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25 January 2019

Extradition: A fair trial for Jack Shepherd?

4 mins

Jack Shepherd, convicted of the manslaughter of Charlotte Brown, has caused uproar as his lawyer has suggested his extradition from Georgia to the UK may be contested. His lawyer has responded that she is doing as any lawyer would and is protecting her client’s best interests and legal rights.

What does extradition mean?

Extradition is an agreement between two jurisdictions to transfer those accused or convicted of crimes and is governed in the UK by the European Convention 1957 and  the Extradition Act 2003. Georgia will also have its own domestic laws to abide by.

How long will it take?

It is not a swift process and certain formalities have to be honoured before extradition can take place, even if Mr Shepherd consents to it. If there are irregularities with the request or concerns about what may happen once extradited, any lawyer will wish to challenge the request in order to act in the best interests of their client. It is therefore of no surprise that Mr Shepherd’s Georgian lawyer has stated she needs to see the papers before she can advise and cannot rule out a challenge to the request.

Why did Mr Shepherd surrender to the police if he now wants to resist extradition?

It is very difficult to live as a fugitive. You are always looking over your shoulder and arrest could come at any time, it is far better to surrender to manage the arrest in a controlled way. Furthermore, Mr Shepherd will have been unable to travel across borders as the UK Government sent a request to Interpol which means a Red Notice will have been in existence and an alert posted at all borders making him liable to detention wherever he travelled. His movements will have been severely restricted.

The benefits of surrendering are the ability to prepare, the certainty of the timing and the greater prospect of being granted bail. Given that extradition can take a long time, especially if contested, a strong bail package should always be prepared before surrender to offer the best chances of being granted bail.

Mr Shepherd is appealing his conviction- does this make a difference?

In short, no. Extradition is not an examination of the evidence against him and a trial of the issues. This is for the domestic court (the UK), whether or not it is a conviction warrant (as it is in Mr Shepherd’s case) or an accusation warrant. The Georgian State will not reopen the trial issues during the extradition proceedings.  

Extradition focusses on the process of removal and the fairness of this process and how an extradited person will be treated on their return, whether or not he is wrongly convicted. However, if an allegation is politically motivated and/or the proceedings are unfair, an extradited person may be able to argue that extradition violates their right to a fair trial. We have successfully argued this point on many cases including extradition requests from Russia and India, where politics and the judicial process can be intertwined but it is highly unlikely any such argument would succeed in Mr Shepherd’s case.

In some cases, a requesting state (such as India) has to be able to prove a prima facie case (a case to answer). This is quite a low test and is rarely successful in domestic extradition proceedings.

How else can Mr Shepherd resist extradition?

If the extradition warrant is proved to be valid and Mr Shepherd’s identity confirmed, extradition can also be resisted on other grounds such as double jeopardy; whether or not the offence he is accused of is an extradition offence/an offence in Georgia; his mental/physical health and additional human rights grounds such as the right not to be ill treated or tortured (this usually focusses on prison conditions Article 3); his right to family life (Article 8) and others.

Is there any disadvantage to Mr Shepherd in resisting extradition?

If refused bail, Mr Shepherd may be detained in conditions worse than those in UK prisons and the subsequent difficulties of being detained abroad (not speaking the language, little communication from family and friends etc) will apply. It should not impact on his appeal against conviction, and his lawyers will advise him with regards to any impact on an appeal against sentence.

If you have any concerns about extradition, Interpol Red Notices and your rights please contact our extradition team here.

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