What is Extradition? Understanding the basics
Extradition is the formal process where one country asks another to return a person to stand trial or to serve a sentence. Under multilateral conventions and bilateral treaties, the UK has extradition relations with over 100 territories around the world.
What Is the Process?
The process is slightly different depending on whether the request comes from a European country that is part of the European Arrest Warrant scheme (EAW) or not. In either case, the requesting State contacts the UK authorities and makes an extradition request. This may result in a warrant being issued against you, you being arrested and brought to court.
It might be the case that you worry that an extradition request will be made in the future, or you know that an extradition request has been made. If that is the case you should contact us without delay so that we can advise you on the options available.
If you are arrested, your case will be heard before a District Judge sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
When you first appear in court, there are some formalities that have to be dealt with. The District Judge has to make sure that you are the person named in the warrant, that you have a copy of the warrant and that you have been brought to court in good time. After that, you will be asked if you consent to your extradition. If you do, you should be extradited within 10 days if it is an EAW. When you are wanted outside Europe the process can take a little longer.
If you do not consent, the court will have to consider whether the tests for extradition are met. In non-EAW cases, the final decision will rest with the Home Secretary. You will be given a date to come back to Court. At that hearing, the District Judge will listen to all of the evidence and make their decision.
Finally, the District Judge will decide if you should be granted bail until the end of your case, or if you are going to be remanded in custody.
Do I Need a Solicitor specialising in Extradition?
Yes, is the simple answer. This area of law is incredibly complex. There are no circumstances where it is appropriate to try and navigate your way through this legal maze yourself.
A duty solicitor will be available at Court to assist you, but even at that stage it is worth instructing a specialist extradition lawyer. You can insist that we are contacted to help. The earlier we are instructed in the proceedings, the better equipped we will be to assist you.
It is essential that that you do not consent to extradition without proper consideration of the law, and that potential legal arguments are identified at the outset. Experienced extradition lawyers can advise you on the processes and how a request might be opposed.
In some cases, it will be appropriate to use specially trained barristers who specialise in extradition law.
8 Bars to Extradition
If you are contesting your extradition, the Extradition Act sets out a number of ‘bars’ to extradition. There are 8 for a European Arrest Warrant;
- The rule against double jeopardy.
- The absence of a prosecution decision (whether the prosecution case against the accused is sufficiently advanced).
- Extraneous considerations (whether the request is improperly motivated).
- Passage of time.
- The requested person’s age.
- Speciality (the requested person must only be dealt with in the requested state for the offences for which they have been extradited).
- Onward extradition (where the requested person has previously been extradited to the UK from a third county, and consent for onward extradition from that country is required but has not been forthcoming).
- Forum (whether it would be more appropriate for the requested person to be prosecuted in the UK instead).
If any of these bars apply, then extradition will not be allowed.
There are two further bars for non-European warrants (hostage-taking and the death penalty).
Read more about fighting extradition here.
The judge must also decide if extradition would be disproportionate or would be incompatible with the requested person’s human rights. The most common argument is under Article 8. This is the right to family life, where a person has been settled in this Country for some time. However, in recent years there have been a number of cases based on prison conditions. If the judge decides it would be both proportionate and compatible, extradition must be ordered.
When the Home Secretary is making the decision, the process is different.
It is vital that all available evidence is presented during the hearing. This may involve testimony from experts both in this Country and from abroad.
In a significant number of cases, further avenues of appeal are available to the High Court, and sometimes to the Supreme Court.
Is Funding Available?
Legal aid may be available in the Magistrates Court depending on your financial circumstances. If you are not eligible for legal aid, then we will be able to offer a privately funded package. If you are appealing to the High Court, there is no financial test and everyone can get legal aid.
John Howey runs our extradition team. John has extensive experience in this area of law and regularly appears at Westminster Magistrates Court, and in the Administrative Court in extradition appeals. We have access to interpreters who speak all languages.
Leave Nothing To Chance
The prospect of being returned to another Country to face legal proceedings is daunting; it is, therefore, essential that you seek out expert assistance at an early stage. Please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.