Selling Justice by the Dollar…

There are times that one has to question the very sanity of some of our leading politicians, never mind their judgment and common sense, and today would appear to be one of them; as evidence by this official press release that appeared on the Labour Party website in the last hour or so…

Tory Opposition on Police and Justice Bill exposes Cameron’s hypocrisy on crime – Reid

For starters, what this headline tells us is that what follows will amount to nothing more than the usual political pissing contest over ‘who’s the toughest on crime’ – ho hum…

The Tories have yet again exposed their hypocrisy when it comes to crime today as they voted to retain measures in the Police and Justice Bill which mean criminals will be able to evade justice. Had the Tories won this vote they would have restricted the ability for the UK to extradite criminals from the USA to face justice, and put an end to important modernisation to tackle international crime.

Ah, so this is about the highly contentious extradition treaty that David Blunkett signed, using the Royal Prerogative, in 2003 and then hurried through Parliament as the Extradition Act 2003; the one that was sold as providing for fast-track extradition to the US for terrorist suspects but which has since been used almost exclusively to pursue alleged cases of ‘white collar’ crime.

John Reid, Labour’s Home Secretary, said:
"This is yet more evidence of David Cameron’s hypocrisy on crime. One minute he promises to take the measures necessary to address crime, the next he votes against Labour’s measures to do just that.
"Only last month, Cameron spoke of his desire to ‘get tough’ on white collar crime, but today his party have demonstrated how hollow those words were. And when this legislation first came through parliament he expressed his concern about the need to streamline extradition.
"The British public will judge Cameron and his party on their actions, not words. No amount of presentation will allow Cameron to escape the reality of the Tory record: they have continually opposed Labour’s tough measures on crime.
"David Cameron says one thing but he does another: he talks tough on crime, but he votes soft."

And there we have the pissing contest in full swing, long on rhetorical nonsense and devoid of reasoned argument… but the press release goes on…


Notes to editors:

1. At Lords Committee stage on 11 July, the Lords made amendments to the Police and Justice Bill on three issues.

o One was to remove the United States from a list of countries which do not have to provide prima facie evidence (but do have to provide detailed information about  the facts of the case to enable the court to decide whether the offences are also crimes under English law)  

o The second was to require the judge to refuse an extradition request if any of the conduct in the request was carried out in the UK, unless he could establish that it would be in the interests of justice to extradite the person

o The third would prevent us, at any time in the future (without primary legislation) changing the evidential requirements for the US; effectively killing the new treaty.

And here we come to the nub of the issue…

One was to remove the United States from a list of countries which do not have to provide prima facie evidence (but do have to provide detailed information about  the facts of the case to enable the court to decide whether the offences are also crimes under English law)

In layman’s terms, the 2003 treaty creates a situation in which, without the Tory’s amendments, the US merely has to demonstrate that a British citizen (or resident) is to be charged after extradition with an offence that would be a crime under UK law – what we would normally refer to as ‘making an allegation’ – but without there being any requirement that the US authorities provide any prima facie evidence to support that allegation.

This second requirement, the removal of which the Home Office objects to is what in the US judicial system is referred to as ‘probably cause’ which is defined, at its most basic level, as a reasonable belief both that a crime has been committed and that the person is linked to the crime with the same degree of certainty.

Probable cause forms the basic standard by which, in the US, a police officer may make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search or apply for a warrant and should be a fairly familar concept to anyone who has ever watched a US ‘Police Procedural’ show such as any of the three CSI series, ‘Law & Order’ or ‘Homicide: Life on the Streets’.

And thereby hangs the problem, as even with this treaty in place, a request from the UK for the extradition of a suspect from the US must meet the standard of ‘probable cause’, i.e. it must show both that the offence for which the individual is to be charged is a criminal offence in the US and that there is evidence to demonstrate that they have, in effect, got the right man (or woman), and arrangement that is not reciprocated under the treaty in the case of extraditions from the UK to the US, where there is no requirement on the US authorities to put evidence to UK court sufficient to establish probable cause.

There is, in this, a clear lack of equity and reciprocity in the process; one that until recently was even more marked by the failure of the US Senate to ratify the treaty (it did so only on 30 September this year, three years after it was signed by both governments)…

… and the reason the US held of on ratification for so long? Concern for the basic constitutional rights of its citizens, no less, something about which the Home Office have shown little or no concern on this side of the arrangement.

2. During the passage of the Extradition Bill David Cameron said:
Mr. David Cameron (Witney): As the Minister is aware, many important extraditions have not gone ahead because of the courts’ interpretation of article 3 of the European convention on human rights. Is he aware of the Soering judgment, in which someone accused of murder could not be extradited to the United States under article 3? What will the Bill do to try to streamline such cases and make the extraditions go ahead?

David Cameron, 9 December, 2002, Hansard Column: 40

This is, indeed, true. The ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Soering prohibits extradition from any EU country where the individual in question is charged with a capital crime, i.e. one where the death penalty could be applied.

This does not prevent extraditions to the US outright in cases of, using Cameron’s example, murder, only extraditions for crimes that carry the Federal death penalty or to individual states in which the death penalty remains on statute. Soering does not provide, therefore, to extraditions to the following states:

Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia (i.e Washington DC)

In practice, Soering does not prevent extraditions at all as all the US or an individual US state has to do is give a binding commitment that it will not seek the death penalty in a case subject to extradition, i.e. agree in advance that the maximum penalty that the state will seek to obtain is life without parole.

