and improvements throughout the EU. However, it is still important that people have the option of challenging and fighting extradition. This legislation provides that cases will be referred directly to the High Court. This is a welcome provision as, for obvious reasons, any case heard in the District Court will end up in the High Court. I welcome this change.

The bottom line is that there can be no hiding place for criminals. Crimes are increasingly international in nature and laws need to be updated to take account of this development. That is the reason I expressed concern that it has taken so long to produce this legislation.

Things change very rapidly in the criminal world and civilised society must also change in response. We are all aware that every major criminal gang in this country has links in Spain, Holland and elsewhere. These criminals are flouting the law and, to some extent, are escaping because of a lack of international co-operation. However, there is a significant, and rapidly increasing, level of co-operation. Countries in which drugs are produced, and those countries between them and us, have accepted the need to work closely with Irish, UK and other police forces to combat criminals. These criminals do not [1334] recognise international boundaries and it has been frustrating to be unable to put on trial someone suspected of serious crimes because of defective extradition systems or the lack of cooperation. I welcome any measures which can be taken in this regard.

I congratulate the Minister on his contribution to the framing of this legislation. He has taken great interest in, and worked hard at, this issue. It is important that we move forward. The legislation covers specific rather than general crimes. I am particularly pleased to see the inclusion of crimes involving revenue. Money laundering, IT scams and similar crimes carried out by international criminals have been included. It was crazy that someone could simply abscond having defrauded companies and individuals of massive amounts of money.

I welcome the fact that the 60-day period specified for the completion of extradition proceedings is recommended rather than mandatory as that would interfere with the independence of the courts. During the past year I raised with the Minister the issue of extradition for investigative detention, but this will not be allowed. The modern, forward-looking standards of our criminal justice system should be applied as far as possible in co-operating with our European colleagues. Certain categories will obviously be excluded from the scope of the legislation, such as anti-globalisation protests which are a fairly recent phenomenon. I am glad they have been specifically excluded because there may have been public concern that the legislation was being used by “big brother” to stem such activities.

Any legislation we introduce should be streamlined and simplified to expedite due process and I hope that will happen with the extradition process. Criminals cannot be allowed to flee abroad to escape justice but, at the same time, we want to ensure that the principle of natural justice is applied. We will ensure that is the case and we have a good record in that regard.

The events of 11 September focused everybody's mind on international terrorism. Of all nations, the Irish must be the most knowledgeable in this regard, having suffered for many years from the effects of terrorism. The cost of that suffering has not been sufficiently examined. For years we have been ploughing millions of pounds into measures to prevent terrorism, but those vast sums should have been used for education, health, social welfare and other needy causes. Instead, we have had to expend resources protecting money in transit to post offices and banks, preventing smuggling across the Border and preventing attacks on persons generally. Whether such attacks were carried out under the guise of vigilantism or other banners, we had to spend money to maintain a civilised community. That money could have been used elsewhere, however. The public should be aware that when we suffered most economically in the mid-1980s, money was still being ploughed into trying to police the State because of terrorism.

[1335] The events of 11 September have speeded up the process of introducing new anti-terrorism legislation in the European Union, and co-operation among EU member states is certainly required to combat terrorism. We have had a traditional problem with terrorism, having inherited a difficult situation, but we have now moved on to deal with international crime, including terrorism. It is essential to co-operate fully with other member states in that regard.

Over the years, politicians from Northern Ireland and Britain complained that we were not applying the rules and that, thus, this country was a haven for terrorists. We always denied the charge and were able to prove it was without foundation.

The Minister has encountered some difficulties concerning proposals from the commission, which need to be examined and discussed in detail. I am glad the Minister is taking that cautious approach – he is capable of dealing with the matter. I agree with his thinking that we need to identify all the issues which can be dealt with through increased co-operation. Such matters need to be acted upon now by adopting the necessary measures immediately. There are many important areas where there is no conflict – it is simply a matter of getting the job done by implementing the legislation – and the sooner that can be achieved the better for all of us. Nobody is more aware of the potential threat of terrorism than the Irish. While some people may not have regarded terrorism as a threat to our economic and social stability, that was so.

Next May or June, when we look back at the record of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, we will see that none of his predecessors produced anything approaching the volume of legislation emanating from his Department. Most of that legislation has been geared to introducing a better criminal justice system, aiding the Garda Síochána in the fight against crime, and improving public safety.

The Garda Síochána need greater co-operation, support and commitment from the public. Every night of the week, gardaí have to risk life and limb, particularly in Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Waterford. Nowadays, mini riots can even occur in towns and villages throughout the country. The Garda Síochána requires legislation to prevent this kind of activity and it also needs greater assistance from the public. The Garda Síochána is doing a good job but difficulties will arise now and again, as with any organisation. Such difficulties, however, can be examined, analysed, faced up to and dealt with.

