Civil liberties groups and campaigners against domestic violence have reacted with dismay at the deportation of a mother of three who has been sent back to the United States, from where she fled her husband 20 years ago.
Eileen Clark, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, now faces charges of international parental kidnapping after a last-minute emergency injunction and an appeal to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, failed to prevent her being put aboard a flight at Heathrow.
Supporters argued that she was too ill to travel and was described as distraught and agitated when she boarded the flight. Ms Clark, from Oxford, left the US in 1995 after claiming to have suffered a decade of violence sexual abuse and threats from her former partner.
She claims she is the victim of a “malicious prosecution” and that her former partner was using anti-terror legislation to continue to control her.
Soon after her arrival in the UK Ms Clark was told her husband had begun proceedings for “custodial interference” and she instructed a US lawyer. However, in 2010, when she believed the charge had been dismissed, she was told she faced extradition proceedings on the kidnapping charge.
Emma Norton, a legal officer with the human rights group Liberty, who accompanied her to the airport, said US air marshals had told her that Ms Clark would not be restrained during the flight provided she conducted herself “appropriately”.
But she said: “How can it be in the public interest to haul this vulnerable, terrified woman across the Atlantic to face her alleged abuser in court, thousands of miles from her home, friends and family? Eileen’s desperate case is a perfect example of how inhumane, unbalanced and unjust our extradition system has become.”
“The UK has comprehensively failed to understand the specific needs and distress of domestic violence, and has utterly failed Eileen today,” she added.
Sandra Horley, the chief executive of the national domestic violence charity Refuge, said it had been a “bleak day” for the victims of abuse and the deportation set an “incredibly dangerous precedent”.
Speaking last month Ms Clark said: “My case illustrates that domestic violence victims are still being failed, and it puts the imbalance of the UK-US extradition treaty into glaring clarity. This is a treaty agreed upon post-9/11 to assist with national security. Where do I fit into that?