Death crash pair lose Cyprus extradition plea

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The Independent Online

Two British men who were passengers in a car involved in a fatal accident in Cyprus and jailed for manslaughter lost their High Court bid to avoid extradition to the holiday island to serve their sentences today.

Cousins Michael Binnington, 23, and Luke Atkinson, 24, of Witham, Essex, now face removal in the next 10 days.

Two High Court judges ruled the pair cannot challenge Justice Secretary Jack Straw's refusal to delay extradition so that an agreement can be sought with the Cyprus authorities allowing them to serve their three-year sentences in the UK.

Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Hickinbottom, sitting in London, ruled: "There is no room for further action by the authorities in this country (to prevent extradition)".

The judges described today's last-ditch attempt to avoid removal as "merely an attempt - understandable though it is" to get round the statutory rules governing extradition.

Ben Watson, appearing for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), told the court that steps would now be taken to execute the extradition order immediately.

The cousins were in a car being driven by Mr Atkinson's uncle, Julian Harrington, in Protaras, when it hit a moped, killing pillion passenger Christos Papiris, 17.

Harrington, also from Witham, is serving a 15-year jail sentence after admitting manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm.

The cousins were sentenced in their absence by the Supreme Court of Cyprus in 2008 to three years' jail each.

The pair were initially acquitted by a Cypriot court in February 2007, but that verdict was overturned by the higher court in January 2008 after they had returned to the UK.

In June they lost their UK court fight against extradition, and recently the UK Supreme Court turned down their applications for one last appeal.

Today Lord Justice Moses said no-one aware of the facts "can be other than sympathetic" to the pair over the way they had left Cyprus believing they had been acquitted.

They had been advised by Cypriot lawyers there was "no or very little chance" that they would be convicted on appeal - then discovered in their absence that they had been convicted and sentenced to three years' prison.

But there was no arguable case on which they could now challenge being returned to Cyprus to serve those sentences.