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Murder plot extradition order is challenged

(First Edition)

THE HOME Secretary failed to consider the quality of the evidence against two British women when he approved an order extraditing them to the United States on murder conspiracy charges, the High Court was told yesterday.

Colin Nicholls QC, acting for Sally Croft, 43, and Susan Hagan, 47, two former members of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult in Oregon, said the then Home Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, was wrong to say that the strength of the evidence was a matter for any eventual trial.

Mr Nicholls, who is seeking to have Mr Clarke's order overturned by judicial review, said that although it was accepted that there was a prima facie case against the two women, the Home Secretary should adopt a higher standard of proof than the magistrate who ordered the extradition and consider the strength and reliability of the evidence. In reply, Lord Justice Russell and Mr Justice Blofeld said the Home Secretary should examine all the circumstances rather than seek a higher standard of proof.

The women cite several grounds for saying that Mr Clarke should not have ordered their removal to the US.

The case continues today.