Founder and principle of Gherson Solicitors.
What is an Extradition Request?
Extradition is the process that occurs when a country requests the transfer of an alleged or convicted criminal to another country to face trial or punishment.
The form that an extradition request takes varies depending on which country is requesting your extradition. Within the EU the European Arrest Warrant is used. This warrant acts as a warrant for your arrest and a request for your extradition. You can be arrested on a European Arrest Warrant without any further warrant from a UK court.
If a non-EU country is requesting your extradition a formal extradition request is made to the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
For non-EU countries there will be a domestic warrant for your arrest issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court.
What happens if I am the subject of an Extradition Request?
If you are the subject of a European Arrest Warrant or an arrest warrant issued following a request to the Secretary of State then you are liable to immediate arrest.
On arrest you will be taken into custody and transported to Westminster Magistrates' Court in London no matter where you are in England and Wales.
Sometimes you can be arrested before any Extradition Request or European Arrest Warrent has actually been received if the authorities believe that a request is imminent.
Will I be interviewed?
No, the police will not interview you in relation to the extradition. Their role is simply to take you to court as soon as possible.
Can I speak to a lawyer?
Yes, you have the right to be represented. At the police station you can ask to call a lawyer of your choosing.
At court you are entitled to be represented throughout.
It is possible to arrange representation before arriving at court - this can be done directly yourself or through your family.
Those who have no lawyer at court will be offered the opportunity to speak to the duty solicitor free of charge. There is a rota of solicitors at court every day who deal with any unrepresented defendants. The duty scheme is only available for your first appearance at court, after this you will need to arrange your own lawyer.
Am I entitled to legal aid?
Legal aid is means tested and is only available to those with a yearly income under £22,000. Those who do not qualify must either pay privately or represent themselves.
We only operate on a privately funded basis.
What are the defences against extradition?
An extradition lawyer will be able to advise you whether there are any technical defects to the extradition request or procedure that mean you should be discharged.
If there are no defects in the request and the offences are what are described as "extradition offences" - again an extradition lawyer will be able to advise you on this - then the court will consider whether your extradition should be barred for various reasons. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Double jeopardy - you have already dealt with the offences
- Extraneous considerations - the warrant has in fact been issued to persecute you, or you would face prejudice on your return as a result of your race, religion, gender, sexuality or political beliefs
- Passage of time - it would be unfair or oppressive to extradite you because of the time that has past since the offence or conviction
- Forum - the offence should be prosecuted in the UK rather than the requesting country
It is also possible to defeat the request for extradition if you can demonstrate that:
- You were involuntarily convicted in your absence and you are not entitled to a retrial
- Your extradition would not comply with your human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights
- Your physical or mental health is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite you
- The extradition is an abuse of process
These potential defences are often complex and require the careful use of evidence. You should speak to a lawyer who can advise you properly on your individual circumstances.
What evidence do they need to extradite me?
People often think that a court needs to be sure of their guilt to extradite them. This is untrue.
Under the European Arrest Warrant scheme no evidence of the alleged offence is ever required.
Some non-EU countries are still required to show a prima facie case but for many countries - including the USA and Russia - this is not the case.
How long does the Extradition process take?
For European Arrest Warrant cases under Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003, an extradition hearing is meant to commence within 21 days of your first appearance in court. In practice, this date will often be adjourned and the whole process usually takes around 2 - 3 months.
For non-EU cases under Part 2 of the Act, extradition usually takes around 6 - 9 months.
The actual extradition hearing can take anything from a matter of hours to many days depending on the complexity of the case.
Can I appeal?
If you lose you can appeal in the High Court but there is a strict time limit for doing so.
If you win, the requesting country can also appeal.
From the High Court it is possible to apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court but only if the appeal is deemed to involve a point of law of general public importance.
What should I do if I think there might be a request for my extradition?
Contact an extradition lawyer to discuss your options.
You may be worrying unnecessarily but if there is a request in existence or on its way it pays to be prepared.
It is sometimes possible to arrange to meet police voluntarily and avoid an unexpected arrest - it is also possible to put in place procedures to maximise your chances of bail.
In some circumstances you can 'compromise' the request at the source by engaging lawyers abroad. An extradition lawyer will be able to advise you regarding this.