I have been surprised at the sources of objection to simple issues such as the introduction of closed-circuit television cameras. I have been amazed to see people complaining about the installation of such cameras when I never heard them expressing concern about the civil liberties of the elderly who are confined to their homes because they are afraid to come out after dark, [1336] or the civil liberties of residents whose estates are plagued by gang vandalism. None of those complaining about closed-circuit cameras has ever mentioned civil liberties in that context.

International terrorism must be dealt with, as must crime on our doorsteps. The main players in the fight against domestic crime are the Garda Síochána whose members are doing an excellent job. We need to silence the whinging from some sources and give the Garda Síochána the support it deserves. The Minister has done an enormous amount to achieve that and I am sure it is appreciated by rank and file gardaí.

I welcome the changes that will take place as a result of this legislation and I am sure any difficulties that arise can be teased out in the debate. We had a difficulty with the complex area of extradition for political offences under Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. We will be able to deal with such details on Committee Stage.

I welcome the sensible approach towards shifting cases from the District Court to the High Court. It is a practical change. I also welcome the progress that has been made in our efforts to implement the extradition procedures for people suspected of serious crimes, including terrorist offences.

Mr. Killeen: I welcome the Bill and commend the Minister on bringing it before the House. The legislation is hugely important in terms of advancing the corpus of law in this area. It is regrettable the entire House is not playing a part in these proceedings because the Bill needs to be discussed in detail. Some of the Bill's requirements go back to the 1995 and 1996 conventions, while others arise from the Minister's initiatives. There are fundamental difficulties in addressing terrorism and other lawlessness which will be addressed under this legislation. I welcome the fact that the Minister has brought it forward.

Part 2, sections 3 to 8, inclusive, addresses the requirements of the 1995 convention and simplifies the case for extradition with consent. That has been a complicated and difficult area heretofore and should not have given rise to some of the difficulties which existed. I welcome the simplification provided. I welcome also in general the changes in the speciality rule whereby the suspect has the right to waive certain entitlements in regard to other offences. That is useful. I am not sure in how many circumstances it is likely to arise. I am slightly concerned that the person who waives the right in regard to a small number of offences might subsequently be in a position to claim the speciality rule in other more serious offences which might come to light. I accept the Bill improves and strengthens the position but it is an area that could be looked at in some detail. I appreciate the safeguards the Minister has provided in the legislation and it is important that they be put in place.

One of the underlying forces in the area of law and order about which I am concerned is the [1337] manner in which unfounded criticism of the Garda has undermined the credibility of the force and has substantially damaged the morale of the force. Oppositions have to follow the political line and have to make political points but there have been many occasions in the past two or three years when attacks on the Garda in specific and narrow instances have been allowed to balloon into a blanket attack on the role of the Garda. The Garda fills a hugely important role in civil society for which they are entitled to a level of respect and support in this House. Proper procedures have to be followed and the actions of the Garda should be above board. When there are questions they should be dealt with through the proper channels and individual cases should not be an excuse for lambasting the entire force. They work in a difficult area which has become more difficult in recent years and they deserve and are entitled to the support of all parties in the House which they have not been getting across the board, particularly in recent years.

I disagree strongly with those members of the Garda who took the case against the Oireachtas sub-committee. It was a serious tactical error on their part and a serious error in terms of the role of the Oireachtas. I trust the outcome today will be in favour of the Oireachtas and if not, that it will be dealt with, if necessary, by referendum. Having said that, I would argue strongly against the practice that has developed of undermining the credibility and the role of the Garda.

Part 3, sections 9 to 19, inclusive, gives effect to the 1996 convention and requires States to designate a central authority to transmit and receive extradition requests. This is an important development. It is difficult to proceed with this legislation without such a central authority. In a minor respect, it lowers the threshold in relation to the requirements for extradition. In effect, there is a new definition of “political offence”, which arises from the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and which the country will have to address. That it has happened in this legislation is welcome. I welcome the fact the Minister intends to proceed with this only on a reciprocal basis with countries that are reciprocating in regard to Ireland.

A number of speakers referred to the activities of drug dealers and that they almost all ply their evil trade and direct operations from here and abscond to a different country, frequently to EU states and live there with impunity for many years with their ill-gotten gains while destroying the lives of thousands of young people, particularly our young people in built-up areas. I trust this legislation will be a huge step forward in dealing with these individuals and bringing them into this jurisdiction to face up to the charges that need to be made against them. On the other side of that coin there are practical requirements in regard to policing throughout the country. Recently I raised with the Minister the need for additional gardaí in east Clare where local communities voiced particular concerns to me. I am pleased he [1338] has responded to that request. I raised also the issue of the provision of CCTV cameras in certain built up areas where there is a history of minor lawlessness and unruly behaviour usually between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. which impinges on the lives of ordinary people. On most occasions it does not involve a high level of criminality though, on other occasions, it extends to violence, resulting in people being hospitalised for months, and sometimes it results in death. Modern equipment such as modern CCTV cameras should be provided in the areas where it is known that activities of this nature take place and also in areas where there have been many larcenies. I urge the Minister to make that modern equipment available to the Garda. There is a strong call from the built-up areas of Ennis for that type of technology.

