What is a prima facie case?

26 Oct 2023, 36 mins ago

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 corroborating evidence, upon initial examination, 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 the 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 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 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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The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

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