Law Report: 28 January 1998: No inquiry into conduct amounting to offence

When deciding, on an application to deliver up a person to the Irish authorities under the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965, whether the offence specified in the Irish warrant corresponds with an English offence, a magistrate does not have to inquire into the conduct alleged to amount to the offence.

Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Gilligan; Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Astill) 12 January 1998

The Divisional Court dismissed the application of John Joseph Gilligan for a writ of habeas corpus following the decision of a metropolitan stipendiary magistrate that he be delivered up and returned to Ireland pursuant to section 2 of the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965.

The applicant was arrested at Heathrow Airport attempting to board a flight to Amsterdam, and was charged with offences contrary to the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1994. He was committed for trial. In the meantime the Special Criminal Court in Dublin granted 18 arrest warrants against him, charging him with the murder of Veronica Guerin, and with drugs and firearms offences.

Proceedings were taken for the warrants to be executed in England for the return of the applicant to Ireland. The English trial was adjourned. On 28 October 1997 the applicant was ordered to be delivered up under section 2 of the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965, and on 11 November he applied for a writ of habeas corpus.

Clare Montgomery QC and James Lewis (Stokoe Partnership) for the applicant; Nigel Peters QC and Sean Collery (Crown Prosecution Service) for the Government of Ireland and (Solicitor, HM Customs and Excise) for HM Customs and Excise.

Lord Justice May said that it was submitted on behalf of the applicant, inter alia, that there was insufficient material before the magistrate to enable him to conclude that the offences specified in the Irish warrants corresponded with English offences.

Section 1 of the Backing of Warrants (Republic of Ireland) Act 1965 provided for the endorsement by a justice of the peace in the United Kingdom of "a warrant . . . issued by a judicial authority in the Republic of Ireland . . . for the arrest of a person accused or convicted of an offence against the laws of the Republic, being an indictable offence . . ." Section 2(2) provided that an order delivering up such a person to the Irish authorities should not be made if it appeared to the court that the offence specified in the warrant did not correspond with any offence under the law of the United Kingdom which was an indictable offence.

The submission for the applicant was that "offence" in section 2(2) of the Act should be construed to mean the conduct which was alleged to amount to the offence specified in the warrant. However, the meaning of the expression "the offence specified in the warrant" was quite clear. It meant quite simply that the court had to read the warrant to find the offence specified. No other material was admissible.

The offence specified in the warrant had to "correspond with any offence under [English] law . . . which is indictable or is punishable on summary conviction with imprisonment for six months". The word "any" showed that the court was not necessarily looking for an English offence which was identical with the offence specified in the warrant, but that the offence specified in the warrant had to be a sufficiently serious Irish offence, and would also amount to some sufficiently serious English offence. That view was supported by R v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ex p Arkins [1066] 1 WLR 1593.

Of the 18 warrants in the present case, only two specified offences which did not correspond with English offences. The decision to deliver up the applicant on those two warrants should be quashed, but otherwise the application for a writ of habeas corpus failed.

- Kate O'Hanlon, Barrister

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