UK courts to get power to bar prosecution abroad

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MORE cases will be tried in Britain under the UK government’s plans to give British courts greater influence over extradition proceedings.

Where prosecution is possible in both the UK and abroad, Home Secretary Theresa May will give British courts the power to bar prosecution overseas if they believe it is in the interests of justice to do so.

The move was welcomed by campaigners, who claim the Extradition Act 2003 with the United States is “lopsided”, but warned that the “devil will be in the detail”.

Mrs May also announced she would end the Home Secretary’s discretion to halt extradition proceedings on human rights grounds – the power that stopped Gary McKinnon from being sent to the United States – saying it should be a matter for the High Court in future.

Proposals to reduce long delays in extradition cases will also be considered, Mrs May said. “I believe extradition decisions must not only be fair, they must be seen to be fair, and they must be made in open court, where decisions can be challenged and explained,” she told MPs.

“That is why I have decided to introduce a forum bar. This will mean that where prosecution is possible in both the UK and in another state, the British courts will be able to bar prosecution overseas, if they believe it is in the interests of justice to do so.”

A review of the UK’s extradition proceedings by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found existing forum legislation would lead to delays, so a new forum bar will be created, Mrs May said.

Draft guidance for prosecutors will also be drawn up, she added.

Melanie Riley, of campaign group Friends Extradited, said: “At last, the principle for which we campaigners have fought so hard looks like it will become enshrined in British law. However the devil will be in the detail – ie the wording.

“We will not rest until we achieve a presumption in favour of British trials for British citizens, for conduct committed on British soil.”