If I have been imprisoned for a criminal act committed aboard will I be forced to come back to the UK?


What is meant by extradition?

Extradition is the formal procedure for returning individuals located in one country to another country for the purpose of criminal prosecution, to be sentenced for offences for which they have been convicted or for the carrying out of a sentence that has already been imposed.

For example if a UK citizen has been found guilty of a crime in another country he will be extradited back to the UK to be provided with a sentence by the UK Courts or to be serve a sentence handed down to him by the foreign courts in the UK prison.

Extradition in the UK

The extradition of foreign nationals from the UK is governed by the Extradition Act 2003 which came into force on 1 January 2004. This covers extradition to countries split into two distinct categories – Category 1 Territories and Category 2 Territories.

Extradition back to the UK

Extradition back to the UK, however, is only governed by the Extradition Act 2003 in certain circumstances with the UK relying on specific agreements which it has in place with other countries.

Extradition back to the UK will occur under one of the following two circumstances:

  • Incoming extradition

  • Outgoing extradition

Incoming extradition

The UK will put in an export extradition request – a request for the extradition of someone from the UK. This is also known as incoming extradition and will apply when the UK wishes to sentence a UK national or for them to serve their sentence in the UK.

This may happen in circumstances where a UK national has committed an offence in the UK and fled to another country to escape prosecution.

Often the UK will also wish to organise this in the circumstances where a UK citizen has been found guilty of a crime or sentenced in a country where they will be likely to face penalties which would not apply under UK law or where the prison conditions will be extremely bad.

Outgoing extradition

The country where the crime has been committed and the UK national may have been sentenced will put in an import extradition request – a request for the extradition of someone to the UK. This is also known as outgoing extradition and will apply when the country who has sentences the UK national or where the crime was committed wishes them to go back to the UK to serve their sentence or to be convicted.

Often other countries will wish to extradite UK citizens back to the UK when they have been convicted of a serious crime which would see them imprisoned for a long period – for that country to house that prisoner may be seen as a drain on the resources of that country.

What are the minimum requirements for extradition back to the UK?

The minimum requirements for extradition back to the UK are as follows:

  • That there is an extradition convention or treaty in force with the country concerned

  • That the offence is an extradition offence as specified by that convention or treaty. In most cases this will be an offence which is punishable by at least 12 months imprisonment. If the individual has already been sentenced they can be extradited usually if a minimum of 4 months has been imposed.

  • That the purpose of the extradition is to secure the person’s return to face prosecution for that offence, or if convicted in that country to carry out the sentence already imposed

From what countries will I be extradited back to the UK?

If an individual commits a criminal act abroad they will be extradited back to the UK from one of the following types of countries:

  • Countries which operate under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) Scheme

  • Countries where there is an extradition arrangement with the UK

European Arrest Warrant Scheme

The European Arrest Warrant Scheme is based on the European Council Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant. The European Arrest Warrant is designed as a common extradition tool and arrest warrant which is enforceable throughout the European Union. However, not all of the European Union Member States have implemented the scheme through their national legislation.  This has been implemented in the UK through the Extradition Act 2003.

What is set in place by the European Arrest Warrant Scheme?

Under the European Arrest Warrant Scheme the European Union Member States are required to implement the scheme through national legislation. Despite the potential for differences between the national legislation the key requirements of the scheme are that it should take no longer than 60 days and the final decision should be taken by a court rather than a government minister.

Extradition to the UK under the Extradition Act 2003

Where the UK citizen has committed the crime or is basing themselves is located in a country participating in the EAW scheme the extradition to the UK will be done pursuant to the Extradition Act 2003.

Under the Extradition Act 2003 a number of persons can apply to the court for an individual to become the subject of an EAW such as a prosecutor and the police. Accordingly the court may then issue an EAW for that person’s extradition back to the UK where a UK warrant has already been issued for that person’s arrest and there are also reasonable grounds for believing that the particular person has committed an extradition offence or is unlawfully at large following conviction.

Extradition arrangement with the UK

For countries which are outside of the European Union extradition will only be possible back to the UK if the UK has an existing agreement with that country. These agreements can take a variety of forms such as a bi-lateral agreement, a multilateral convention or an ad-hoc agreement. In respect of the latter this means that if an agreement was not already in place between the UK and that country they could arrange for a special agreement to be put in place specifically for that individual.

An example of an agreement between the UK and another country for the purposes of extradition is the Extradition Treaty between the UK and the USA.