What is extradition?
Extradition is the legal process whereby someone is removed from one country and transferred to another against their will. It is covered by the Extradition Act 2003. The procedure may be used for the purpose of criminal prosecution; if someone has been convicted of a crime and needs to be sentenced; or if a sentence has already been imposed (and evaded) and needs to be carried out.
Without extradition, people would be able to escape justice by moving from country to country, as it is not possible for foreign authorities to arrest someone in another country, such as the UK. Extradition allows countries to make requests for another country to arrest and transfer people in order to prosecute, convict, sentence or enforce an already imposed sentence on them.
How does the process work?
Another country can make an ‘export’ extradition request to the UK, asking for the extradition of an individual from the UK to their country. Similarly, the UK can make an ‘import’ extradition request to another country for the extradition of an individual into the UK. The offences for which someone can be extradited depend on the country they are being transferred to and from.
Before an extradition can be granted, the following conditions need to be met:
- An extradition convention or treaty exists between the UK and the country to or from which the individual is being extradited.
- Within the meaning of the relevant treaty, the offence has to be an ‘extradition offence’. This usually means that the offence is punishable by at least 12 months’ imprisonment. If the defendant has been convicted, at least four months’ imprisonment should have been imposed.
- Admissible evidence to establish that there is a case to answer must be submitted with the request, except for certain countries.
- The country requesting extradition must be doing so in order to compel the individual to face justice; to sentence an individual who has already been convicted; or to carry out a sentence already imposed.
The process by which extradition is carried out under the Extradition Act 2003 is determined by the requesting country’s status as either a ‘category 1’ or ‘category 2’ country. A category 1 country includes all those European Union countries that are operating the European Arrest Warrant System; and ‘category 2’ countries are all the rest.
Can extradition requests be refused?
Requests for extradition are not always approved. The following bars apply in the UK:
- if there is a possibility of capital punishment or if the individual has already been sentenced to it;
- there are no arrangements in place with the requesting country;
- extradition may violate or breach someone’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights;
- a person cannot be extradited from the UK if they were originally extradited to the UK, without the consent of the country they were originally transferred from.
Is there a right of appeal?
If an extradition request is granted, the subject of that request will usually be given a chance to appeal before he is transferred. Appeals against the decisions of the District Judge and the Home Secretary go to the Administrative Court and, from there, to the House of Lords in some cases.