Leave to appeal step debated for extradition cases – a level playing field?

1 July 2013

The Public Bill Committee met this week to open the debate on the Anti- Social, Crime and Policing Bill. Hidden at clause 127 of the bill is a provision which will import into the Extradition Act 2003 a leave requirement for appeals to the High Court, thus removing a requested persons previously unfettered right to appeal against a decision to extradite them. Significantly no such leave provision has been introduced should the requesting state or judicial authority seek an appeal against a decision to refuse an extradition request.

The Baker Review, which reported in October 2011, recommended that the leave provision should be implemented to ensure that appeals without merit are “eliminated at the earliest opportunity”. There is no question that the Administrative Court is burdened by high volumes of seemingly unmeritorious appeals by litigants in person. Although the leave provision may reduce the strain on the courts, the time taken to consider leave applications will only to introduce a new burden.

Perhaps more importantly, any potential administrative benefits will inevitably come at a cost to the individuals whose extradition is sought. Having been arrested under an Extradition Arrest Warrant an individual, for whom English is invariably not their first language, finds themselves swept up in a fast moving unfamiliar legal system. They are generally initially represented at Westminster Magistrates Court by a duty solicitor who is not required to have undertaken any training specific to extradition. If extradition is ordered the requested person has seven days to appeal the decision, during which time they are ordinarily taken to HMP Wandsworth where, in the vast majority of cases, the only legal advice received is usually provided by their fellow inmates, before lodging their appeal. Yet it is this rushed application which it appears will form the basis of the Court’s decision as to whether or not leave to appeal should be granted. 

Introducing a leave requirement in an attempt to prevent unmeritorious appeals clogging up the Administrative Court is likely to increase the risk of genuine appeals slipping through the net. If such provisions are to be implemented proper safeguards should be in place, not least an extension of the seven day appeal deadline, as was also recommended in the Baker Review.

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