Bishop of St Albans asks Government how often it has sought death penalty assurances for British nationals

On 9th October 2018 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question on death penalty assurances for British or former British citizens:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the statement by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 24 July, how many times in the last 20 years they have decided not to seek death penalty assurances for British or former British citizens; and what were the details of any such cases.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: A review of available records (dating back to 2001) has been undertaken and I can confirm that we have identified one occasion where we have provided mutual legal assistance without a death penalty assurance where the death penalty was an available sentence which involved a British or former British national. Due to the potential to harm on-going criminal investigations or future prosecutions and the confidentiality attached to mutual legal assistance, it would not be appropriate to share further information.

I reiterate the statement by the Minister of State for Security on 23 July (Official Record 23 July column 725) who sought to reassure the House that our long-standing position on the use of the death penalty has not changed. The UK has a long-standing policy of opposing the death penalty as a matter of principle regardless of nationality. Requests for Mutual Legal Assistance must be considered in accordance with the Government’s Overseas, Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) Guidance, which requires an assessment of both human rights and death penalty risks.

The OSJA guidance, which has been in existence since 2011, permits the provision of assistance, without obtaining assurances, where there are strong reasons for doing so:

“Ministers should be consulted to determine whether, given the specific circumstances of the case, we should nevertheless provide assistance.”


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