In the case of minor offences, the extradition arrangements do not apply. It would be a pity and a great mistake if for that reason one were to take a softer view of them. Something which could usefully be done in respect of some of those offences would be to extend the juvenile liaison system which has had tremendous success. It has helped young people to understand that their uncivic and criminal behaviour is not the way forward and has helped them to become good members of society. I do not accept that the current cut-off age is the optimum and I urge the Minister to look at it.

Part 4 proposes some procedural changes. I welcome the fact that the proceedings under the Principal Act will now take place in the High Court with the agreement of the district court. There are many Members on all sides who would be concerned about police procedures in some of the EU member states. In some member states a greater level of co-operation is needed in respect of people who have absconded from this country and who should face drugs charges. In other instances, a heavy hand is laid on Irish citizens who visit European countries on holidays. Clearly there is a lower regard for the civil rights and liberties of individuals among the police of some of our EU partners than in Ireland. That is an issue that needs to be considered. Part 4 simplifies the process and provides the use of television links and affidavits. In many cases extradition proceedings, particularly in the areas of criminality and drug dealing, have been dragged out by people who have plenty money to spend on expensive legal expertise, at enormous cost to the taxpayer and ultimately denying justice to those who have reason to require it.

In recent years a number of cases have come to our notice where one or other partner has absconded with children. I am not clear what effect, if any, the 1995 and 1996 conventions have in this regard. I have the distinct impression that they do not bring benefits in that area. If there was an opportunity where they would have an effect it would be a great pity if they were not availed of. At a minimum, in cases where there is a reciprocal arrangement with Ireland we should [1339] look carefully at putting in place procedures which enable the partner left behind, who frequently has no contact with the children, to have the support of the police in following up the other person and, if necessary, in proceeding with extradition arrangements for both the partner and the children.I note that in Part V the bilateral arrangements are not changed or, at least, I understand that is its effect. If a strengthening of the Bill in that area was possible, I would welcome it. I commend the Minister on introducing the Bill which is timely in terms of recent international terrorism, our experience of the drugs trade and aviation related offences.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Agreements between states for the extradition of persons for criminal offences are normal and necessary. Such agreements and their implementation in law need to be based on respect for human rights. No state should lightly send its citizens or foreign citizens for trial in another state. The legal system of the requesting state must bear scrutiny and the requested state must ensure the rights of the extraditee can be vindicated in the requesting state.

We, in Sinn Féin, have never been opposed and are not opposed to extradition in such circumstances. We do not oppose extradition for criminal offences provided that all the legal safeguards are in place. However, we do oppose extradition for political offences. Extradition in this country is not and never has been a purely legal issue. It has been the subject of much political controversy during the past 30 years of conflict in our country. It always was and still is a highly political issue.

From 1969 onwards there was political and armed conflict in the Six Counties. During that time thousands were forced to move from the north east of the island into the Twenty-six Counties. Many of them became welcome and valued members of communities in the Border countries, which I represent, and elsewhere throughout the State. Many of those who sought refuge in this jurisdiction were being pursued by the British authorities in the Six Counties before, during and after the period of internment without trial. While extradition requests from the British authorities to this State for political refugees were infrequent, they were generally refused by the courts on the grounds that the offences were political. One of lasting legacies of the ill-conceived and ill-fated Sunningdale Agreement was the 1976 Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act, which allowed for persons to be tried in this State for offences committed in the Six Counties. This, too, was used relatively infrequently. It was not until the early 1980s that the political offences exception began to be eroded in the courts. Judgments in high profile cases were seen to effect a change in the interpretation of the political exception rule.

The Hillsborough Agreement was signed in 1985. Like the Sunningdale Agreement, this [1340] agreement was based on the exclusion and censorship of republicans. The former Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, admits quite openly that one of his principal aims in signing the Hillsborough Agreement with Thatcher was to stem the growth of Sinn Féin and bolster the SDLP. Like the Sunningdale Agreement, the Hillsborough Agreement legacy was mainly repressive. What became known as the Hillsborough Wall of British forts and spyposts was built along the Border, a wall which has yet to be dismantled in key areas along my constituency like south Armagh.

