Extradition in sexual abuse cases: a route to justice for victims

27 Feb 2018 | Comment


The law surrounding extradition is complex and ever developing, with the United Kingdom frequently negotiating new treaties with foreign countries to ensure the return of wanted criminals for prosecution or punishment.  This is relevant to survivors of child sex offences where the offender has fled prosecution to a country without an extradition agreement as the position can quickly change with new treaties or changes in the law.

Extradition is defined by the British Home Office as ‘the return of a wanted criminal from a country where he or she is found, to the country where he or she is accused of, or has been convicted of, a criminal offence’.

Examples of the extradition of British child sex offenders has been seen from around the world and recent cases include Glyn Jones, extradited from Australia to the United Kingdom and Douglas Slade, extradited from the Philippines to the United Kingdom, both to face charges of historical child sex offences.  Jones and Slade were finally imprisoned for crimes committed in England and Wales in the 1970s, showing criminal justice can be attained for victims, albeit in a delayed manner.

The ability to extradite a British national from a foreign country depends on a number of competing international and national laws and conventions, including the European Convention on Human Rights and various policitial imperatives.

In this blog, we will highlight some of the main principles governing extradition of British criminals to the United Kingdom and explain how this can help you achieve civil justice.

The emphasis of the Extradition Act 2003 (“the Act”) is to ensure a person is not able to escape justice by simply crossing a border and to this end, mechanisms are set out to enable the return of a ‘requested person’ to the ‘issuing state’.  The capabilities of extradition often depends on good relationships with foreign countries and honouring a spirit of co-operation encapsulated in a ‘two way process’ which is intended to promise justice.

An important change implemented by the Act is the use of the ‘European Arrest Warrant’ (“the EAW”) in substitute to a rigid extradition process.  This is only applicable to certain European countries in co-operation with the United Kingdom but reduces the administrative and legal barriers to extradition.

The various administrative requirements are too detailed to list here, but in essence, the issuing of a EAW by a judge in the United Kingdom requires there to be reasonable grounds to believe the relevant person has committed an extradition offence (punishable by imprisonment of 12 months or greater) and a domestic warrant has been issued or the relevant person has been convicted and the extradition is sought to enforce the sentence.

Importantly, the European Framework List confirms conduct relating to sexual exploitation of children and child pornography expressly falls within the remit of the Act.

Whilst the use of the EAW has at times been controversial, the Home Secretary reported between 2009 and 2013 a staggering 63 suspected child sex offenders were extradited back to the United Kingdom under the EAW to face charges.

As recently as September 2017, the authorities successfully extradited Bryan Davies from Malta to Wales to face Court on 38 charges, including sexual assaults on boys who attended Ystrad Hall in Llangollen, North Wales in the 1970s.

Relevantly though, the process is different for offences committed before 7 August 2002 or for territories which are not ‘category one territories’ as listed above.

In this circumstance, an extradition request is made by Parliament through diplomatic channels to the other country.  Here, any relevant extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and the other country, along with the national laws governing extradition in the other country is relevant to the extradition process.

By way of example, Australia declared the United Kingdom is an ‘extradition country’ for the purposes of taking extradition requests from the United Kingdom but this process is subject to the law as prescribed by the Australian Government’s Extradition Act 1988.

Whilst this process requires a more robust approach from authorities than the EAW, it has nonetheless seen recent success in cases such as Glyn Jones and Douglas Slade and indeed, whilst a spirit of co-operation continues between participating countries, the ability to extradite child sex offenders for prosecution in the United Kingdom remains entirely possible.

A flow on effect of the process of extradition to achieve criminal justice is the ability to seek compensation for the harm caused by these offenders.

As we have discussed in previous blog articles, the tendency of the Court to disapply the time limitation in historical sex abuse claims will often turn on the availability of witnesses.  The return of an offender to England and Wales will increase the likelihood of the Court disapplying a time limitation as the ability to achieve a fair trial is increased when the evidence can be tested in Court.

Understanding the impact of the extradition of an offender back to the United Kingdom on your claim for compensation is complicated and victims should always seek prompt expert legal advice to be able to properly explore avenues to compensation.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden.

Article 32: 2002/584/JHA: Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States

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