A committee of peers has today called on the government to reconsider its policy on legal aid for extradition cases.
A costs-benefit analysis of means-testing was ‘inadequate’ and legal aid ought to be awarded automatically unless a ‘more precise’ analysis of means-testing justifies its retention, the House of Lords Extradition Committee recommends.
A report from the committee, ‘Extradition: UK law and practice’, concludes that although aspects of the law and practice relating to extradition are concerning, there is no ‘systemic problem’ with the UK’s extradition regime.
In particular they cite problems with the system of accepting assurances from foreign states to offset the risk of extradition leading to human rights abuses.
‘We do not believe that the system of seeking, accepting and monitoring assurances provides sufficient confidence that the UK is meeting its human rights obligations,’ the peers conclude. ‘We believe we need, in the home secretary’s words, “greater assurance to the assurances”.’
The peers also recommend that a system of accreditation be introduced for duty solicitors who provide legal advice to people who do not have access to their own lawyer.
In other areas of law, such as asylum and immigration, duty solicitors are required to undergo an externally assessed and accredited ‘ticketing’ process before being added to the duty rota. But for extradition work, the only criterion is to declare oneself able to carry out the work.
The report recommends that ‘ticketing’ be introduced in extradition too, ‘to ensure proper expertise is available from the earliest point in proceedings’. The Ministry of Justice opposes such a system on cost grounds.