Sophie Kemp and Jill Lorimer: Double standards shame our treaty with America

Comment

Share
Related Topics

The McKinnon case has brought into the spotlight the apparent inequities in the extradition arrangements between the UK and the US. The perceived lack of reciprocity has created widespread political condemnation and public disquiet.

The extradition treaty between the UK and US was signed in Washington in March 2003 and, in April 2007, was ratified by the US. Under the treaty, the UK is required to provide "such information as would provide a reasonable basis to believe that the person sought committed the offence for which extradition is requested". There is no parallel requirement in the treaty for requests made by the US.

On the face of it, it appears that the US authorities need provide little more than the name of the accused person and a brief outline of the facts of the case.

It is easy to understand the commonly held view that the US can demand the surrender of a UK citizen on a whim, while its own citizens are afforded a much higher degree of protection.

However for a British judge to issue a warrant for the arrest of a person sought by the US, section 71 of the Extradition Act 2003 does require "evidence that would justify the issue of a warrant for the arrest of a person accused of the offence". In other words, the judge is expected to apply the same standards as he or she would in respect of a person suspected of committing an offence in the UK.

The reality is that the two systems are much more closely aligned than it first appears. Neither state needs to demonstrate a prima facie case in support of their requests. The much lower standard of reasonableness applies, which is in practice easily met. The effect on both sides of the Atlantic is that such requests are "fast tracked" and extremely difficult to oppose.

In fact, the arrangements between the US and the UK are in reality little different to those between the UK and many other countries. Under the European Arrest Warrant scheme, the requirement for EU states, including France, Germany and Italy, to demonstrate a prima facie case against the person sought was abolished. So there is no requirement to back up a request with any evidence.

It is also frequently said that the treaty was agreed to facilitate the extradition of terror suspects in the wake of 9/11. In fact, the need to move towards a fast track system had long been recognised, although the climate at the time undoubtedly accelerated the process. Furthermore, the treaty is not limited to serious criminality but applies to any offence carrying imprisonment of one year or more.

Perhaps the real issue is whether a British citizen should be extradited to stand trial in any foreign country without evidence first being presented to a British court to show there is a case to answer. The stress and expense of defending potentially unfounded criminal allegations in a foreign jurisdiction is a daunting prospect. The McKinnon case raises fundamental questions about the fast track extradition process and looks likely to continue to fuel public demand for review.

Sophie Kemp and Jill Lorimer are extradition experts at the law firm Kingsley Napley

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star