Reading Hansard

On 25 February 2003, the House of Lords were discussing amendments to the Crime (International Cooperation) Bill. I happened on this by chance and it reminded me that I ought to spend more time searching Hansard for information on the drafting of statutes.They were discussing why they should be granting assistance to other countries in connection with ‘administrative proceedings’ in addition to criminal proceedings, and it was explained that ‘administrative proceedings’ here referred to administrative offences (Ordnungswidrigkeiten), such as traffic offences, which would be criminal in Britain. Britain therefore has no difficulty in getting assistance from other countries in connection with traffice offences, but Germany, Belgium and Austria have difficulty because they have decriminalized the acts. Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, said:

bq. We are informed that in Germany, Austria and Belgium certain traffic offences that would be criminal offences here have been reclassified as administrative offences. That is almost saying that it is a less serious classification. We also understand that the Scandinavian countries classify certain environmental claims as administrative although, again, they would be regarded as criminal here. Not all EU countries have proceedings of this nature; as I said, we do not. As we would classify such offences as criminal, we can already—under existing mutual legal assistance agreements and our own domestic legislation—request and be provided with mutual legal assistance in relation to them. However, as the same acts are “decriminalised” in those countries, those countries are unable to seek such assistance from us. The extension of Schengen and the MLAC to cover administrative proceedings is designed to ensure that those countries can obtain like assistance for like offences. I hope that that additional clarification, by giving examples and putting them into that context, will help explain and provide reassurance on the point.

I must say I wouldn’t have understood ‘administrative proceedings’ here either. There was a suggestion to replace it by ‘judicial proceedings’, but that was too wide. The last suggestion was therefore:

bq. “punishable under national law . . . by being infringements of the rules of law and where the decision may give rise to proceedings before a court having jurisdiction in particular in criminal matters”

Anyway, the subject-matter and language of this debate are rather useful for translators, I think.

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