Death Penalty And Extradition Law In The UK
The Death Penalty and Extradition
It is over 50 years since we have head the death penalty here in the UK. In 1964, Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were the last people to be hung in England for the murder of John West, 15 months before the abolition of the death penalty.
Since then there has been a long-held opposition to the death penalty which has been applied in extradition cases.
What is extradition?
Extradition means legal proceedings for the return of a person in the UK to another country to face criminal proceedings (or proceedings abroad to return a person to the UK).
How is the death penalty relevant?
When the requesting country has the death penalty available, the UK would usually seek assurance that the person would not receive the death penalty should they be extradited. Should there be no assurance given, then UK law would prohibit the removal from the UK of that person. The European convention of human right does not allow for the death penalty.
Why is it in the news now?
Alexander Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are alleged to have been involved in the torture and beheading of more than 27 victims as members of a cell of Isis executioners in Syria and Iraq. They are not subject to extradition as they were not arrested in the UK. They have been stripped of their British citizenship, and discussions have been taking place as to whether they should be returned to the UK for trial or taken to the USA. Victims have been both UK and US citizens.
In an unusual move, the UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has told the USA that he would not seek an assurance over the use of the death penalty and agrees to the US request for mutual legal assistance.
What is mutual legal assistance?
MLA is a method of co-operation between different states for assistance in prosecuting or investigating criminal offences. The guidelines for MLA are similar to the law in extradition outlined above. If the death penalty is a possible sentence, the UK will seek assurance that such a sentence will not be carried out, in the event of a conviction.
What are the implications?
Some commentators are questioning whether the policy of opposition to the death penalty in the UK has been relaxed. Javid apparently stated in his letter that this does not alter the stance of the UK, however it does raise questions as to whether assurances will or will not be sought in the future and in what circumstances.
The Howard League for Penal Reform has already indicated that it may bring legal proceedings to challenge the decision of the Home Secretary.
How can we help?
Although you cannot receive the death penalty in the UK, you can face very lengthy prison sentences and severe restrictions on your liberty if convicted. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact us on 0161 477 1121 or EMAIL US