HL Deb 03 May 1872 vol 211 cc181-4

, in moving that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Returns stating the number and nature of all Treaties or Conventions at present in force with Foreign States for the Extradition of Criminals, said, that public attention had been directed to this subject by the circumstances connected with the arrest of Marguerite Dixblanc in Paris for a murder committed in this country. But, as it seemed to him, hardly a crumb of information was supplied with regard to these treaties. In 1870 the then Attorney General (Sir Robert Collier) brought forward an Extradition Bill, and in the course of his speech stated that while France had 53 Extradition Treaties and the United States nearly as many, this country had only three. Now, so far as he (the Earl of Rosebery) could gather, at the time the Attorney General spoke England had in fact four Treaties of Extradition with foreign Powers—one with Russia made in 1842, one with France in 1842, one with Denmark in 1862, and one with Prussia in 1864. It was quite possible that as their continuance depended on the will of the high contracting parties, some of these might have ceased to be operative; but, at any rate, it was important that information should be supplied as to which of them still remained in force. During the two years which had elapsed since the Extradition Bill was introduced, a new Attorney General had come into office, but the country had obtained a very small increase of information. Their Lordships might possibly be aware that in the course of some recent proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench arising out of the protracted trial that had recently absorbed so much of the public attention the Attorney General said we had not a Treaty of Extradition with America. Mr. Justice Blackburn, apparently overcome with astonishment, said—"Not with America!" The Attorney General replied—"No; but negotiations are going on, and I hope there will soon be one." MR. Justice Blackburn asked, whether the time had expired? and the Attorney General said he was not sure, but that a proposal was pending to extend the time. But the Act of Parliament founded on the Treaty with America provided that the treaty should continue in force till one or the other of the signataries gave notice to the contrary. There was no limitation of time, therefore, in the treaty, and the period of its continuance could not be "extended." When such vague statements were made in quarters which they would assume to be well-informed, their Lordships were justified in turning from these doctors who disagreed and in applying to the Foreign Office for information. There could be no object in keeping those treaties secret. Indeed, the events of the last two years had made secret treaties rather out of fashion. The publication of Extradition Treaties must surely be useful and necessary. A forger, for example, if he found that he would leave these shores only to be brought back in handcuffs, would perhaps hesitate before committing such a crime. The knowledge that treaties of this kind existed must have a repressive effect on some crimes, like forgery, which were committed with premeditation. On inquiry it might be found that more Extradition Treaties existed than the Attorney General supposed, and that they had a Treaty with America, for if not they might as well give up the system of Extradition Treaties altogether. He trusted that the Government would grant the modest request he now made for information on a subject than which few were more important, and certainly none were more obscure. Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Returns stating the number and nature of all treaties or conventions at present in force with foreign states for the extradition of criminals.—(The Earl of Rosebery.)


said, he must express his satisfaction that the subject had been brought forward by the noble Earl—first, because his noble Friend had, as yet, but seldom availed himself of his opportunities for adding to the sufficient, though few, proofs he had already given of his power to take a most important part in their Lordships' discussions; and, secondly, because Her Majesty's Government were willing to afford all the information in their power upon a subject which, at the present time, occupied so much of the public attention. Not knowing that his noble Friend would refer to the Attorney General, he had not been able to communicate with him, and could not, therefore, say what his hon. and learned Friend had stated to the Court of Queen's Bench in reference to these treaties, or whether he had been correctly reported. He (Earl Granville) must, therefore, confine himself to giving the information asked for. Three Extradition Treaties were now in existence—one with France, one with the United States, and one with Denmark. That with the United States comprised charges of murder, attempts to murder, piracy, arson, robbery, forgery, and frauds by means of forged documents. The treaties with France and Denmark comprised murder, attempts to murder, forgery, and fraudulent bankruptcy. There was also a Treaty of Extradition with China; but it was of a different character from those existing with the countries he had just mentioned. The principle on which the three treaties to which he referred rested was that any demand for the surrender of a person accused of crime should be made through the diplomatic agents of the country requiring it, and that the surrender should only be made after the commission of the crime had been so established as that the laws of the country to which the fugitive had escaped would justify his apprehension and commitment for trial if the crime had been there committed. In the case of Denmark there was an exception as to the surrender of natives of Denmark. No such provision existed in the treaties with the United States or with France. As to the former, neither the Americans nor ourselves could hesitate about giving up natives, for the identity of language would make it difficult, if not impracticable, to enforce such a provision. As to the French, the case had never arisen. The belief was that France would be opposed to the surrender of natives—the universal principle adopted on the Continent of Europe being that a native subject of any State could not be surrendered by the State. Besides these treaties, powers of surrendering criminals were exercised between some of our colonies and neighbouring territories; but these were not treaties; they were separate legislative enactments. With regard to Prussia, an Extradition Treaty was concluded in 1864, and in 1852 one was made with France; but in neither case did the Government succeed in obtaining the sanction of Parliament, and therefore the treaties remained inopera- tive. Two years ago a difficulty arose with France, as to certifying the depositions taken, but by subsequent legislation that difficulty was removed. His noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery) was correct in stating that no time was limited in the treaty with the United States, that treaty being terminable at any time by six months' notice from either of the two signataries. A treaty with Germany was now almost on the point of being signed; but delay had arisen entirely through the difficulty which English lawyers and foreign jurists experienced in defining the crimes to which the treaty applied; but he hoped that no long time would elapse before those difficulties were overcome. All these treaties were terminable at six months' notice. He had no doubt that other countries would follow the good example which had been set with regard to those treaties, the value of which his noble Friend had not, in the slightest degree, overrated.

Motion agreed to.