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Man wanted over Essex lorry deaths granted leave to challenge extradition to the UK

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Eamon Harrison

Eamon Harrison

Eamon Harrison

A Northern Irish man has been granted leave to challenge his extradition to the the UK, where he is wanted to face multiple counts of manslaughter after 39 Vietnamese nationals were found dead in a lorry in Essex last October.

The UK authorities want Eamon Ronald Harrison (23) from Mayobridge, Co Down, to face 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and conspiracy to commit human trafficking under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.

It is alleged that Mr Harrison delivered the trailer, in which the bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in an industrial park in Grays, Essex on October 23 last, to a Belgian port before its onward journey to Britain, the court previously heard.

On January 24th last, Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he found there was nothing to preclude him from ordering the surrender of Mr Harrison to the UK authorities but he held off making the order to allow Mr Harrison’s legal team to consider his judgement.

Last week Siobhan Stack SC, for Mr Harrison, requested permission to appeal the judgement. She said the matter is one of exceptional public importance and that, as a matter of public interest, it should be heard in a higher court. The barrister said: “This is a matter for a higher court to rule on".

Ronan Kennedy SC, for the Minister for Justice, argued that no public interest matter arises and no point of law of exceptional importance arises in order to allow for an appeal. He argued that the extradition order “ought to be made without further delay”.

This morning Mr Justice Binchy certified three out of four questions Mr Harrison wants the Court of Appeal to rule on. These relate to additional information provided to the High Court from the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, a question about this information's admissibility, and a question about "manifest error".

The judge made the order for Mr Harrison's extradition but put a stay on the execution of that order pending his appeal. In his judgement last month, Mr Justice Binchy dismissed all of Mr Harrison’s objections to his extradition.

Among Mr Harrison’s objections were that additional information provided to the High Court came via the Crown Prosecution Service as opposed to the UK Central Authority and should therefore be deemed “inadmissible"; that the allegations pertain to alleged actions said to have taken place outside the UK territory; and that the European Arrest Warrant doesn’t state where the victims died.

The points of objection also included the argument that Mr Harrison is a British and Irish citizen and he has not been at any time ordinarily resident in Ireland within the period of 12 months preceding the dates of the alleged offences; and in respect of the conspiracy to commit human trafficking offence there is no offence in the State corresponding to the offence contrary to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Mr Harrison also argued that the acts of Mr Harrison, as set out in the European Arrest Warrant, do not constitute the offence of manslaughter or any other offence contrary to Irish law.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Binchy wrote that other information regarding “the activities” of Mr Harrison had been provided to the High Court. He said these included allegations that Mr Harrison was previously involved in the “transportation of illegal migrants” from Zeebrugge Port in Belgium to Purfleet Port in Essex, England, on October 10th/11th 2019 and again on October 17th/18th, 2019.

The judge noted: “On the latter occasion, the same trailer as that used to transport the deceased migrants on 22nd/23rd October, 2019 was used. The respondent [Mr Harrison] was identified as being the driver.”

Mr Justice Binchy also said it’s alleged that the “available evidence” for all three of the “operations” in October 2019 “indicate that the illegal migrants were not free to walk away on their arrival into the UK; that they were collected by cars on their arrival, suggesting an intention to exploit those persons”.

The judge further noted that it's alleged that: “…on 9th May, 2018, the respondent [Mr Harrison] was stopped at Coquelles, France, driving a trailer unit in which 18 Vietnamese migrants were discovered.

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