UK and US agree to look at extradition arrangements
From eating hot-dogs together at a college basketball game to warmly toasting each other at an official state dinner at the White House, Barack Obama and David Cameron have been keen to show the strength of the "special relationship" between Britain and the US.
The leaders held two hours of talks yesterday about weighty issues including Iran, Syria and troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But David Cameron also took the opportunity to raise his concerns about the way the US/UK extradition treaty was operating with President Obama, and told him he wanted to review how it was working.
David Cameron can't launch a review of the extradition treaty since one was already carried out last year by a senior judge which found the treaty to have the right checks and balances.
What's more, a higher percentage of British applications to extradite Americans were granted than the other way round.
It comes after a number of high profile cases including:
- computer hacker Gary McKinnon;
- Kent businessman Christopher Tappin, who was extradited to Texas last month;
- Richard O'Dwyer, who founded the website TVShack and whose extradition the Home Secretary approved this week.
The family of Christopher Tappin had urged the Prime Minister to intervene.
I understand that David Cameron did not go into individual cases when he raised the issue with Mr Obama - after all there must be a judicial process to decide whether these men are innocent or guilty.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has also spoken out saying it is "a perfectly legitimate question" to ask whether some Britons being extradited to the US could be tried in the UK.
Speaking at a British Chambers of Commerce conference, Mr Clegg said his concerns about the treaty were "well-known" and it was a "good thing this has been raised" on the Prime Minister's US visit.
He said officials would look at "whether there is a way in which we could see more people tried in this country, for offences committed in this country".
The Conservative MP, Dominic Raab, who has been outspoken on the issue, has also welcomed the move.
He said: "I think it shows the Prime Minister is dealing with the very rough justice we've seen in the McKinnon case, the Tappin case, under the US arrangements.
Dominic Raab said dealing with the extradition treaty is not just in the British interest but also in the US interest as well because "these cases are a serious diplomatic thorn in our side".
For the sake of the future of the so-called "special relationship" the Prime Minister and President will want to tackle that thorn - which could see changes in future extradition cases.
But the Prime Minister's spokesman said there is no timetable for looking at this so it seems unlikely to help those already extradited, including Christopher Tappin.
The MP for Rochester and Strood, Mark Reckless, has welcomed the decision to look again at the treaty.
He said: "the current system is unfair and even if there is reasonable evidence against Mr Tappin he should be released on bail."