Supreme Court declines extradition request from the UK due to Brexit uncertainty, writes Geraldine Wycherley, Solicitor.
The Supreme Court has declined to extradite a man to the United Kingdom due to concerns regarding Brexit. Instead, the Court has referred the matter to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) for guidance on whether a requested European state can decline to surrender a requested person to the UK when there is uncertainty as to the future legal framework which will apply in the UK post Brexit.
Mr Thomas O’Connor, originally from Roscommon, was seeking leave to appeal a decision of the High Court last July which ordered his surrender to the UK. Mr O’Connor was convicted of tax fraud in London in 2007. However, he left the jurisdiction
before the sentencing date and returned to Ireland. He was sentenced in his absence to a prison term of 4 and a half years.
The UK is seeking Mr O’Connor’s return pursuant to a European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”). Under the EAW scheme, any EU country may use an EAW to seek the return of a person who is wanted in that country in relation to a crime.
Mr O’Connor’s lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that Ireland is being asked to surrender an EU citizen in circumstances where the legal framework under which that citizen may come to be governed was at significant risk of no longer being subject to European law. They further argued that his surrender is not possible and will remain impossible until there is sufficient clarity about the post-Brexit legal regime.
“The point is novel and is not the subject of any jurisprudence of the Court of Justice,” the Court noted. It went on to state “However, that is hardly surprising since there has never been a case before of a country leaving the European Union.”
The judgment also revealed that Mr O’Connor is one of about 20 people in a similar position in Ireland who are resisting removal to the UK on the same legal grounds. The ruling is a stark reminder that there may be serious legal complications arising in a range of areas as a result of Brexit. It will be interesting to see how the ECJ grapples with the difficult questions the Supreme Court has posed, as it will have significant effects for detained persons across the EU.