Extradition to the UK When Imprisoned Abroad

What is meant by extradition?

Extradition is the formal procedure for returning individuals from one country to another for the purpose of standing trial, or for sentencing, or to serve a prison sentence. Extradition is a lengthy process and highly complex, and this is a light overview of extradition to the UK.

The extradition of individuals to and from the UK is governed by the Extradition Act 2003. Where a state wants an individual extradited to that country, it makes an ‘export’ extradition request to the UK requesting an individual’s extradition from the UK. This is also known as incoming extradition.

Outgoing extradition

Extradition back to the UK is governed partly by the Extradition Act 2003. The UK also relies on specific agreements which are in place with other countries. Outgoing extradition is where the UK makes an ‘import’ extradition request to another state for an individual’s extradition back to the UK.

The UK may want to have extradited a UK citizen who has been found guilty of a crime in a country where they are likely to face penalties which would not apply under UK law, or where prison conditions will be extremely bad.

Other states may also wish to send UK citizens back to the UK when they have been convicted of a serious crime for which they will be imprisoned for a long period. That country may not wish to use its resources to house a foreign prisoner.

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

The minimum requirements for extradition back to the UK are:

  • There is an extradition convention or treaty in force with the country concerned
  • The offence is an extradition offence included in that convention or treaty. In most cases, this will be an offence punishable by at least 12 months’ imprisonment
  • The purpose of extradition is to secure the individual’s return to face prosecution for that offence, or if convicted in that country to carry out the sentence already imposed

From what countries can someone be extradited to the UK?

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

  • Countries which operate under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) Scheme
  • Countries where there is an extradition arrangement with the UK

What is the European Arrest Warrant Scheme?

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

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. The impending Brexit will have an impact on the EAW Scheme but it is not yet known how this will be dealt with.

Extradition to the UK under the Extradition Act 2003

Under the Extradition Act 2003, a number of individuals, such as the prosecutor and the police, can apply to the court for an individual to become the subject of an EAW. 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.

What extradition arrangements are there with the UK?

Extradition from countries outside of the EU will only be possible if the UK has an existing agreement with that country. These agreements take a variety of forms, such as a bi-lateral agreement, a multilateral convention, or an ad-hoc agreement. Ad hoc agreements are special agreements put in place specifically for that individual in the absence of a formal agreement between the UK and that country.

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.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

Lucy on LinkedIn

Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.