03/04/2003

Greater trans-Atlantic cooperation on law and order

Following the Home Secretary's visit to the US, the government has revealed new measures signalling a greater degree of trans-Atlantic cooperation over criminal justice and national defence.

Earlier today, David Blunkett and the Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine today announced plans to support the development of US-style community courts in Britain.

The New York-based Center for Court Innovation has been invited to help develop plans for pilot community justice centres in England and Wales. These will, according to the government, "ultimately aim to shift the focus of the criminal justice system to engaging more in crime prevention and problem-solving" in the community in addition to bringing perpetrators to justice.

Mr Blunkett said: "By bringing together the relevant agencies, by adopting a more cohesive approach to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, and by making courts more responsive to the communities they serve, we aim to reduce crime and the fear of crime and increase clear-up rates and public confidence in the criminal justice system."

It is anticipated that community justice centres would act as a focus point for communities and reduce disorder and anti-social behaviour.

Also today, came the announcement that a new extradition treaty and an agreement on sharing criminals’ confiscated assets has agreed.

The treaty is designed to bring Anglo-US procedures more in line with extradition arrangements to European countries by removing the need for prima facie evidence but still requiring a detailed statement of the facts of the case to be provided. It makes any crime carrying a penalty of at least 12 months imprisonment in both states extraditable.

The new treaty also maintains the present position that political motivation cannot be used to block extradition in the case of terrorist or other violent crimes.

The Home Secretary also signed a memorandum of understanding with John Walters, the Director of the US Office of National Drugs Control Policy today. The agreement will lead to increased information sharing and co-operation in research and development and will allow up to $10 million to be spent on joint projects.

These will primarily explore new drugs detection and surveillance technologies such as the use of lasers to "sniff out" drugs with greater sensitivity.

(GMcG)

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