Cameron discusses US extradition agreement


16 March 2012

by James Daniels

David Cameron is set to lead a discussion on re-evaluating the UK’s extradition agreement with the US, in the wake of a number of high profile and highly controversial cases of UK citizens being extradited to the US.

The Prime Minister confirmed that he had discussed the issue with US president Barack Obama on Wednesday. There are to be further talks between Cameron’s and Obama’s teams, to look at whether a change in the extradition agreement itself is needed.

Proposed amendments would allow UK citizens facing US charges to be tried in the UK.

The current agreement between the UK and US came into effect at the beginning of 2004, as the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty was enshrined in UK law by the Extradition Act 2003. This act was brought in after 9/11, in order to make it possible for those accused of crimes in the UK to be extradited to the US where necessary, and vice versa.

However, the treaty has been criticised for being unfairly weighted against UK citizens, as more applications for extradition of UK citizens have been approved than applications for US citizens.

The treaty has also been used to extradite UK citizens who were charged with breaking US laws without entering the country – a notable example being Richard O’Dwyer, who is facing extradition on illegal piracy charges for running the “TVShack” website, despite the fact that his site and actions did not break any UK law.

Another significant extradition case involves retired UK businessman Christopher Tappin, who was extradited to the US on arms dealing charges, and is currently fighting for bail. Unlike other extradition cases, such as that of hacker Gary McKinnon, David Cameron is unsympathetic of Tappin’s plight, insisting that Tappin’s case would not be discussed ahead of his meeting with the US president.

Coming out of the discussion, it seems that the president is open to discussion – however, Cameron faces an uphill battle. Despite protest from many in the UK, an independent review of the treaty led by Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker found it to be fair and balanced. With a review from the UK already finding the treaty to be fair, US officials will likely be very difficult to convince otherwise.

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