The other principal legacy of the Hillsborough Agreement was the Extradition Act, which was introduced in the Dáil in 1986 by the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Dukes. In his opening remarks on Second Stage he was quite explicit about the political orgins of the Bill. He said:

On the occasion of the signing of the Anglo-Ireland Agreement at Hillsborough in November last year, the Taoiseach indicated the Government's intention to accede to the convention against the background of the commitment entered into by the Irish and British Governments to work together to achieve early progress in relation to certain matters of mutual concern in Northern Ireland. The first step towards accession was taken when I signed the convention on behalf of the Government in February last.

He went on to explain that he believed progress had been made in the Six Counties which allowed the Government to bring forward the Bill. He said:

As I have said, certain changes in the administration of justice and in relations between the security forces and the minority community in Northern Ireland, as well as measures to enhance security co-operation between the two Governments are under way or in the offing; others are still being discussed. They represent progress.

The reality was quite the opposite. This was a period of intensive repression in the North. The interrogation centres and the Diplock courts were in full swing. RUC and British Army collusion with loyalist paramilitaries was reaching new heights. The sectarian Ulster Defence Regiment of the British Army was still on the rampage. The Stalker affair had yet to be revealed. There were hundreds of political prisoners in jail. In England the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and Judith Ward were still in prison with no prospect of release. This was the system into which Deputy Dukes and his successors wanted to send political extraditees.

There was sharp political controversy about the 1987 Extradition Act. I recall one Fianna Fáil Deputy, now Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, stating at the time that he would not extradite a cat to England. Others of his colleagues made similar statements. However, when Fianna Fáil returned to government, it implemented the [1341] Extradition Act and extradited political prisoners to the Six Counties and Britain. I know that many ordinary rank and file members and supporters of Fianna Fáil were so disgusted with the turnaround that they abandoned their allegiance to the party.

The 1996 convention, which it is proposed to ratify by this Bill, goes further than the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which was the basis for the 1987 Extradition Act. As incorporated in section 12 of this Bill, the 1996 convention states that no offence may be regarded by the requested state as a political offence, as an offence connected with a political offence or an offence inspired by political motives. While it allows states to confine this requirement to offences defined in the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, it represents a further significant weakening of what is left of the political exception in extradition law.

The 1987 Act meant that political prisoners who escaped from British custody in the North were extradited back to the Six Counties. The offence of the founder of Fianna Fáil, Éamon de Valera, in escaping from Lincoln Prison was defined as terrorist. Those who escaped from the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1983 were subject to extradition. Clearly politically motivated actions such as armed attacks on British military forces or the use of a weapon in a prison escape were defined, not as political, but as terrorist.

The Bill reinforces that position, this despite the fact that fundamental to the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement is the recognition in politics, if not in law, that such actions were political. While neither in this jurisdiction nor under British jurisdiction were political prisoners explicitly recognised as such in law, in political reality they were so recognised, hence the release of political prisoners as part of the peace process, during the course of which former political prisoners such as Angelo Fusco and Tony Kelly were pursued under British extradition warrants in this State. They won their appeals, but three others in this State are still sought on extradition warrants by the British Government, Nessan Quinlivan, Tony Duncan and Pearse McAuley. Both the British and Irish authorities should drop those cases. All outstanding extradition warrants for political offences by organisations whose prisoners have been released under the Agreement should be immediately quashed by the British Government.

I urge that this unfinished business be completed by the British and Irish Governments without delay. Even when this is done, the reality under existing legislation, reinforced by this Bill if passed, is that the British authorities can legally pursue people for political offences committed at any stage during the conflict, and the Government has legally committed itself to hand them over. This is a very serious matter.

We have been promised a whole raft of further legislation, including the European arrest warrant [1342] which the Minister mentioned. This further legislation will have serious implications for human rights. It will go well beyond the provisions of existing extradition law and this Bill. This signalled legislation arises out of the current so-called war against terror, but on whose definition of terrorism will it be based? Is it the definition which regards the 11 September attacks in the United States as terrorist, but which does not regard as terrorist the carpet bombing of an impoverished country with thousands of tonnes of bombs, the dropping of cluster bombs with food parcels or the slaughter of the defeated? I do not accept that definition, and any legislation based on such an approach is an attack on all our rights.

My principal concern about the Bill is the political offences aspect. For that reason, I will not support it. I have no fundamental objection to the section dealing with the 1995 convention, which is principally concerned with giving effect to consent to surrender by a person sought for extradition. However, there need to be safeguards. The legislation should include a guarantee of access to legal advice throughout the process, which is complex. It is essential that the person sought for extradition knows and understands all his or her legal rights and the full implications of a consent to surrender.

Because of my opposition to extradition for political offences, I will not support the Bill and I oppose its Second Reading.

