Pregnant drug mule wins legal fight

 

A woman drugs mule who is pregnant has won her High Court battle
against extradition to Argentina on the grounds that her removal would
violate her human rights.

Lucy Wright, in her late 20s, from Bolton, Lancashire, had made a pledge to plead guilty to cocaine smuggling charges if her extradition to South America was halted and she was tried in the UK.

Today two judges in London allowed her appeal against extradition on the basis that it would infringe her right not to be subjected to "inhuman and degrading treatment" under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

If extradited, she could have expected to receive a sentence in Argentina of up to 16 years, the High Court heard.

Lord Justice Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Silber, stressed they had decided the case on its specific facts, including a lack of undertakings from Argentina relating to the prison conditions she could expect to face.

They stressed there was "no basis whatsoever for assuming or believing" that future attempts by the government of Argentina to obtain extradition orders would fail.

Mr Justice Silber said: "Our decision may well have been different if the government of Argentina had adduced proper evidence or given undertakings."

Today's case is extraordinary because it is one of the very rare occasions on which English judges have in recent years blocked extradition requests - a process that has given rise to nationwide controversy.

Sir John Thomas, formerly Lord Justice Thomas, now President of the Queen's Bench Division, emphasised with Mr Justice Silber that today's challenge could not have succeeded in relation to countries which are a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lawyers for Wright had argued there was a real risk that her human rights would be violated if she was sent back to Argentina, where prison conditions were "inhuman and degrading".

Wright, who is now heavily pregnant, was arrested at Buenos Aires airport allegedly in the act of smuggling nearly 14lb (6.32kg) of cocaine on March 14 2007. She fled home after she was allowed bail.

If she had lost her battle against extradition, her removal would not have taken place until after the birth of her child, who would have then been looked after by a sister.

Her lawyers argued there was UN evidence of "systemic human rights violations" in Argentinian women's penal institutions.

Alun Jones QC, appearing for Wright, said she could expect to be held in custody for over two years awaiting trial, even if she pleaded guilty.

She could then expect to serve any subsequent sentence in inhuman and degrading conditions violating Article 3.

In newspaper interviews, Wright has described herself as a nursing student from Bolton, Lancashire, who came to London with her boyfriend to start a nursing degree.

When the relationship ended she became very depressed and tried to kill herself, and then a drug dealer got her addicted to crack cocaine.

After running up massive debts, the dealer offered her £10,000 to smuggle cocaine.

At Buenos Aires airport, she was stopped with a suitcase containing the cocaine.

She was bailed the following day and fled to the UK via Brazil where she reported her passport lost and got a replacement from the British consulate in Sao Paulo. Her family wired her money for a ticket home.

But when she went to the police they declined to investigate the case.

Later she moved into her own flat, got a car, found work as a care assistant and embarked on a university course to become a nurse.

But she was arrested in April 2009 after the Argentinian government began moves to extradite her, and chief magistrate Judge Howard Riddle ruled at Westminster Magistrates' Court that extradition could go ahead.

The Home Secretary formerly ordered her extradition in July 2010 under the 2003 Extradition Act. It was the magistrate's decision that was overturned today.

The High Court was told that Wright had "turned her life around" and the right course was for her to be tried in the UK.

Mr Jones said a report from "civil society organisations" in Argentina to the UN committee for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women concluded there were systemic human rights violations in women's prisons.

Dr Maria Verdu, an Argentinian lawyer instructed on behalf of Wright, had reported that violations to basic rights were "the rule".

They included food shortages, lack of sanitary facilities, and frequent intimate searches in the presence of male staff.

Dr Verdu stated that, as a foreign national prisoner, Wright would suffer greatly due to food, clothing and shortages of personal items.

She would stand a chance of surviving only if she acted as a "slave" to other, wealthier prisoners in return for commodities.

A major factor in Wright winning her appeal was Dr Verdu's evidence.

Today the High Court judges said that, in addition to the Argentinian failure to give undertakings, "there was no attempt to cross-examine Dr Verdu on her evidence or otherwise to contradict her powerful evidence".

PA

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week