The Tappin Predicament: careless handling of flawed legislation

Christopher Tappin has been stuck in an El Paso gaol since he was extradited to the US a week ago. Tomorrow he’ll learn if he gets bail or not. Whatever the case, he will probably be unaware of his wife’s brave testimony in front of a House of Commons Select Committee this week. He would have been very proud of her.

Christopher Tappin has been let down by the careless handling of flawed legislation. Whether he is guilty or not, he has not been fairly or properly treated.

It all goes back to 2003 when the Blair government, eager to do all it could to assist George Bush’s ‘war on terror’, amended the extradition legislation. Up until 2003, any country requesting the extradition of a British citizen had to produce prima facie evidence to accompany any request for extradition. This requirement was abolished by the new legislation.

The US made no change to its extradition legislation. The US requires that if the UK requests the extradition of an individual, that request has to be accompanied by evidence of “probable cause”, not as high a requirement as prima facie evidence , but significantly higher than we ask of the US. This is clearly wrong. Had the US had to produce prima facie evidence, there is every likelihood that Christopher Tappin would not have been extradited.

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General said before the last election, “Our extradition laws are a mess. They’re one-sided.  A Tory government will re-write them.”  So far there’s no sign of that happening.  And speaking to MPs earlier this week, Grieve spoke less bluntly, but nevertheless, pointedly:  “I certainly don’t think they [extradition laws] are in the condition that I would ideally like them to be. If we were to start from somewhere, I don’t think we’d have started from the 2003 [Extradition] Act.” I wonder what advice he gave to the Home Secretary?

It is completely unacceptable for a British citizen to be extradited without prima facie evidence of their alleged wrongdoing.

In the circumstances there is absolutely no question, the Home Secretary, Theresa May should not have signed the extradition warrant.  Christopher Tappin and his family are suffering because of the tardiness of our legislators and the Home Secretary’s stupidity, and that’s just not good enough. Time for Mrs May to consider her position? It should be.

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