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Immigration law: Home Secretary to change ministerial role in extradition appeals

The Home Secretary Theresa May is to change the law surrounding extradition appeals to remove the role of government ministers in determining whether appeals should be approved on human rights grounds.

The change was announced as part of wider reforms of the extradition appeals process, which has been highlighted by several recent high-profile cases.

Gary McKinnon, the IT hacker diagnosed with the autistic spectrum disorder, Asperger's, avoided extradition to the US in October last year after the Home Secretary stepped in to block the American Government's request.

McKinnon stood accused of conducting the biggest military computer hack of all time between February 2001 and March 2002. The extradition was blocked after psychiatric evaluation concluded there was a strong chance Mr McKinnon would commit suicide if extradited.

Under the present law the Home Secretary makes the initial decision on whether an extradition request should be rejected on human rights grounds. Following this the request is then passed to the UK Courts to determine if an extradition order should be granted.

This part of the process will remain the same under the new Crime and Court Bill; however, if the courts approve the extradition request, any appeal will now be made to the courts and not to the Home Secretary.

The law will also introduce a new system for assessing extradition called a 'forum bar'. This will allow the UK courts to determine whether extradition is in the interests of justice. The courts could then block an extradition if they feel that enough of the offence was committed in the UK to allow the accused to stand trial here.

"It is in the overwhelming public interest that our extradition arrangements function properly. The introduction of the forum bar will make the process more open and transparent and provide greater safeguards for individuals," said Ms May.


Ministers to end involvement in extradition appeals (BBC News)