, Another one bites the dust 6: leadingcounsel.co.uk
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Another one bites the dust 6

This week we continue looking at the extradition of Andrew Symeou, to Greece to face a charge equivalent to manslaughter relating to an event in the early hours of 20 July 2007. Having on 22 July returned to the UK before becoming aware that the police thought he was a suspect. He was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Greek authorities on 18 June 2008, certified by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) on 24 June, with Mr Symeou being arrested on 26 June at his London home. The extradition decision was reached on 30 October 2008. District Judge Purdy, at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court ordered Mr Symeou to be extradited.

Mr Symeou then appealed to the Queen's Bench Division Administrative Court under section 26 of the Extradition Act 2003, alleging errors of law in District Judge Purdy's decision. As Mr Justice Ouseley put it in the judgment, "first and principally that extradition would be an abuse of process because of the way the Greek police had investigated the offence, within which was subsumed what had been a separate argument to the effect that a serious defect in its domestic procedure invalidated the Greek domestic arrest warrant and thereby invalidated the EAW; second, that the passage of time makes it unjust or oppressive to extradite him; and third that extradition would breach Articles 6 and 8 ECHR because of the risk that evidence would be admitted which had been obtained by coercion, and because the offence could be tried here."

The court accepted that the courts retain the power to prevent extradition in the case of abuse of process. An illustration of what would amount to an abuse of process for these purposes was the illustration of a prosecutor, knowing that he or she had no real case, pressing for extradition for some extraneous motive, or deliberately delaying proceedings to avoid the need to show a prima facie case. A judgement of Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, when Lord Chief Justice, (now of course Senior Judge in the Supreme Court) was cited, stating, "If any criminal court at any time has cause to suspect that a prosecutor may be manipulating or using the procedures of the court in order to oppress or unfairly to prejudice a defendant before the court, I have no doubt that it is the duty of the court to inquire into the situation and ensure that its procedure is not being so abused. Usually no doubt such inquiry will be prompted by a complaint on the part of the defendant. But the duty of the court in my view exists even in the absence of a complaint.".

Therefore the jurisdiction is clear. As this case demonstrated, the scope or application to particular facts can be highly contentious, including exactly how one resolves these issues. For the purpose of the court's decision regarding abuse, Mr Justice Ouseley at paragraph 11 of the judgement summarised exactly what strands were relied upon in support of it: "Although the precise way in which the abuse point was put on the facts has varied from the way in which it was put before the District Judge, in substance, the three factors remained essentially the same. First, the Greek police, through violence and intimidation, had obtained statements from two of the Appellant's friends which wrongly incriminated him and would be admissible against him at trial. Second, other statements from British nationals who had been in the night club at the time, and which incriminated the Appellant, had been manufactured or manipulated by the Greek police, and were demonstrably unreliable. Third, the Greek domestic arrest warrant was issued without compliance with the Greek statutory code of procedure; this failure had deprived the Appellant of an important safeguard, not so much for trial, but rather because it would have given him the opportunity to persuade the Greek judicial authorities that there was no real case against him before his arrest was sought at all."

In legal cases the devil is always in the detail. The court's analysis of how these issues should be resolved, whilst no doubt difficult to criticise in the context of the legal scheme which the European arrest warrant provides for, shows how in practice it would always be extremely difficult if nigh on impossible to actually demonstrate abuse so as to avoid extradition. In analysing that it is worth bearing in mind the words of Mr Symeou's MP to the Commons: "More worrying, though, is that even though the public prosecutor is aware of the allegations, she has so far refused to acknowledge that anything of the sort could possibly have ever happened. In her proposal to the judicial counsel of Zante, without even bothering to have investigated the allegations, which all of us would agree are serious in their own right and clearly relevant to the case against Andrew, she dismisses the allegations out of hand as "trite" and claims that "nothing of the kind had occurred." How can she assert with such confidence and certainty that nothing of the kind occurred, if the allegations have never been investigated? If this is the cavalier attitude to justice that Andrew can anticipate when the case comes to court, how can he expect to receive a fair trial?".

We will return to the analysis of Mr Justice Ouseley next week.

Michael J. Booth QC