Mr. O'Malley: I support the Bill in so far as it goes but it has to be seen in the context of the extra arrest warrants framework directive, which is currently under discussion and which will largely supersede this Bill when it is adopted, as I hope it will be because it goes considerably beyond the provisions of this Bill. That is the more significant aspect. The Bill has only a very limited application to terrorism, particularly where section 12 is concerned, which makes it clear that various terrorist acts cannot be regarded as political, irrespective of the alleged motive of the terrorists committing them.

The effect of these two conventions and of their transposition into Irish law is not likely to cause Mr. Osama bin Laden to tremble in his cave, or indeed any other terrorists, including those represented by the previous speaker who named many of the terrorists involved about whom he was concerned and for whom, I presume, he asks this House to weep, but not for their victims.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: With respect, I know there is little value in engaging with Deputy O'Malley on this matter.

Mr. O'Malley: I did not interrupt the representative of IRA-Sinn Féin terrorism.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I did not cast aspersions on Deputy O'Malley either.

[1343] Acting Chairman (Mr. Briscoe): Is the Deputy raising a point of order?

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am registering my objection to Deputy O'Malley's slur against my role and representation in this House.

Acting Chairman: The Deputy can only raise a point of order, and that is not a point of order.

Mr. O'Malley: I reiterate the slur on Deputy Ó Caoláin.

I would have liked the Minister in his contribution to deal more fully with the arrest warrant matter and to tell the House – perhaps he might do this when replying – where the negotiations on that currently stand because that is far more significant than what is before us.

Part 2 is of very little consequence, and it is certainly of none where terrorism is concerned because it deals only with situations where a person consents to being extradited or surrendered. It has generally been our experience over the years that terrorists do not consent to being extradited.

Part 3 is of some significance because it brings revenue offences within the jurisdiction of extradition law for the first time. That is important and valuable because the abuse of money laundering and banking provisions has been of major assistance to terrorists, both on this island and globally. When the current conflict in Afghanistan is over, which we hope will be shortly, the real fight against global terrorism will lie principally in the area of money laundering and the efforts states make to clamp down on that. One of the ways in which that can be approached, apart from changing banking laws, is to pursue people for revenue offences. The proceeds of bank robberies, intimidation and other activities that are common to terrorists on this island and elsewhere can be pursued from a revenue point of view because these people have to justify how they came into all the money. I would like the Criminal Assets Bureau also to examine assets which apparently are now lawfully held in this country but which were acquired as a result of terrorist crime by terrorist organisations on this island. If the Criminal Assets Bureau could seize some of those assets, as it has done very successfully in respect of certain drug dealers and others, that would be a major help in the fight against terrorism. This would apply to those who engage in this kind of activity internationally as well as domestically.

I am glad section 13 applies the question of revenue offences to our arrangements, in particular with the United Kingdom. It should be looked on in the context of Northern Ireland. Customs offences and the laundering of marked diesel have become a major source of income for terrorist organisations operating on this island. If these matters could be pursued more effectively by the Customs and Revenue authorities on both sides of the Border, it would help stamp out these activities.

[1344] While this Bill has been introduced in the context of the current international efforts against terrorism, the two conventions which are now being adopted long predate 11 September 2001. This House should be given an early opportunity to debate the arrest warrant draft framework, which was devised subsequent to the events of September.

It is interesting that provisions relating to extradition are now able to pass this House without great difficulty. Even those Members who are absent today indicated that they have no objection to the proposals in the Bill. The only objection is from the single Member of the House who represents the people I have described. On several occasions when extradition Bills were before this House there was the most vehement opposition to matters much less fundamental than the Bill before us. One reason for the change in attitude was the events of 11 September. If any silver lining is to be seen in that awful cloud of the death of 5,000 or 6,000 people in the United States, it is that the world's attitude in general to terrorism and terrorists has changed and as a result many terrorists have had to change their attitude. We would not have had the limited decommissioning of arms by the IRA, which happily has occurred in recent weeks were it not for the pressure which the events of 11 September placed on that organisation.

The Government has an obligation to introduce further measures which will have the effect of counteracting terrorism. I hope he will not lose the opportunity to do so. The two conventions which the Bill will adopt long predate recent events. I had hoped that the six or seven UN conventions relating to terrorism, in particular the financing of terrorism, which this country has signed would be ratified, but, unfortunately, this has not happened.

A few days ago I received from the Whip a list of the legislation proposed to be introduced in the House before Christmas. These provisions are not in it. In particular, I would like the ratification through either a motion or legislation of the convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, which is the most important of the conventions of this kind which we have yet to ratify. Ireland has been remiss in this regard. We have an obligation, not alone to ourselves but to all civilised states, to ratify the convention. Will the Minister inform the House how many of these conventions will be introduced for ratification in the near future and provide a timetable.

