Football fan Garry Mann 'devastated' to lose extradition battle

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The Independent Online

England football fan Garry Mann was left "devastated" today as he lost his final legal battle against extradition to Portugal, where he faces a two-year jail sentence.

The former Kent firefighter, 52, was convicted over a riot during the Euro 2004 tournament but says he never received a fair trial.

Today his lawyers attempted to launch a last-ditch High Court bid for judicial review - the latest in a long series of legal challenges to halt his removal to Portugal .

Edward Fitzgerald QC, appearing for Mann, argued there was new evidence from the Foreign Office to support Mann's case, and allowing extradition to proceed would violate his human rights.

But Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Irwin ruled his application for judicial review "unarguable".

Mr Mann said outside court that he was "devastated" by the decision.

Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, which has backed Mann's battle, said: "It really is the end of the road."

Mr Russell said he expected Mann's removal to take place "within a matter of days - probably by the middle of next week".

Lord Justice Laws described it as "this troubling case".

Mann, a father of six from Faversham, Kent, said he had been the victim of a "witch-hunt".

A Birmingham City supporter, he was drinking with friends in a bar in Albufeira when a riot involving football fans began in a nearby street.

Mann was arrested, tried and convicted within 48 hours.

His lawyers said he was only granted five minutes with a lawyer before trial, could not understand the proceedings and did not know what charge he faced until after he was convicted.

Both judges and police officers have expressed concerns that he did not get a fair trial.

Mr Mann said today: "I am just waiting now for the Portuguese to jump on a plane to come and pick me up. It could be a week or a couple of days."

He said Fair Trials International (FTI) would be "fighting for some kind of transfer to serve my sentence in this country".

Asked how long he thought he would have to serve, he said: "We will see what happens in Portugal. We will try and get a transfer back.

"They have always wanted me to serve the sentence in the UK, but these transfers take a long time."

Mr Russell said: "Today's decision is a personal tragedy for Garry Mann and a damning indictment of Europe's fast-track extradition system.

"There is no justice in this man being torn from his home and family and sent to Portugal to serve a two year sentence imposed after a grossly unfair trial.

"Fair Trials International will continue the fight for reform of European extradition laws to stop others suffering the same injustice."

The European Court of Human Rights last month rejected his application to halt extradition while he mounts a legal challenge in that court.

Back in the UK, an emergency High Court injunction was obtained to block his removal and give him time to make today's final legal challenge.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has maintained throughout it has no power to halt extradition and opposed his application.

Mann's lawyers were seeking to halt extradition while the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg considers claims that his trial was unfair.

Mr Fitzgerald said there would be "manifest injustice" if he was returned to Portugal, only to have the Strasbourg court rule there had been unfairness after he finished his sentence.

The judges were told that Detective Constable Alan Rutter, an officer with Humberside Police who advised Portuguese police on English supporters at Euro 2004, had described Mann's trial as a farce.

There was no proper interpreter and Mann did not understand most of the proceedings.

But David Perry QC, representing the Portuguese authorities, defended the trial process.

He said: "British police officers may have found it odd, but to the Portuguese they were perfectly fair proceedings." The court heard the Portuguese authorities originally agreed to deport Mann instead of making him serve his sentence in Portugal.

But 18 months ago they used the fast-track European extradition warrant system to summon him back.

Senior District Judge Timothy Workman, sitting at City of Westminster magistrates court, gave the go-ahead for his removal in June last year.

Judge Workman stated that he did not accept Mann's contention that he thought his expulsion from Portugal was effectively a substitute for his prison sentence.

Today the High Court was told that Foreign Office emails had come to light which supported Mann's claims.

But Lord Justice Laws said the time limit for an appeal at which the email evidence could have been relevant had been missed.

He also rejected the argument that no extradition could take place until the European Court had heard Mann's case.

The judge said: "This has been described as a troublesome case, and so it is." But the courts were bound by the provisions of the Extradition Act 2003 which laid down strict time deadlines and rules that limited legal challenges.

Lord Justice Moses, the last judge to deal with the Mann case, had also ruled the High Court could not intervene.

He remarked in January on the court's inability "to rectify what appears to be a serious injustice to Mr Mann".

At another hearing, in March, he called for "mediation or grown-up people getting their heads together".

He said: "I cannot believe anybody wants this man to go and do two years in Albufeira jail.

"It is just an embarrassment for everybody, this whole case, and it ought to disappear."

In August 2005, Judge Stephen Day refused to grant a police request for a worldwide football banning order to prevent Mann travelling abroad to attend future matches.

Judge Day ruled that Mann's trial could not be relied on as it was "so unfair as to be incompatible with the respondents' right to a fair trial".