If the inclusion of this ‘note’ is intended to reinforce the contention that Cameron is somehow soft on crime by citing Soering in the Commons, then all it shows is that whoever put this press release together really must think newspaper editors amongst the most stupid people to be found anywhere in British society. The simple fact is that Soering, as a binding judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, is something over which neither Cameron or John Reid has any control or authority – the legal position in the UK, as in the rest of Europe, is that an individual cannot be extradited to the US to face trial for an offence that could result in the imposition of the deathy penalty, no matter who is government at any particular time.

3. In an interview with Real Business magazine, David Cameron talked tough on white collar crime:

David Cameron:  And I think a lot of business I talk to are not satisfied with the response we have in this country to white collar crime.

Question:  Will there be specific proposals for that?

DC: Yeah, get tough on it! When you see someone committing a fraud on a business and you see them then getting a few hours community service – that is not good enough.

Q: So increase penalties?

DC: Yes, if necessary, yes.

Q: An ability to fire them?

DC: Yes. As I’ve said, this important. All we’re saying is that sometimes politicians in listening to the business sector are so used to just picking up the messages about tax and bureaucracy that they don’t listen to the other things. It’s very important we listen to those things like white collar crime that is very concerning to a lot of businesses.

(David Cameron, Real Business magazine, September, 2006:

Cameron may have ‘talked tough’ on white collar crime in this interview, but even an idiot can see that he does so in the context of the UK and the UK legal system and not with reference to the question of extradition to the US.

These are two very different matters. One is about whether the UK’s legal system treats white collar crime sufficiently seriously, the other is about whether we should extradite British citizens/residents to the US on the strength of nothing more than an allegation, a standard of ‘evidence’ insufficient to secure an extradition the other way.

4. But by voting to retain the Lords amendments on extradition in the Police and Criminal Justice Bill, David Cameron’s Conservatives are opposing important modernisation to tackle international crime, thus revealing his hypocrisy on crime. The Lords amendments which the Tories voted for today will:

o make us unable to extradite to the UK offenders in the US wanted here for modern crimes

Errm. How, exactly?

The evidentiary requirements for extradition from the US to the UK are well known and understood and have not been substantially altered by the 2003 treaty. In fact the treaty in question could not make any alterations to the core requirements on the US side of the treaty as these are defined by its constitution.

Nothing in these Lords’ amendments would appear to have any affect on such extradition requests as they apply solely and exclusively to extradtion from the UK to the US and not vice-versa.

o allow sex offenders [whose crimes were committed a few years ago but are still on the run in America ] to shelter there from justice

Again, how will adding a requirement that the US authorities show probably cause, an evidentiary standard with which they are entirely familiar as it forms a fundamental pillar of thier own criminal justice system, affect the ability of the UK to seek the extradition of sex offenders from the US?

What have sex ofenders got to do with this issue in the first place, other than as a blatant and transparent appeal to the screamsheets (The Sun, Daily and Express) to splash ‘Cameron blocks Paedo Extraditions’ headlines across tomorrow’s front pages.

o block us from adding charges to someone already extradited, even if we had strong evidence

And again, how do any of these amendments give rise to that precise effect?

You’re making claims here without a single shred of evidence to back them up, not even in your explaination of the nature and purpose of these amendments.

o mean that there was no chance of getting American lifers to face justice for other crimes committed in the UK.

Hang on a second. Aside from the fact, yet not a single one of the amendments cited in this article has anything at all to do with extraditions from the US to the UK, you’re also now suggesting that somewhere in all this we’re wanting to be able to extradite prisoners from the US who are already serving a life sentence, which can often mean a sentence without parole, to stand trial in a UK court?

Am I missing something here or are these hypothetical prisoners not already serving a life sentence, in which case why the fuck would we be trying to extradite them in the first place?

If you want to extradite the occasional corpse from the US then be my guest, but this still has absolutely fuck all to do with any of the amendments you’re complaining about at the start of this press release.

Going back to the original list of ‘charges’ against Cameron, I can’t help but notice this one…

the third would prevent us, at any time in the future (without primary legislation) changing the evidential requirements for the US; effectively killing the new treaty.

So what you’re actually is that this treaty, which you signed three years ago and are only now seeking to pass legislation to enact parts of it,  won’t work at all if any future changes to the evidential requirements for extraditions to the US are subject to full and democratic Parliamentary scrutiny?

In short, we can’t have international treaties in Parliament insists that the little matter of parliamentary democracy gets in the way?

I think you know exactly what’s coming next… you can fuck that idea for a game of international relations right from the outset.

Looks, as party member, there is nothing I enjoy quite so much as good old dig at the Tories but if and when I do that I do have one little requirement that I like to adhere to…

…that whatever it is I’m having a dig over has at least some semblance of a basis in fucking reality.

Call me picky, but I do have some standards one of which is that I try to base my arguments on logic, rational thought and the occasional solid fact – its what I tend to think of as having a little ‘personal integrity’.

Even as a Labour Party member I cannot advance the arguments put forward here, not when its patently obvious that they amount to nothing more nor less than a pile of steaming horse-shit and, to be entirely clear on this, I find that to be a complete and utter fucking embarrassment.

I am, the last time I looked, still a member of the Labour Party and not a member of the Daily fucking Express and whether you like it or not, I have certain standards and values that do matter to me, not least of which are honest and integrity, and I neither appreciate nor enjoy seeing my own party slopping around in the political gutter with press releases that are patently and obviously a work of complete and utter fiction.

One thought on “Selling Justice by the Dollar…

  1. I remember when the word ‘truth’ mattered to New Labour. For about 10 seconds after they were elected. And let’s face it, when you’re as far behind in the polls as Tony PLC is, lieing is the least of your worries!

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