In a recent reply to a parliamentary question the Minister for Foreign Affairs provided a list of nine or ten such conventions which Ireland has not ratified. Some of these can be ratified without legislation while others, unfortunately, will require legislation. Will the Minister inform the House which conventions require legislation and which can be ratified by a motion of the House? In respect of the latter, I ask the Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs to table a motion at an early date.

[1345] Part IV of the Bill makes various amendments to the Extradition Act, 1965, which are mainly of a procedural or technical nature. As they facilitate the extradition process, I have no objection to them. Anything that facilitates extradition is worthwhile. Over the years terrorists in this jurisdiction regularly used the legal process to try to prevent their extradition. I am glad the courts appear to have changed their approach to the matter in recent years and no longer accept the sort of defences which were allowed in the past. The Bill, though relatively minor, will help in this process.

I look forward, in particular, to the publication of the arrest warrants framework directive or, at least, a draft thereof so that this House can discuss it. It is the most meaningful provision. I have no real objection to the various sections of the Bill. If anything, I regret they do not go somewhat further. To some extent it is an academic exercise because the Bill and its provisions will be superseded by the other directive when it comes into force, as I hope it will at an early stage.

It is commendable that the 15 member states all indicated their anxiety to facilitate the easier extradition and rendering up of terrorists. I hope the sense of shock after 11 September, which brought about that meeting of minds in the EU and more broadly throughout the world, will not be diluted as time passes. That often happens when an atrocity occurs. People are very shocked for weeks, sometimes for months, and then they become less concerned about it. What was done in New York and Washington could be repeated anywhere by terrorists. What was done in Omagh and Enniskillen and many other places by terrorists on this island could also be repeated. It behoves this House to do all it can to ensure terrorists are given no breathing space, and that as much pressure from the law as is possible is put on them and their fellow travellers.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I thank the Deputies who contributed to what has turned out to be a very good debate. I was heartened by the support for the Bill. That the debate was invigorating was only to be expected. Extradition is one of those subjects on which everybody has very strong views.

All Deputies agree it is vital that all governments and law enforcement agencies present a co-ordinated response to international crime. I assure the House that I will do everything in my power to ensure this country's approach to countering the terrorist problem leaves nothing to be desired. Work on several other legislative proposals is progressing to enable Ireland to give effect to the relevant conventions to combat international crime and terrorism and I hope to have these proposals before the House shortly. The House will be already aware that on 21 September last the European Council approved a plan of action to counter terrorism. The plan [1346] called on member states to implement all existing international conventions in the fight against terrorism.

A similar call was contained in the UN Security Council resolution of 28 September, which, in particular, called on states to sign and ratify the UN convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism. We signed that convention last month. In response to Deputy O'Malley, the Government intends to give effect to that and other UN conventions relevant to the fight against terrorism that have not been ratified by Ireland to date as part of our response to the events of 11 September.

Other legislative proposals I will bring to Government are intended to enable Ireland to become a party to the UN conventions on the suppression of terrorist bombings, against the taking of hostages and on the prevention and punishment of attacks on internationally protected persons. Work is under way in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on framing the proposals necessary to give effect to those conventions. Steps are also being taken for Ireland to accede to the convention on the making of plastic explosives for the purposes of protection, accession to which does not require legislative change.

I fully support the taking of all appropriate measures in the fight against terrorism and international crime. Facilitating more effective co-operation in combating crime and bringing to justice suspected criminals must be a top priority. In the context of the recent appalling events in the United States, we must all redouble our efforts in the fight against terrorism. In this respect, it is vital that the judicial systems of all states, especially those of the member states of the EU, work in harmony to present a co-ordinated response to terrorism.

Recent tragic events highlight the need for greater national and international effort in the fight against terrorism. Deputies will be aware of the recent proposals from the European Commission relating to a European arrest warrant. These proposals give us a fresh opportunity to further consider the current extradition arrangements that exist between member states. The proposals for a European arrest warrant, to which Deputy O'Malley also referred, are contained in a draft framework decision.

Framework decisions are a new type of instrument, which are provided for in the Amsterdam Treaty's provisions on police and judicial co-operation on criminal matters. They have as their objective the approximation of the laws and regulations of the member states in specific areas. They are binding upon member states as to the result to be achieved, but it is for each member state to decide on the method of implementation. In this respect, they resemble directives under the first pillar. The purpose of the framework decision is to replace existing extradition procedures between member states of the EU. They are simply procedure based on the European [1347] arrest warrant, in effect replacing extradition by an inter-court procedure.

The proposals are comprehensive and, if adopted, will replace existing multilateral extradition procedures between member states of the EU. The establishment of a system of surrender of wanted persons based on warrants issued by judicial authorities is entirely reasonable and should be encouraged. We are already familiar with extradition proceedings based on a warrant system as our extradition arrangements with the UK are based on a backing of warrants system. However, as the Deputies are aware, the area of surrender extradition raises difficult and complex issues, and any proposals in this regard require careful scrutiny.

