HC Deb 22 May 1978 vol 950 cc1110-1
57. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Attorney-General what report he has had from the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland about the operation of the Criminal Jurisdiction Act.

The Attorney-General

The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland has reported that one case has been instituted under the provisions of the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975. This case involves three persons who have been returned for trial to the Belfast City Commission for offences including the extraterritorial offence of murder in the Republic of Ireland and possession of firearms in that jurisdiction. The trial of these persons is pending.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of public concern about the number of fugitives from justice who find refuge in the Republic of Ireland, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider making, at his convenience, a full statement to the House on this matter, bearing in mind the assertion made by the Taoiseach that full use is not being made of this legislation and also his invitation to resort to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 in cases of murder?

The Attorney-General

On the question of a full statement, the hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has answered a number of questions on this subject and has made statements. There is co-operation. It is true that there are many fugitives from justice in the South, but the hon. Gentleman will also know that the vast majority of them are people who are alleged to have committed offences prior to 1st June 1976 and it is only in relation to offences since that date that the provisions concerning extraterritorial offences apply. I have every reason to believe that co-operation betflween ourselves and the South is good.

Of course, we have always been able to take advantage of the 1861 Act in relation to the extra-territorial offences to which it relates and, where necessary, we shall use that in addition to, or in lieu of, the new Act.

Mr. Gow

Is it not the case that the law of extradition as applied in the Republic to those whom we would wish to prosecute for alleged terrorist offences in the United Kingdom is unsatisfactory? Can the Attorney-General tell us that representations have been made and are being made through the Foreign Office that the Irish Government should alter their law in this regard?

The Attorney-General

I do not think that it is for me to criticise the law of another country. Extradition is another matter with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has dealt on a number of occasions. We are well aware of the use of the border, and we are doing our best, together with the South, to solve that problem.