A British student has been “sold down the river” by the Government his mother has said after his extradition was approved by the Home Secretary Theresa May today.
Richard O’Dwyer faces ten years in jail if convicted by a US court after prosecutors accused him of breaking copyright law by providing access to pirated material online via his website TVShack. His mother Julia O’Dwyer accused the government of “paving the way” for American prosecutors to come for the “young, old and the ill” as the news emerged.
She added: “Today, yet another British citizen is being sold down the river by the British Government. Richard’s life, his studies, work opportunities, financial security, is being disrupted, for who knows how long, because the UK Government has not introduced the much needed changes to the extradition law.
“If Richard appears to have committed a crime in this country, then try him in this country. Instead the Home Secretary wants to send him thousands of miles away and leave him languishing, just like Chris Tappin [extradited last month], in a US jail, before he has a chance to demonstrate his innocence, under British law, of the allegations made against him.
“It’s disgusting. Next time it may be your son. I urge everyone who cares about unfair extradition to write to their MP and insist this disreputable law is changed.”
Mr O’Dwyer, 23, allegedly made £147,000 running his site. Although no charges were brought against him in the UK, he became the latest British citizen to face extradition after a crackdown on online piracy by US authorities.
Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to address the “one-sided” extradition agreement with the United States when he meets US President Barack Obama this week.
Mrs O’Dwyer said: “I don’t blame America. They do it because they can because our law leaves the gates wide open. This is fully the responsibility of our Government – the last government for doing this law and this Government for not acting to do the promised amendments to it.”
Mr Cameron has refused to formally place the issue on the agenda for the meetings with President Obama this week but a spokesman said yesterday he “may raise it in the margins” of the talks. “By rights, it should make for an interesting conversation between the Obamas and Camerons aboard Air Force One, but I’m not holding my breath,” said Mrs O’Dwyer yesterday.
The extradition agreement between the two countries has been criticised after Mr O’Dwyer’s case joined those of 65-year-old Christopher Tappin of Orpington, Kent, who was sent to El Paso, Texas, last month to face trial over arms dealing charges; and Asperger’s sufferer Gary McKinnon, whose ten-year fight against extradition over charges he hacked in to military computers in 2002 continues.
Critics, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and many MPs, have argued the existing treaty between the UK and the US is “one-sided” and must be changed. But an independent review by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found it was both balanced and fair.
A Home Office spokesman said: “On March 9 the Home Secretary, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for Richard O'Dwyer's extradition to the US. Richard O'Dwyer is wanted in the US for offences related to copyright infringement connected to the TVShack.net website.”
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