The precise terms of the European arrest warrant have still to be teased out fully and are the subject of ongoing, intensive negotiations among all 15 member states. While looking forward to new developments, we must also acknowledge that existing extradition procedures based on the 1957 European Convention on Extradition have served states well in dealing with extradition. The 1995 and 1996 EU extradition conventions are another step in ensuring more efficient extradition procedures between member states. All member states have committed themselves to ratifying these conventions by the end of this year. This Bill will enable Ireland to fulfil its obligations in that regard.

Before addressing the points made by Deputies in the course of the debate, I would like to reiterate that it is vital that there are no safe havens for criminals who seek to avoid prosecution by leaving the jurisdiction where the crime has been committed, and we will support measures that help to achieve that aim.

Deputy Kirk, referred to the question of accession of new states. These will be added by order of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. With regard to the speciality rule, Deputy Kirk inquired whether a person could change his mind about agreeing to be tried in another jurisdiction for an offence for which he was not extradited. The answer is that he may do so.

Where the current arrangements with the UK are concerned, they will probably continue. Both conventions allow existing, more favourable arrangements to continue, if that is the desire of both parties. With regard to retrospection and the question of whether, for example, revenue offences committed prior to the coming into operation of this Act can lead to an individual being extradited, the reply is that extradition laws apply retrospectively. In other words, they have retrospective effect from the date of the operation of the Act itself.

The Bill amends the Extradition Act, 1965. Deputy Kelleher inquired whether Ireland would get the co-operation of police throughout the EU. The answer is that it will. There is a considerable amount of good work being done by EUROPOL. The EU works on the basis of mutual respect and [1348] co-operation. Several issues are currently being considered at EU level in response to the events of 11 September – for example, the freezing of assets, the combating of terrorism and the European arrest warrant, to which I referred already.

Deputy Dennehy referred to the Attorney General's role and inquired about this in respect of extradition proceedings with the United Kingdom and whether the Bill proposes any change to existing arrangements. Under Part 3 of the 1965 Act, we have a backing of warrants arrangement with the United Kingdom. The procedure is triggered by the receipt in Ireland of a warrant issued in the United Kingdom for the arrest of the wanted person. The commissioner of the Garda Síochána must endorse the arrest warrant if it appears to him the person being sought may be found in this State, that a United Kingdom judicial authority has issued the warrant and that the offence satisfied the minimum gravity requirements in the United Kingdom. The warrant may then be executed by any member of the Garda. However, the commissioner is prohibited from endorsing the warrant if the Attorney General has vetoed endorsement under subsection 44(a) of the 1965 Act. Under section 44, it cannot be endorsed for execution if the Minister or the High Court directs that it should not be endorsed.

Subsections 44(a) and 44(d) were inserted by an amendment in 1987 to give the Attorney General a role in the rendition of accused persons in the United Kingdom. He has no similar role in the rendition of persons convicted in the United Kingdom or in extradition to other countries. It was inserted to allay fears about persons being sought for the purposes of questioning them about alleged offences rather than to have them prosecuted. After a warrant to arrest the accused person arrives the Attorney General is authorised to take a view about whether the United Kingdom police authorities intend to prosecute for the offence or offences stated in the warrant. The Attorney General can demand sufficient evidence to show that there is a genuine intention to prosecute if he has any doubts about the matter. Although this is not the same as requiring evidence of a prima facie case, nevertheless the Attorney General may want to consider some of the evidence it is intended to use in the prosecution. The Attorney General must instruct the Garda Commissioner not to endorse the warrant unless he concludes that there is a clear intention to prosecute. The Attorney General can revoke his decision if he becomes convinced that the United Kingdom authorities intend to prosecute the offences in the warrant.

The Bill will make no change to the Attorney General's role where requests from the United Kingdom are based on Part 3 of the 1965 Act, bearing in mind that the European Union conventions allow for the continuation of more favourable bilateral arrangements such as our arrangement with the United Kingdom. My intention is that these arrangements will continue.

[1349] Deputies Dennehy and O'Malley referred to the proposed European arrest warrant. The European Commission has proposed the adoption of a framework decision on a European arrest warrant. The stated purpose of the framework decision is to replace existing extradition procedures between member states with a simplified procedure based on a European arrest warrant, in effect, replacing inter-state extradition by an inter-court procedure.

The proposed arrest warrant is based on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions and judgments by member states and provides that each national judicial authority should recognise requests for the surrender of a person made by the judicial authority of another member state with a minimum of formality. In the draft framework decision reference is made, inter alia, to the principles of liberty, democracy and the rule of law, and respecting fundamental rights as guaranteed by the European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of 4 November 1950.

