NI High Court: Man extradited to Northern Ireland 14 years after breaching his parole while in the Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland’s High Court has allowed the extradition of an applicant from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland after he breached his parole license terms.
About this case:
- Citation: NIQB 47
- Court:NI High Court
- Judge:Judge Adrian Colton QC
The court rejected his claim that Northern Ireland should not have jurisdiction over crimes committed in Ireland, and found that a 14-year delay in seeking the extradition did not amount to a breach of his Article 6 ECHR rights.
The applicant was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996 in Northern Ireland, following conviction for murder. He was involved in a planned IRA assassination of a director in a building company, who undertook construction work for security services.
He served four years of his sentence before being released on licence in 2000, pursuant to section 6 of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, which was introduced following the Good Friday Agreement.
His release was subject to a condition that he not become a danger to the public.
In 2008, the applicant was convicted in Dublin for attempted murder and possession of a firearm. This related to an altercation in a bar in Dundalk. There, he left the bar, retrieved a shotgun, returned, and shot twice at the face of the victim.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Following that conviction, the Secretary of State suspended his licence on the basis that he had broken a condition of his licence, namely that he had become a danger to the public.
His case was referred to the sentence review commissioners (SRC). He argued that the SRC had no jurisdiction because the new offence had been committed in Ireland and he rejected that he had breached his license. The SRC rejected his arguments.
Years later, in 2022, a Magistrates’ Court in Belfast issued a surrender warrant for the extradition of the applicant from Ireland to Northern Ireland, made under section 142 of the Extradition Act 2003. It was this warrant which was challenged in the application.
The impugned decision
The warrant, issued by District Judge George Conner, provided comprehensive details about the circumstances of the offence. It asserted that the applicant’s return to Northern Ireland was required to have him recalled to custody.
The applicant sought an order quashing the warrant and a declaration that it was unlawful, ultra vires, and of no force or effect on various standard public law grounds. He also argued that it was unreasonable and unfair.
He claimed there was “insufficient inquiry” carried out by the judge, that he took immaterial considerations into account, and that the delay between revoking his license and issuing the warrant was “so inordinate as to amount to an abuse of the Magistrates’ Court processes”.
He also argued that the delay constituted a breach of his Article 6 ECHR rights.
The applicant’s license had been revoked over 10 years prior because he had been determined to be a danger to the public. However, he argued that the district judge should have made further inquiries into whether this was still the case, given the passage of time and the fact that authorities in Ireland deemed it safe to release him.
He also argued that the delay in bringing the application itself constituted an abuse of process.
The court began by noting that the details set out in the application for the warrant were accurate and comprehensive, and not in dispute.
It was asserted that a district judge should have made further inquiry, in light of the delay and, in particular, should have made some attempt to establish whether or not the applicant was still considered a risk to the public.
Fundamentally, the court noted that it was not the function of the district judge to make any assessment on risk. That was the role of the sentence review commissioners, and the role of the parole commissioners when a tariff is set for an applicant’s life sentence.
The reality was that the applicant was subject to a lawful custodial sentence in Northern Ireland. Until such time as that sentence is set aside or varied, or he is released on licence, “that custodial sentence remains extant and he is subject to it”.
Ultimately, the court found that the warrant had been granted not on an “out of date risk assessment” but rather on the basis of a lawful decision of the sentence review commissioners, endorsed by the court in a judicial review application challenging that decision.
The court considered that there was no merit in any of the grounds of challenge.
The court found that the issuing of the warrant was lawful and in accordance with the statutory provisions which granted the district judge the power to issue the warrant.
In light of this, the proper procedure now is for the applicant to be extradited in accordance with the warrant, where he can then exercise his statutory rights to apply for release, should he wish to do so.
The application for leave to apply for judicial review was refused.