Briton bitter over delay in extradition: Adam Sage reports on a case which highlights the problem of extraditing alleged offenders in Europe

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The Independent Online
FEW CASES illustrate the problems with the present extradition arrangements as well as that of Christopher Ian Scott, according to lawyers.

For more than two years, Mr Scott, who is from Birmingham, has been held in a Spanish jail near Madrid awaiting extradition to Britain, where police want to interview him about the death of his father. Mr Scott is not resisting the proceedings: indeed, he is bitter that they are taking so long and says he wants to return to England to face interrogation.

Recently, he called on the Foreign Office 'to launch a full inquiry as to what is the situation preventing my return to England. I am trying in every way possible to return'.

He was arrested and charged with rape in Tenerife in 1990, but after he strongly denied the allegations, they were placed on file by the Spanish authorities in March this year. Since then, he says that he has repeatedly asked to be extradited - to no avail.

Police officers in Britain are equally frustrated, having seen their extradition papers accepted by Birmingham magistrates' court as long ago as 1990.

Last week, the Foreign Office said that, having requested extradition, it could do nothing except wait for Spanish lawyers to process the application. Any further action would be taken as 'interfering in the legal procedures of another country'.

The Spanish Embassy said that the procedures inevitably moved slowly as courts in Madrid had to carry out a 'detailed assessment of all the documents provided by British authorities'. It was an example of why changes to extradition procedures were needed.

Under a draft treaty presented by the Spanish justice minister, Tomas Quadra-Salcedo, in London last week, the delays would no longer occur, the embassy said. Most requests for extradition would be handled by civil authorities, removing the role of the courts and increasing the speed and efficiency of the system.

Mr Quadra-Salcedo told his counterparts that it was illogical for judges in one EC country to assess an application that had already been ratified by the judiciary in the country requesting extradition. This system was based on an idea of sovereignty that had become 'archaic' within the EC, he said. The new format he proposed would be based on 'reciprocal confidence' in the justice administered by member states.

In the 'new reality of Europe without internal borders' judicial controls should no longer be 'duplicated', he added. Mr Scott is likely to have little sympathy with those arguments. In his view, the flaw lies not with the system, but with the attitude of English legal authorities, who, he feels, have failed to help him. 'I am totally disillusioned with everything England is supposed to stand for,' he said in a recent letter.