Supreme Court backs extraditions involving children

Mother and child
Image caption British courts must consider the rights of children during extradition

Extraditions to the US and Europe should go ahead, even when a suspect has children in the UK, the UK Supreme Court has ruled.

In a series of linked judgements, the court said the public interest in extraditing suspects usually outweighed the rights of children.

Each suspect argued they should remain in the UK because they were parents.

The court allowed one appeal against extradition because of the lesser nature of the alleged offence.

Under British law, the courts must consider the rights of a child and what is in their best interests.

Sexual assault allegations

In the cases heard by the Supreme Court, extradition suspects argued that the UK's legal duties towards protecting children meant their human rights would be breached if they - as parents - were extradited.

In the first case, the US state of Arizona had sought the extradition of a British couple, known only as Mr and Mrs H , on charges of knowingly importing chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine.

Mrs H has six children, aged between one and 14-years-old. Mr H is the father of the youngest four.

The family's complicated history includes allegations of sexual assault on children by Mr H. At one point, he was banned from any contact with the three oldest in the family.

The seven justices who heard the case unanimously dismissed the appeal against extradition.

Lord Justice Hope said: "There is no doubt where the children's best interests lie. Their best interests must be to continue to live with their mother.

"On the other hand, there is no escape from the fact that these are criminal proceedings and that the crimes alleged, which were persisted in over a substantial period, are very serious.

"The interests of justice must be given effect to."

Lord Hope added that it was for the American courts to decide whether the family should benefit from any leniency in sentencing, and not for the UK to stand in the way.

In the second group of cases, the justices approved the extradition of two people to Italy on drugs offences , saying that the seriousness of the alleged crimes justified interfering with the rights of their three young children.

'Blameless life'

But in a final case, involving a mother of five from Poland, the court said it would halt the extradition.

The judges said that while she faced an allegation of dishonesty amounting to £6,000, the offending was not grave and, furthermore, the case itself was 10 years old.

The court said it accepted evidence the woman's extradition would have a profound effect on her two younger children, who had been born in the UK.

"During that lapse of time, the appellant and her family have made a new, useful and blameless life for themselves in this country," said Lady Hale.

"The public interest in returning the appellant to face trial and sentence... is not such as to justify the inevitable severe harm to the interests of the two youngest children in doing so."

Jago Russell, of Fair Trials International, welcomed the Supreme Court's handling of the Polish case, saying the country's prosectors made thousands of extradition requests every year, often for minor offences.

"The Supreme Court has today reminded judges that they should not just rubber-stamp these extradition requests without carefully considering the human consequences," he said.

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