After a relatively short time out of the news, Julian Assange was back making headlines again last week. His lawyers have asked Westminster Magistrates Court to withdraw the domestic arrest warrant that was issued for him when he failed to surrender himself to be extradited in 2012.
Since then he has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy, costing his friends and supporters the £200,000 they had put forward as a bail security.
At the hearing, Mark Summers QC, representing Assange, told the Chief Magistrate that the arrest warrant had ‘lost its purpose and function’ now that the European Arrest Warrant had been dropped. In Extradition proceedings, Requested Persons are granted bail in exactly the same way as they are in a criminal case, so that if they breach their conditions they can be arrested for the breach and the issue of bail looked at again, or if they fail to appear at court or surrender themselves to be extradited, they commit an offence under the bail act.
It is difficult to see the basis for Assange’s argument. As the Judicial Authority pointed out, the failure to answer bail is a separate issue to the extradition proceedings, and to withdraw it now would be tantamount to rewarding Assange for staying in the Ecuadorian Embassy for so long. In criminal proceedings, a warrant does not disappear simply because the substantive proceedings have come to an end; within the last fortnight a criminal client of ours was arrested for failing to appear at court some 6 months after he was found not guilty in his absence. Although the Judge took a pragmatic view and took no action against him, as a matter of law he was quite rightly arrested and produced at Court.
The application may simply be an attempt to persuade the Chief Magistrate to bring this whole sorry saga to an end; she could simply withdraw the arrest warrant if she was inclined to do so. However, that might set a dangerous precedent and simply encourage others to go to great lengths to avoid being found. The application may also have been brought about by the indication that Ecuador’s patience is running thin with Assange.
Either way, it seems that there might just be an end in sight.
John Howey, Senior Solicitor
On 6th February the Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, ruled that the arrest warrant should not be withdrawn. In her judgment, she said;
‘It is not uncommon for Bail Act offences to be pursued when the substantive proceedings are no longer in existence’
which reflects our own experience in recent weeks. She went on to say;
‘Many authorities underline the importance of a defendant attending court when bailed to do so and they describe the way that the administration of justice can be undermined by defendants who fail to attend’
As we expected, the Chief Magistrate has refused to allow Mr Assange to reap the rewards of his extended stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy.
You can read the full judgment hereRead More
Many of our clients ask whether there is legal aid for extradition cases. The answer is yes, there is. It is actually now called a ‘representation order’, although most people still talk about legal aid. All extradition cases begin in Westminster Magistrates’ Court and you may be eligible at this stage. You can apply with any firm of your choice, so long as they have a criminal contract.
There is a means test for legal aid for extradition cases at the Magistrates’ Court. This means that your income, your partner’s income and family circumstances will be taken into consideration. You must provide proof of your income and outgoings. The application will be made by your solicitor of choice to the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) where an assessment will be made on your disposable income. You will not have to pay any fees for your extradition hearing if you are granted legal aid.
When application is refused and you are still unable to afford a lawyer, you can make a hardship application to the LAA for them to reconsider.
There is a merits test for legal aid for criminal cases. However, all extradition cases automatically pass that test.
Can I change my solicitor?
If you have been successful in obtaining legal aid for extradition with a firm of solicitors and wish to instruct another firm to represent you instead, you may face difficulties. If you want to transfer, you must make an application to the Court. You must explain the reasons why you want to transfer. Therefore, it is important that you only apply for representation with a firm you feel confident in from the start.
All appeals against extradition in the High Court qualify for legal aid. There is no means test in the High Court. This means that you will not have to provide any proof of your income and outgoings. If you instruct a firm to lodge your appeal on this basis, then you will not have to pay for the Court fees for lodging the appeal. Your solicitor will help you with the forms and all fees involved in the appeal.
Please contact us on 0207 388 1658, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to discuss your extradition matter with us further, or to find out whether your would be eligible for legal aid for extradition matters. We have a dedicated team of lawyers specialising in extradition who are here to help you.
If you want to know more about extradition proceedings, read our guide to the basics here.
John Howey, Senior SolicitorRead More
If you are facing extradition it can be difficult enough, without listening to lawyers using words and phrase that you may not understand, even in your own language. Here is a guide to some of the most common words you will come across;
Requested person; the person who is wanted by the country who have issued the warrant.
Judicial Authority; The people who have issued the warrant. They are represented by Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
District Judge; usually called the ‘DJ’, he or she is a qualified lawyer who hears the case and makes the decisions.
European Arrest Warrant (EAW); the actual document that has all of the information about the person who is wanted, what they are wanted for and so on
Accusation; if you are wanted to go for a trial, and have not been found guilty already, you are ‘accused’
Conviction; if you have already pleaded guilty to the offence, or been found guilty, you are convicted
Bail; if the DJ decides you can go home until you are next in court or are being taken back to the country that wants you
Consent; at the beginning of the case you will be asked if you consent to your extradition. In other words do you agree to it? If you do, the DJ will order your extradition and that is the end of the case. You cannot appeal and you should be extradited within 10 days.
Issues; the reasons why you should not be extradited. The extradition Act lists the reasons that can be given, including Human Rights issues. ‘I don’t want to go’ is not a reason under the Act.
Full hearing; the hearing where the D J will hear the evidence, listen to the lawyers and then decide if you are going to be extradited.
Judgment; the D J writes down his decision. This is called the judgment, and it has the facts of the case, the arguments put forward by both sides, the law and the reasons for the decision.
Discharge; if the DJ decides you do not have to be extradited, you are discharged and are free to go
Permission to Appeal; if the DJ decides you should be extradited, you can ask the High Court for permission to appeal.Read More