Sunday 19 November 2017

British national to challenge extradition bid in Supreme Court

A BRITISH national, who is wanted in connection with a conspiracy to import cocaine and cannabis worth millions of pounds into the United Kingdom, is to take a challenge against his extradition to the Supreme Court.

In April the High Court ruled that Philip Michael Baron (55) should be extradited to the UK to face four charges relating to money laundering and the conspiracy to import 39 tonnes of drugs to the UK from South Africa and Costa Rica between 2005 and 2009.

The court ruled this morning that it will allow Mr Baron, of Bawnogues, New Road, Straffan, Co Kildare to appeal the extradition order to the Supreme Court.

However, Mr Justice John Edwards said the court would delay formally granting the certificate until Tuesday, in order to allow the point of exceptional public importance raised by his defence counsel to be redacted.

The former hotelier has been in custody since May last year when he was arrested at his home close to the K Club in Co Kildare on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

This morning at the High Court, counsel for the applicant, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, sought to bring his case before the Supreme Court on the basis that it raised points of law of exceptional public importance and that it was in the public interest that these should be decided on by the Supreme Court.

He said that the Supreme Court should be asked to rule on whether a country issuing a European Arrest Warrant has a requirement to set out a material or factual basis for the involvement of the person subject to the warrant in the offence alleged, rather an assertion of their involvement only.

He submitted that the issuing country must outline in the warrant what evidential basis there is for connecting the subject to the alleged offence either directly or indirectly.

Mr Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the State, told the court that the applicant had not raised a question of law and had instead made a statement that a European Arrest Warrant must do more than assert a subject is connected to an offence.

He said the court had already rejected that submission, as if found that the warrant issued against Mr Baron contained sufficient information to take the charges alleged beyond a mere assertion and had provided a “sufficient degree of particularity”.

Mr McGuinness said the law did not require an evidential basis be set out in a European Arrest Warrant and the court had ruled that the particulars of the warrant issued against Mr Baron were sufficient to comply with the EU Framework Decision on such warrants.

He said that, as each warrant has a different set of specific facts, if the court ruled on the individual facts outlined in the warrant issued against Baron the ruling would not in any way benefit other cases and therefore it was not in the public interest to hear the appeal.

Mr Justice Edwards said that in his judgement it was sufficient for a warrant to clearly set out the allegations against a particular subject and it was not necessary for a warrant to provide a statement of evidence held by the issuing state to support these allegations.

However, he noted it was not the first time the particular issued had been raised, and as he did not believe the Supreme Court had addressed it, it could be characterised as a matter of exceptional public importance.

Mr Justice Edwards said he believed “the bar must be set low” for granting leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which he said should address the issue if proper jurisprudence was to be developed on the EU Framework Decision.

He said that on balance he was disposed to certify the case for referral to the Supreme Court but asked that the question raised by the applicant “be significantly cut down” before a formal order is made.

Mr Justice Edwards remanded the applicant in custody to appear before the extradition court on Tuesday next, where it is anticipated he will make a formal order to both extradite Mr Baron and issue a certificate for appeal to the Supreme Court.

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