On 29 October 2014 Senior District Judge Howard Riddle and Deputy Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot appeared before the House of Lords Select Committee on Extradition. The Committee are currently hearing evidence from a variety of sources into the UK’s extradition arrangements.
The Chief Magistrates’ Office have previously supplied written evidence to the Committee on 12 September 2014. They have provided their opinion on a variety of matters including the implementation of various recent amendments to the UK’s extradition laws and also on future proposals for reform.
One key area they have highlighted is the markedly increased volume of work that the UK’s extradition courts have seen in recent years. Prior to the introduction of the Extradition Act 2003 there were in the region of 50 extradition requests to the UK every year. By 2013 this had risen to nearly 2,220 requests per year. Only 82 of these requests in 2013 were for countries outside of the EU’s European Arrest Warrant scheme.
In 2003 a single courtroom was allocated for occasional use in extradition proceedings. There are now five permanent dedicated extradition courtrooms at Westminster Magistrates’ Court sitting every day with contingency plans for more if there is ‘spike’ in demand. District Judges who deal with extradition must be specially designated in order to do so. As recently as 2008 there were only 4 designated judges in addition to the Senior District Judge and the Deputy Senior District Judge. There are now 15 designated extradition judges plus the Chief and Deputy.
The Chief Magistrates’ Office revealed in its written evidence that it has been warned to expect a significant increase in the volume of extradition requests dealt with by the UK courts once the Schengen Information System (Second Generation) [“SIS II”] is implemented in the UK.
Implementation of SIS II in the UK has been already been postponed twice but the system is expected to become live for UK law enforcement agencies in late 2014.
SIS II is a pan-European database that passes real-time information from one participating country to another, in the form of alerts relating to people and property. Most EU countries (and some non-EU) have access to SIS data. SIS II data will be available in the UK to all police officers, police staff and law enforcement agents. SIS II will dramatically improve the ability of law enforcement agencies across the EU to share information and circulate alerts about persons of interest. Within SIS II is the facility to attach European Arrest Warrants directly to alerts for wanted persons. Currently European Arrest Warrants are sent directly to the UK authorities where the requesting state believes an individual is in, or is on their way to, the UK. This new system enables requests to be circulated throughout the participating member states automatically and will make such requests instantly available to any law enforcement officer with access to the system.
The statistics given to the Committee are startling and, as can be seen, there is no sign of the numbers of extradition requests dealt with in the UK abating the near future. On the contrary, all expectations are that the numbers of extradition cases will continue to rise.
29 October 2014