While one may often think that a court in the UK needs proof of guilt to extradite a person, in reality, the number of countries that are still required to show a prima facie case is limited.
What is a prima facie case?
In English law, the Latin term prima facie is used to describe either presentation of sufficient, upon initial examination, corroborating evidence by a party in support of its claim (a prima facie case), or a piece of evidence itself (prima facie evidence).
Is it necessary for UK Courts to establish a prima facie case as part of deciding on extradition?
Historically, the prima facie case requirement was a necessary element of the extradition process, reflecting the alignment of the extradition proceedings with the domestic criminal committal proceedings. This requirement enabled UK courts to establish that there was a case to answer as part of deciding whether a requested person should be extradited. Furthermore, the existence of prima facie evidence requirement assisted with ensuring the quality of extradition requests which the United Kingdom was ready to act on.
However, this requirement was relaxed over time following changes to domestic committal proceedings and further to considerations that the double jeopardy rule, political motivation protections and the rule regarding speciality already provided sufficient protection for the requested person against unjust or oppressive extradition requests.
Furthermore, in 1991 the United Kingdom ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Extradition 1957 (“ECE”) without any reservation. The ECE does not foresee a prima facie evidence requirement in support of the extradition requests.
What is the position under Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003?
Currently, under Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003, there is no prima facie evidence requirement in respect of extradition requests from the countries designated as category 1 territories. This category encompasses all member states of the European Union.
What is the position under Part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003?
This is also the case for certain designated territories under Part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003, notably, the Contracting Parties to the ECE, as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
For other category 2 territories, in accordance with section 84 of the Extradition Act 2003, a judge is required to decide “whether there is evidence which would be sufficient to make a case requiring an answer by the person if the proceedings were the summary trial of an information against him”.
Extradition is a complex area of law and it is crucial that anyone who is the target of an extradition request seeks specialist advice as soon as possible. Gherson can advise you in relation to all possible defences to an extradition request.
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