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The Law, You & Us
Proposed Amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill
In February 2013 the Home Secretary, Theresa May, tabled amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill which substantially changes extradition procedures between the UK and non-EU states. This follows the Baker review and is a response to public concerns about the UK extradition system.
Understanding Changes to Extradition Appeals
The first stage of the extradition process will not change. Currently a request is made by another state to the Home Secretary who makes an initial decision based on human rights grounds. If the request is not rejected, the case is handed to the courts to decide whether extradition should be granted.
However, the amendments do introduce a fundamental change to the appeal stage in extradition proceedings. Under the present system, a suspect can make an appeal against an extradition ruling on human rights grounds to the Home Secretary, as in the case of Gary McKinnon (October 2012). The amendments transfer the Home Secretary's responsibilities for considering appeals against extradition decisions on human rights grounds out of the minister's hands to the High Court.
Prosecution in the UK or Extradition
The amendments also introduce a new process for assessing whether a suspect should be prosecuted in the UK or extradited in cases where either option is possible. This ‘forum bar' will mean that suspects will be able to argue in open court about where they should be prosecuted, providing greater transparency. At present such decisions are taken behind the scenes.
The Home Secretary has said that she decided to introduce the forum bar so that "where prosecution is possible in both the UK and in another state, the British courts will be able to bar prosecution overseas, if they believe it is in the interests of justice to do so."
• The government has emphasised the benefits of openness and transparency that the changes should bring to UK extradition procedures. Extradition proceedings need to be seen to be fair, and "in open court where decisions can be challenged and explained".
• An increased role for the courts should ensure that decisions are not affected by political considerations, but are based solely on law and human rights.
• Amendments appear to meet the demands of extradition law reformers such as Liberty which states that extradition is "a trauma in and of itself" and that any decision about which country a person should be tried in must be taken in the light of human rights law.
• The amendments have particular relevance to cases in which the alleged offence took place largely in the UK e.g. by internet or telephone. Under the current system the courts cannot bar extradition on these grounds, but in future they may be able to do so.
The amendments will take effect once the Crime and Courts Bill becomes law later this year.
The following links may be useful if you need more information.