Wednesday, 15 May 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
11. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Justice the circumstances surrounding the recent failed attempt to extradite a person (details supplied) to Britain; whether responsibility for the failed proceedings lay with the Irish or British Authorities; her views on the efficacy of current extradition procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9940/96]
137. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Justice the person/jurisdiction who had responsibility for the documentation in the recent extradition proceedings taken against a person (details supplied). [8116/96]
Deputies will appreciate that I must be careful in what I say in responding to this question as the person in respect of whom the application was made is now before the courts as a result of proceedings in this jurisdiction.
A warrant and supporting documents in this case, other than the documents required by the Attorney General for the purpose of the functions he is required to exercise under section 2 of the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987, were forwarded directly by the requesting police force to the Garda authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Extradition Acts 1965 to 1994 and established practice. Copies of the warrant and supporting documents were forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General and to my Department. The procedure in this case took place at short notice and within a tight time-frame.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the extradition proceedings failed in this instance because the warrant produced in court was not the original warrant. Following consultation with the law officers it was decided not to proceed with the case. My Department immediately sought a report following the collapse of the extradition case. A final report has not been received, however. The Garda authorities have informed me that a review of the steps taken in dealing with this matter has to date failed to establish the reason the original warrant was not available to the court.
It is clear, therefore, that the facts which resulted in the original warrant not being presented at the court hearing have not been established at this stage. I am not satisfied with the delay in establishing them and have requested  the Garda authorities to conclude their inquiries within a matter of days. I will make the facts available as soon as they have been determined subject to advice on any legal constraints that may exist.
As regards the efficacy of current extradition arrangements generally, I am satisfied that those procedures work well in the vast majority of cases. It is also true that cases arise from time to time — this was clearly one — where procedural or legal difficulties give rise to problems. It is only right that where such difficulties do arise, the existing arrangements are examined in the light of that experience and any necessary adjustments are made. I can assure the House that the necessary steps are being taken in this regard in the context of this case.
Ms O'Donnell: The Minister's response is extraordinary. Is she telling the House that, one month after the failed extradition of this person, she is still in the dark about what went wrong? The Minister has been informed by the Garda authorities. Has she had consultations with the Office of the Attorney General on this point? Was the original warrant lost in this jurisdiction? Despite the recently updated and elaborate procedures on the processing of extradition warrants in the Office of the Attorney General — computer tracking, monitoring and alert systems — were the British authorities told at any time that the documents had to be originals, not copies?
Mrs. Owen: It is a month since this happened and I am not satisfied that I cannot outline what happened in this case. The Garda have not yet outlined to me what happened. I asked the very questions Deputy O'Donnell raises but the Garda advise me they have been unable to conclude their discussions on these matters with the relevant authorities in the UK.
That this extradition did not proceed has nothing to do with the Office of the Attorney General, it concerns the originality of the document put to the  courts. Both the Attorney General and I cleared these documents for execution but when the matter went to court the documents were found not to be originals. There in lies the kernel of the case and I have not yet been told whether an original document came here. I am sorry I cannot give that answer. I have asked for the information and have not been given it. I am just as frustrated as the Deputy appears to be at not being able to answer her but the Garda have not answered me either.
Ms O'Donnell: It is extraordinary that the Minister has not been briefed properly by the Garda authorities in this matter. Why was the Taoiseach also unable to answer questions on this matter put by Deputy Harney and others on 24 April? Why was a parliamentary question on this matter, submitted on 17 April, transferred to the Minister for Justice when it is the Taoiseach who is accountable to this House for the Office of the Attorney General? It is bad enough that he was unable to answer questions about this on 24 April but now the Minister for Justice is similarly unable to do so. Who will be able to account to the House for the failure of this extradition?
Mrs. Owen: I do not know the answer because the Garda do not know the  answer or, if it does, it has not given it to me. Its reply to me is that the Garda authorities have been unable to conclude their discussions about these matters. I can say no more than that as soon as they are concluded and I know where the fault lies I will make that known. The Deputies can castigate me for the rest of the afternoon but I am being truthful and honest with them. I have been briefed as much as I can be by the Garda, who says it has not concluded its investigations.
Ms O'Donnell: Is the Minister unaware that the Taoiseach gave a commitment to the House on 24 April that the Minister for Justice would be in a position at Question Time today to give a full and comprehensive reply to the questions raised on that day? Is it not the case that, when the extradition proceedings elaborately collapsed on 12 April, Garda sources roundly condemned the British authorities and blamed them for the collapse? If the British authorities are blaming the Irish authorities and vice versa, who is telling the truth?
Mrs. Owen: The Taoiseach gave a commitment that I would answer questions on this matter and that is what I am doing now — I do not have the full answers but I am answering the questions. If the Deputy is trying to cast aspersions at the Taoiseach to the effect that he made a commitment and I am not fulfilling it, I state that I am fulfilling it. I am not here to give a load of waffle, I am telling the truth, which is that I do not know the answer.
Mr. M. McDowell: A month? Mrs. Owen: I am not giving this as an excuse but in fairness to all concerned the Deputy should know that applications of this kind, this one in particular, arrive at short notice and involve the combined efforts of a number of authorities, including the Garda and the British police. All the agencies involved worked within a tight time frame — suffice to say that I had to sign my documents after midnight on 13 April. I will bring the Deputy the answer as soon as I have it. She can spend the rest of Question Time castigating me but that will not make it any easier to give her the answer because I do not have it.
|Last Updated: 21/05/2011 12:04:24||Page of 146|