Clarke acted unlawfully, says QC for Norris

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary Charles Clarke was attacked in the High Court yesterday for his "unlawful and irrational" decision to allow extradition arrangements that enable the US to extradite suspects from Britain without producing evidence of a crime.

The attack came from Alun Jones QC, acting for the former chief executive of Morgan Crucible, Ian Norris, who is fighting extradition to the US on price-fixing charges. Mr Jones said: "The Secretary of State has failed to recognise there is in fact an imbalance and lack of reciprocity in the treaty. He has misunderstood the scheme of the Extradition Act in asserting there is no imbalance. Very palpably there is." He added: "The Act contains a requirement that the UK must satisfy an evidential sufficiency test, but the US is free of that... The lopsidedness is there for all to see."

Mr Clarke ruled last September that Mr Norris should be extradited to the US to face seven counts of conspiracy to defraud, and two counts of perverting the course of justice. He denies the charges.

Mr Norris's lawyers have appealed against the decision, and have sought a judicial review of the US to UK extradition arrangements, which were designed to speed up terrorism cases. The High Court hearing, which began yesterday, focuses on the review in the first two days. The appeal against extradition has been postponed pending a decision in a case involving three former NatWest bankers who are fighting extradition to the US on Enron-related fraud charges.

Mr Jones argued that the US had been wrongly designated under the 2003 Extradition Act, along with many other countries, "as a territory which does not have to provide written evidence of guilt to succeed in an extradition request." He added: "The continued failure of the Secretary of State to remove that designation is unlawful and irrational."

He said the Government had put the new arrangements in place on the understanding that the US authorities would ratify the extradition treaty quickly. "The US has been dilatory in seeking to ratify the new treaty," he said, adding that it was doubtful whether it would be ratified at all.

Khawar Qureshi, acting for the Home Office, said Mr Norris's appeal should be dismissed: "The US and UK authorities are affording each other extradition assistance on a basis which is practically equivalent."

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