Ribbon and sealing wax consigned to legal history

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The Independent Online

A legal tradition vanished yesterday as Britain and America dropped the requirement for each other's extradition requests to be delivered in red ribbon and sealed in wax.

A legal tradition vanished yesterday as Britain and America dropped the requirement for each other's extradition requests to be delivered in red ribbon and sealed in wax.

Britain and the United States signed their first treaty promising to return wanted criminals to their home countries in 1794. The smugglers and sheep rustlers of the 18th century may have been replaced by computer fraudsters and money launderers, but the legal niceties have remained little changed. Extradition requests still had to be formally presented, complete with the ribbons and seals.

But David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, agreed in Washington yesterday to bring procedures more up to date. A Home Office spokesman said: "Presenting documents with seals and ribbons was seen at the time as a way of showing that they were authentic. But it's a bit archaic now."

The US is the UK's biggest single extradition partner.