Extradition forum amendment

Extradition is a trauma in and of itself – it has a serious impact on the person extradited and their family, friends and supporters.

Liberty believes that any decision about where a person should face trial must be informed by human rights considerations.

If a significant part of the conduct that constitutes the alleged offence took place in the UK, issues of evidence, the location of witnesses, the seriousness of the alleged offence, the interests of justice and the effect on the life of the person should be able to form part of any decision to allow extradition.

However, under extradition laws currently in force a UK court cannot bar extradition even where the conduct that led to the alleged crime took place while the person was in the UK.

So, as in the cases of Richard O'Dwyer, Christopher Tappin and others, even if the alleged conduct took place in the UK via the internet, email or telephone and it’s possible to prosecute in the UK, there is currently nothing giving a British court the power to bar extradition on these grounds.

In 2006 amendments were made to the Extradition Act that would allow a UK court to bar extradition on this basis, giving UK judges the power to decide on the basis of each individual case whether it is appropriate to order extradition. On 16th October 2012, the Home Secretary announced that she would not bring this amendment into force, but she will table new legislation to introduce a forum bar.  

Liberty welcomed the Home Secretary’s recognition that our extradition laws need to change. We are now campaigning to get them to make sure this long overdue change to the law is made urgently. Had such a law been in force when Gary McKinnon’s case first came before the courts his extradition to America could have been barred by the court on this basis and he would not have had to wait ten long years with extradition hanging over his head. We will continue to call on the Coalition Government to honour the principles both parties strongly supported while in opposition, and immediately bring forward legislation to make the change.

It is time for the Government to stand up for future Gary McKinnons and give our courts the discretion to refuse extradition when the public interest is so clearly not served by extradition.