This is the first opportunity I have had to contribute to this debate. I have very definite views on two aspects of this Bill. First, I regard this as a very important Bill. It is important in this age of rapid travel and, having regard to the particular circumstances of this island, we should have extradition available because nobody wants to have our jurisdiction a haven for serious criminals. Secondly, I believe that there should be adequate safeguards for suspected persons who are threatened with extradition.
I do not believe section 2 is satisfactory. I do not have very much time at my disposal but I do not think I could summarise the Bill, or this particular section, better than by using the words of an eminent senior counsel, Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty, who said in last Sunday's Sunday Press:
This legislation is experimental but it is worth a try. If it does not prove satisfactory then something else can be tried.
That sort of thing is entirely unsatisfactory when we are dealing with something as serious as extradition.
I do not believe section 2 is satisfactory because I do not accept it is proper to leave the decision whether a person is to be extradited to the Attorney General. I want to make it perfectly clear that when I am speaking about the Attorney General I am not speaking about an individual. I am speaking about the constitutional Office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General is not, in my opinion, an independent Office. He is appointed by the President on the nomination of the Taoiseach. Therefore, he is a political appointee, so are judges but they have fixity of tenure.
It is also stated in Article 30 that the Attorney General shall not be a member of the Government, the Attorney General may at any time resign from the Office by placing his resignation in the hands of the Taoiseach for submission to the President. The Taoiseach may, for reasons which to him seem sufficient, request the resignation of the Attorney General and if the Attorney General does not give him his resignation, he may then terminate his appointment by advising the President to terminate it.
We are asking an office holder who is appointed by the Taoiseach of the day, and who can be removed from office by the said Taoiseach without giving any reasons, to perform judicial functions. For the purposes of my argument let us presume that if section 2 is constitutional — I do not think it is — then the Attorney General is not a suitable person to ask to adjudicate on this. I am not referring to any individual holder of that office but if we cannot discuss the office without being accused of being personal, we cannot conduct a reasonable debate in the House. It is well known — and has been accepted down through the years — that unless the holder of Office of Attorney General falls foul of the Government of the day, he is usually offered one of the highest posts in the land, a judgeship, on a permanent basis. That is something we cannot put out of our minds, I do not have to labour it further. He is not an independent person, he is a political appointee and it is wrong that the freedom of a person should be in the hands of such a political appointee.
Maybe it is a case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread, but I am convinced that the proposal is not constitutional and that it will be held to be unconstitutional to authorise the Attorney General to sift the evidence, to decide whether there is sufficient evidence and to give him the right to issue a direction that a person should not be extradited. If he does not give any direction, the failure to do so is a finding by him that there is an intention to prosecute and that there is sufficient evidence to warrant that intention. That is a judicial finding and, in order to make up one's mind whether it is a judicial function, one must bear in mind that three Acts are involved, the 1965 Act which introduced the court proceedings, the 1987 Act which dealt with political offences and the Bill now before the House. The court must have regard to each and every one of those statutory Acts when considering whether a person is being legally extradited.
One of the most important matters to be decided is whether there is an intention to prosecute and, more important still, whether there is evidence to ground such an intention to prosecute. Whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant that is the one thing that is being taken away from the courts and handed over to a non-judicial person because, whatever else the Attorney General is, he is not a judge.