Irish courts told to cooperate with UK on extradition

Irish courts that have been refusing to extradite criminal suspects because of Brexit have been told by European judges they must cooperate with British justice.

About 20 wanted individuals are believed to be resisting removal to the UK on the grounds that once Britain has left the EU their community rights would no longer be protected by common legal standards.

The European court of justice in Luxembourg on Wednesday dismissed an urgent application by the high court in Dublin and ruled that European arrest warrants (EAWs) continue in force at least until the moment of the UK’s departure.

In an explanatory note attached to the judgment, the ECJ said: “Mere notification by a member state of its intention to withdraw from the European Union is not an ‘exceptional’ circumstance capable of justifying a refusal to execute an EAW issued by that member state.” EAWs continue in force until the date of withdrawal, it added.

The test case involved a suspect identified only as “RO”, who is wanted in the UK for murder, arson and rape offences. Two arrest warrants by the UK were issued in 2016 but never enforced. EAWs are designed to speed up the process of extraditing criminal suspects within the EU.

As many as 20 people, wanted for trial or absconding from the sentences, are understood to have used a similar argument to resist removal from Ireland to Britain.

The Luxembourg court pointed out that the UK is a signatory to other conventions guaranteeing fair trials and human rights. Only if there was “concrete evidence” to the contrary that rights would not be protected should judicial authorities refuse to enforce an EAW, it noted. However, that judgment, the European judges added, was ultimately up to the Irish court itself to make.

Earlier this year Ireland’s supreme court declined to extradite a company director wanted for fraud to London because by the time he finishes his prison sentence the UK will have left the EU.

Thomas Joseph O’Connor, 51, a construction company director, from Roscommon, had been convicted of tax fraud in London in 2007 but then absconded on bail and fled to Ireland.

If returned to the UK, the Irish supreme court noted, he would “continue to be imprisoned in the United Kingdom beyond 29 March, 2019, when the United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union”.


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