There have been discussions on the proposed European arrest warrant at three meetings of European Justice and Home Affairs Ministers. The issue has also been discussed by the Heads of State and Government. At official level there has been intensive discussion on the proposals. These discussions are ongoing. While I cannot say what shape the final instrument will take, we are a lot closer than before to reaching agreement. Whereas I cannot be more specific on the negotiations, we have made considerable progress.

Some of the issues which concern our jurisdiction relate, for example, to the question of dual criminality. This concerns the long recognised extradition rule that a person may only be extradited in respect of an offence which is not just an offence here, but an offence in the state to which he or she is being extradited. We can overcome the difficulties in regard to dual criminality, but have not done so yet, although we have made progress.

We have made considerable progress in relation to the rule in “speciality.” The rule in “reciprocity” will not give rise to difficulty; neither will the question of “investigative potential.” The question of imposing time limits on the Judiciary under our jurisdiction would give rise to some constitutional difficulties. While negotiations are continuing on the European arrest warrant, it would be foolish of me to give a hostage to fortune and say that all our difficulties would definitely be resolved. At this point we have made considerable progress and I am confident that we will reach an accommodation.

Deputies have noted that the Bill extends the definition of “extraditable offences” to revenue offences. It is framed on the basis that it covers taxes, duties, customs and exchange controls. The existing extradition procedures and arrangements will, when the Bill is enacted, apply to revenue offences which come within the meaning of extraditable offence or corresponding offence in the [1350] same way as these procedures and arrangements apply to other offences.

Deputies Dennehy and Ó Caoláin referred to the question of political offences. Deputy Ó'Caoláin pointed out that the 1996 convention states that there are no exemptions for political offences. The definition of a political offence, in so far as it can be brought forward as a defence to enable an individual to be exempt from extradition, has been considerably narrowed in this jurisdiction during the years. It probably only relates now to offences such as treason or espionage. The ratification of the convention or its incorporation into domestic law does not have any implications for the question of the political offence exemption. The situation has been narrowed to the extent that I cannot see the Deputy's argument and do not believe that ratification or incorporation of these conventions will affect the political offence exemption.

Deputy Killeen raised the question of waiving “speciality.” There are safeguards. The Minister must consent and waiving must be done before the High Court. It must be voluntary and the individual must be aware of the consequences.

The question of the timescale for anti-terrorism measures was also raised. I anticipate that a number of measures will come before the Oireachtas in the short-term. These will include Bills to give effect to the United Nations convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, the convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, the convention on the taking of hostages, and the convention on the prevention and punishment of attacks on internationally protected persons. My Department is preparing and giving absolute priority to proposals for submission to Government covering all these matters.

The Bill to give effect to the 2000 European convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters and the protocol to it will follow in 2002 in keeping with the request of the Council of Ministers for ratification of the convention and protocol within that timescale. Legislation to give effect to proposals under consideration at EU level will have to await the outcome of these discussions. I envisage further legislation being introduced to deal with these matters in 2002.

Comments were made regarding anti-terrorism measures being implemented on an administrative basis. When I answered questions in the House in October on the September meeting of the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers I mentioned a number of measures which required a response at administrative level as opposed to legislative level. The nature of the conclusions adopted by the Council was such that it inevitably embraced a range of responses to the events of 11 September. My reply intended merely to draw attention to this fact.

Measures suitable for an administrative response included a meeting of the police chiefs' task force to discuss improved operation and co-operation between member states and third coun[1351] tries; to co-ordinate measures implemented in member states to guarantee security, and to call on EUROPOL to analyse and report on the security threat and the strengthening of border controls. With regard to thee measures, the police chiefs' task force met in the intervening period and work is progressing. Ireland is playing a full part in this work and has assigned an expert on terrorism from the Garda Síochána to work with EUROPOL for this purpose. Likewise, with other member states, we have taken measures we believe are necessary to strengthen our border controls.

There will be further legislative measures which will necessitate legislation. The instruments specifically mentioned in the Council conclusion in this respect were the 1995 and 1996 European conventions on extradition with which we are dealing today. There is also the 1999 UN convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, and the 2000 European convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters and the protocol thereto. The position now in regard to the suppressing of the financing of terrorism convention is that work on the legislation has begun with a view to the submission of my proposal on the matter to Government and publication during the current session.

I thank my colleagues for their contributions to the debate. It is unusual from my perspective to stand in the House and not be heckled during the course of my contribution. It is a sad day for democracy when the major Opposition parties decide to pick up the ball and go home because they do not like the score. On a more historic note, it is the first time in the history of the State that the Government has brought down the Opposition.

Question put.

A division being demanded, the taking of the division is postponed until immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, in accordance with an order of the Dáil of 22 November 2001.