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Extradition Act 2003

The UK-US extradition treaty removed the requirement on the US to provide prima facie evidence when requesting the extradition of people from the UK, but maintains the requirement on the UK to provide evidence to satisfy the US constitution's "probable cause" when seeking the extradition of US nationals. The UK-US extradition treaty was signed and ratified with no prior debate and no parliamentary vote. The Home Secretary (David Blunkett) signed the Treaty with his US counterpart under "royal prerogative" (powers which were never "democratised") and delegated powers (the 1989 Extradition Act). Parliament was not consulted and did not receive the text of the Treaty until almost two months after its signature. When the treaty was signed, the House of Commons and the Conservative party accepted assurances from the Government that in the existing climate of terrorism, the operation of the extradition treaty was necessary.

On 31 March 2003, the day that the treaty was signed, Mr. Blunkett made a written statement to the House. He said:
"Before the treaty can come into force it needs to be ratified by the United States Senate" [Official Report, 31 March 2003; Vol. 402, c. 42WS.]

On 1 January 2004, by Order of the Home Secretary David Blunkett, the UK's "Category 2" extradition partners were decided. This apparently innocuous measure has the effect of ratifying the Extradition Treaty between the UK and the USA.

The UK has two separate jurisdictions, but the US have 51, including not only the federal jurisdiction, but the jurisdiction of 50 states. Not only do we have an asymmetric view, but we have a treaty that applies to 51 different jurisdictions and we have no control over what they might determine to be an extraditable offence.

This treaty, which we have signed with those who are supposed to be our closest allies, is of little import in the US legislature. Congress has found opportunities to ratify extradition treaties with Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Peru, but cannot find an opportunity to give proper consideration to reciprocal arrangements with the United Kingdom.

Article 22.1 of the act states:
"This Treaty shall apply to offenses committed before as well as after the date it enters into force."
In other words, we allow the US to extradite British citizens for offences that took place before the treaty was even signed, let alone ratified.

When anxiety was being expressed about the operation of the Extradition Act, the Government gave assurances that it would not extend to financial crime. Caroline Flint, then a Home Office Minister, responded to a Financial Times article expressing specific concern that offences such as price fixing, which were not offences in the United Kingdom but might have been offences in the United States in the past in parallel, could become extraditable. She said:

“We do not have such a range of offences involving financial crime. The cases mentioned by the Financial Times— such as price fixing—would not apply. Dual criminality would have to exist.” [Official Report, Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, 15 December 2003; c. 26.]

Mr. Ian Norris, managing director of Morgan Crucible, is currently facing extradition for price fixing.

The act, designed to speed up extradition of terrorists to the UK, is about to be used to extradite to the US three UK national white-collar men for alleged crimes committed in the UK against a UK registered company. The alleged crime is fraud - it is alleged that in 2000 they advised their then employer NatWest to sell part of an Enron company for less than it was worth. The bank has never alleged fraud and no proceedings have ever been brought here.

And, according to Lord Goldmsith, it is "in the overall interests of justice" for the trial to go ahead in the US.

Perhaps he should be asking himself where the justice is in this act?

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