Extradition is a very specialist area of law and it is important to ensure that your solicitor has the necessary experience to deal with your case.
What is Extradition?
Extradition is the formal process for requesting the surrender of requested persons from one territory to another for the following purposes:
- to be prosecuted;
- to be sentenced for an offence for which the person has already been convicted; or
- to carry out of a sentence that has already been imposed.
Extradition to another country can result in lengthy prison sentences and potential exposure to a penalty and/or treatment that would be illegal in the UK.
Once arrested, the requested person must be brought to Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where all extradition proceedings in England & Wales are conducted.
The burden of proof in extradition cases is often upon the requested person, which means that gathering evidence to support a challenge is one of the most crucial aspects of any extradition case.
What Happens at the First Court Hearing?
At the first hearing, the question of consent will be put to the requested person. This means the requested person will either consent to extradition or not consent to be extradited. If a person consents to extradition, the right to appeal this decision will be lost and the person would usually be extradited within 10 days.
If a person does not consent to be extradited, bars and issues in respect of the extradition will need to be identified. This would generally involve outlining specific arguments, the potential need to instruct experts or obtain further information and the time it will likely take to obtain any necessary expert reports. The case would then be adjourned for a final extradition hearing.
The first appearance hearing will also be the first chance to apply for bail.
What are the Statutory Bars to Extradition?
- Double Jeopardy – whether the person has already been prosecuted for the same offence;
- Absence of Prosecution Decision – whether the prosecution case against the accused is sufficiently advanced;
- Extraneous Considerations – whether the request for extradition is improperly motivated and there is a risk of prejudice to the requested person;
- Passage of Time – whether extradition would be unjust or oppressive in light of the amount of time that has passed since the offence or since the person has been unlawfully at large;
- Age – whether because of age, the requested person could not be guilty of the offence;
- Hostage-taking Considerations – whether the requested person would be unable to communicate with protective authorities and the extradition offence falls under the Taking of Hostages Act 1982;
- Death Penalty – whether or not the requested person could be sentenced to death for the extradition offence in the requesting state;
- Specialty – prevents the requested person from being dealt with in the requested state for offences other than those for which they have been extradited;
- Earlier Extradition from Territory / by the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’) – whether the requested person was previously extradited to the UK from another country or by the ICC to serve a custodial sentence and no consent has been given by that country or by the ICC President for further extradition;
- Forum – whether it would be in the interests of justice for the requested person to be prosecuted in the UK instead.
Arguments can also be brought under the European Convention on Human Rights Act if a person was at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3), if they were unlikely to receive a fair trial if extradited (Article 6) or under the right to a family life (Article 8).
What Happens at the Final Extradition Hearing?
The final extradition hearing usually takes place 30 to 60 days after a person is arrested. Legal argument is heard and evidence, including expert evidence, is considered before the court delivers judgement as to whether a person should be extradited.
If extradition is ordered at the judgement hearing, it is possible to appeal that decision to the High Court. The application must be made within 7 days of the judgement.
How Can Wheldon Law Help?
Extradition proceedings can cause extreme stress and anxiety to both the person arrested under an extradition warrant and their loved ones. If you or a friend/family member have been arrested under an extradition warrant, it is vital to obtain expert legal advice immediately, to present the best opportunity of successfully fighting an extradition warrant.
Extradition Law is one of the most complex and fast-changing areas of criminal law, and it’s one in which our expert solicitors specialise. Our extradition team is led by Aleksandra Sobieraj.
We accept legal aid and private instructions.