An Irish man sentenced by the British courts to four-and-a-half years imprisonment over his role in a multi-million pound tax fraud has moved to appeal a High Court decision ordering his extradition to the UK.
British authorities had sought the surrender of Roscommon man Thomas O'Connor to serve a four-and-a-half year sentence for conspiracy to cheat the British revenue.
The High Court judgment which gave rise to the appeal stated that O'Connor was present for the trial in England in which he was convicted of two offences of tax fraud.
He was present when the verdict of the jury was handed down on October 26 2006 at Blackfriars Crown Court but was absent for his sentencing due to his failure to answer bail, the judgment stated.
The High Court ordered Mr O'Connor's surrender to the UK on foot of a European Arrest Warrant in December 2014. However this was put on hold pending an appeal.
Mr O'Connor is asking the Court of Appeal to distinguish or depart from what was said in the 2011 Supreme Court decision known as Olson which found that there was no obligation imposed on the State to provide legal aid to persons subject to extradition proceedings.
Counsel for O'Connor, Dr Michael Forde SC, submitted that European law required the provision of legal aid to persons subject to extradition proceedings.
Dr Forde said the Attorney General Scheme, which provides legal aid to persons subject to extradition proceedings, was an insufficient ad-hoc administrative system and not in accordance with national law.
He cited several comparable processes such as the International Criminal Court Act which provided a criminal legal aid scheme.
The High Court judge who ordered Mr O'Connor's surrender, Mr Justice John Edwards, accepted that the Attorney General’s Scheme was not law, was non-statutory in origin, and had not otherwise been established by law.
However, there was no requirement for it to be a statutory scheme or established in law, the High Court judge found.
Dr Forde said there was no reason why the Civil Legal Aid Act could not be applied to European Arrest Warrant cases by statutory instrument.
If the Court of Appeal agreed with what the Supreme Court said in Olson, Dr Forde accepted that it was “end of story” as far as the appeal was concerned.
The scheme had to be established by law, he said. For example, Dr Forde asked the Court of Appeal to consider whether the scheme had to be passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Counsel for the Minister for Justice, Shane Murphy SC, said there was no invidious discrimination in the case and Dr Forde was drawing attention to other instruments which were not the same.
This particular point should be fatal to O'Connor's case and there was no need for the Court of Appeal to go any further than that, Mr Murphy said.
He said the framework decision imposed no obligation but merely provided for a right of representation.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan, who sat with Mr Justice Gerard Hogan and Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said the court would reserve judgment to a date as soon as possible.