Student Richard O'Dwyer tells of extradition fears

 

A student facing extradition to the United States after he
allegedly infringed copyright laws has said he fears being held in a
maximum security jail without bail.

Richard O'Dwyer, 23, said he was scared he would end up being held on remand with no bail if extradited, and he added that he did not deserve to be imprisoned.

The Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate allegedly earned thousands of pounds through advertising on the TVShack website before it was closed down by US authorities.

His comments, made to The Huffington Post UK website, come after retired British businessman Christopher Tappin, 65, was extradited to the US and held in the Otero County detention centre in New Mexico while he awaits trial over arms dealing charges.

"Yes, I am scared, I have seen in the media what they did to Chris Tappin and how he has been put straight into jail with no bail," O'Dwyer said.

"I have no criminal record and don't think I deserve to be imprisoned for what should be a civil matter, if anything. In the UK if I was charged with any offence I would not be put in jail for such a matter."

But he added: "I am trying to stay positive and most importantly I want to complete my university degree."

His mother Julia added that she had become an "accidental campaigner" against the controversial 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and the US.

"You're not fighting any crime here, you're fighting the law, the extradition law," she told the website.

"You don't get a chance to fight the allegation."

Mrs O'Dwyer, a mother-of-two from Chesterfield, also said she still does her son's laundry for him each week when he returns home to answer bail.

"That's what you do when your kids are at uni," she said.

It comes after one of the Natwest Three claimed Britons extradited to the US have no chance of being cleared as the plea bargaining system empowers prosecutors as "judge, jury and executioner".

David Bermingham, who was one of three bankers jailed for 37 months over an Enron-related fraud in a deal with US prosecutors in 2008, said no sane defendant would risk dozens of years in jail when a plea bargain could enable them to be home within months.

Plea bargaining is common in the US, with defendants often able to secure a more lenient sentence if they admit an offence and co-operate with prosecutors, rather than contest the charges in a trial.

But the system, and the pressure it places on defendants, leaves those extradited to the US from the UK with little choice but to accept a deal if they want to return to their families at home, Bermingham claimed.

"A prosecutor can now effectively be judge, jury and executioner," he said.

Bermingham, 49, of Goring, south Oxfordshire, said negotiating the US system was akin to "game theory".

"Do I sell my soul and all my principles in order to get my lenient sentence, or do I risk a trial and being jailed for life?" he said.

A US Embassy spokeswoman said: "Similar to the UK system, US criminal defendants in appropriate cases are able to receive reduced sentences by pleading guilty at an early stage of the judicial process."

But she said the agreements must always be approved by a judge and defendants were acquitted every day as "the government must prove the accused is guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt' - the highest standard of proof - and the jury must be unanimous in order to find a defendant guilty".

PA

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