On Monday 14 October Queen Elizabeth II delivered her 65th Queen’s Speech as part of the State Opening of Parliament. The speech sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session. The speech outlined 26 pieces of proposed legislation, encompassing subject matters ranging from health to criminal justice and Brexit.
The Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill will provide police officers with “the power to arrest individuals who are wanted by trusted international partners”.
The Bill’s main feature as set out in the government background briefing, will be a new power enabling the immediate arrest without a warrant of a person know to be wanted for a serious crime that took place in a trusted country outside the UK. At present, the European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”) coupled with the provisions of the Extradition Act 2003 provide for this procedure in respect of EU member states. However, should the UK lose access to the EAW regime after exiting from the European Union, this Bill would serve to fill this gap.
The background briefing does not provide a definition of ‘trusted country’. It does, however, state that in order to be designated as a trusted country, the state in question must have a ‘robust criminal justice system’. The legislation will contain safeguards to ensure the power is only used in relation to wanted notices issued by trusted countries and for serious offences.
The concerns addressed by the Bill were raised by Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the National Police Council Richard Martin in his evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee on 4 September 2019. He highlighted that in the event that the UK exits the European Union without a deal and in the absence of new legislation “for everybody who we want to arrest, or who somebody wants us to arrest, we will have to go to Westminster Magistrates’ Court to get a warrant.” This increase in numbers of requests for warrants coming before the court is a cause for concern according to the Deputy Assistance Commissioner. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, noted that the prospect of legislation was first raised in the spring and questioned why it was not ready in time for Brexit.
The Bill will not affect the role of the courts in extradition proceedings which will continue to be governed by the Extradition Act 2003.