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Yet again, we are wrecking the life of an innocent man by handing him over to US ‘justice’ without any decision from our own courts

Blair’s shameful subservience to Bush spawned the 2003 Extradition Act: it should be repealed forthwith

By on Monday, 20 February 2012

Chris Tappin speaks to the press in London (Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire)

Chris Tappin speaks to the press in London (Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire)

I am beginning to detect a thread running through a number of apparently unconnected news stories, to do with the threat to our liberties that is involved in various bits of dubious legislation (usually the result of some whim of Tony Blair, conceived on his sofa with his cronies) which hands over the power of our own national courts to other courts far away, courts of which – in Neville Chamberlain’s immortal words – we know little.

I wrote last week about our surrender to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg of the jurisdiction which ought (in my opinion) to belong to our own Supreme Court: I think we ought to have the right to extradite an undesirable foreigner (in this case Abu Qatada) to his own jurisdiction, if our own Supreme Court has determined that such an extradition does not transgress our own laws.

But there is a much worse kind of abrogation of the power of our courts: it is when, under the provisions of another truly rotten piece of legislation enacted by the Blair government, we hand over our citizens to the US “justice” system for alleged offences supposedly committed in this country, without any decision from our own courts as to whether any offence has actually been committed in the first place.

The most recent outrage against human decency under the abject 2003 Extradition Act (a gross example of Blair’s outrageous subservience to the Bush administration) is currently being committed against an almost certainly innocent retired businessman called Chris Tappin for the supposed “crime” of exporting industrial batteries from Texas to the Netherlands, allegedly with the intention (which he denies, almost certainly truthfully) that they were actually meant to end up in Iran for use in Hawk air defence missiles. In fact, there could have been no such intention, since the vendor of these batteries, Mercury Global Enterprises (MGE) of El Paso, was a front company set up by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to entrap businessmen engaged in the illegal export of controlled technologies. This is how the Times newspaper reported Mr Tappin’s appalling situation on Saturday:

He’s happily retired in the suburbs – but next week he’ll be in a US jail.

A 65-year-old businessman who was trapped in a ‘sting’ by America in 2006 faces extradition under terror treaty, writes Martin Fletcher.

“I can’t believe it’s happening,” Chris Tappin said over his extradition on charges of shipping batteries to Iran, for use in missiles. Chris Tappin seems an improbable criminal. Silver-haired, bespectacled and slightly deaf, the retired businessman lives in an elegant house in Orpington, heads the Kent Golf Union, representing the county’s 95 clubs, plays bridge and dotes on his grandson. At 9.30am next Friday, however, this apparent model of British middle-class respectability must report to Heathrow’s police station. He will be handed to US marshals who will escort him on a flight to Texas. On arrival in El Paso he will be strip-searched, manacled and taken into custody. Mr Tappin, 65, will probably spend the next couple of years in a violent, gang-infested US prison for a crime he insists he did not commit and for which he will not have been tried in either Britain or America. He will be 5,000 miles from his wife, who has a debilitating illness. He will sell his home to pay his legal bills. He will have a criminal record for the rest of his life. This is the UK extradition treaty that rides roughshod over fundamental British legal principles.

As Mr Tappin’s MP Jo Johnson (who has campaigned for the Government to honour its election manifesto promise to reform the 2003 Act) explained two years ago,

“The 2003 Act removed the need for certain countries requesting extradition to demonstrate there was a case to answer. This applied to all EU countries and 24 others, including the US. However, the US did not reciprocate: while the American prosecution needs only to provide summary ‘information’, rather than ‘evidence’, to trigger arrest warrants and extradition proceedings – the UK is unable to extradite US citizens without prima facie evidence. Reciprocity is an important principle. If the US believes in the constitutional principle that Americans cannot be extradited without evidence, it should not expect us to do just that. In this respect, we are truly the junior partner.”

This whole thing stinks to high heaven. Apart from the dubious business of US “sting” operations, in which American policemen set up fictional “crimes” and then lure suspects into committing them, there is the simple fact that, as Jo Johnson put it (he has, it seems, the same way with words as his brother Boris), “the extradition regime with the US acts like a robotic, mindless catapult that flings people across the Atlantic, at the whim of US Homeland Security” and without any examination whatever by our own legal system. The US doesn’t believe in subjecting its own citizens to international law. But it does very firmly believe in subjecting foreign nationals to its own sometimes grossly unjust legal system, under which, as the Times points out, Mr Tappin, as a foreigner,

“will likely be deemed a ‘flight risk’ and denied bail. He will then be offered a choice: plead guilty to a minor offence with a short sentence, or demand a trial on all three charges, knowing that he would face up to 35 years – the rest of his life – in a US prison, with no possibility of repatriation if he loses. A trial might not start for years. It would bankrupt him as there is no legal aid or reimbursement of costs in the US – he has already spent $65,000 (£41,000) on his American lawyer.”

This case vividly illustrates the appalling state of affairs the coalition began by saying it would reform. The very foundation of this country’s constitution (which Blair, in one way or another, went a long way towards wrecking) used to be the over-arching principle of the subject’s liberty under the law. And what that used to mean was British law: we all knew then that other nations’ laws had no necessary connection with liberty or justice. What has changed since then is that the laws of foreigners have in many countries shown considerable improvement in these respects: but not necessarily sufficient improvement (that’s why, for instance, arrest warrants from Greece should be, but because of the 2003 Act won’t be, quietly disregarded).

What did the Government actually do about its promise to reform the Act? Well, the Home Secretary Theresa May appointed Lord Justice Scott Baker to conduct, dread words, “an official review”. Baker’s conclusions were presented to the Home Secretary on September 30, 2011, and claimed, incredibly, that there is not “any basis to conclude that extradition from the United Kingdom to the US operates unfairly or oppressively”. What? Not oppressively? What about the oppressive treatment of Mr Tappin, lured into supposedly committing a non-existent offence, whose life is about to be effectively wrecked by this supposedly non-oppressive Act?

The Baker review, it should be said, contradicts the findings of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), which called for the Government to renegotiate the UK’s extradition treaty with the United States in order to ensure that British citizens get the same protection as Americans. But what will the Government actually do, now this wretched Baker has given them an excuse to do nothing?

It will ignore the parliamentary committee, that’s what: it will indeed do nothing. And by doing nothing, it will have proved yet again the old adage: that that is the necessary condition for evil to flourish. What is about to happen to Mr Tappin is truly evil: and by doing nothing to defend him, this Government, its Prime Minister, its Home Secretary and its Justice Ministers will have conspired to commit that evil. Shame on them all.

  • johnnewbery485

    The other aspect of this ‘treaty’ is that it is not a two-way street. If Mr Tappin had been an American that had been indicted in the UK, he would firstly appear before a US Judge where the strength of the evidence against him would be assessed. This safeguard has been denied to UK citizens by the Blair ‘treaty’. Perhaps Mr Tappin needs a good Human Rights lawyer with knowledge of how the Blair mind works!

  • Anonymous

    Johnnewbery, You beat me to it, Sir. This disgraceful agreement is a one-way-street. I would have thought that the coalition government might have done something to redress the imbalance, but it looks as though this will not take place.

  • BTyler

    At least, unlike Jordon, the US government doesn’t sanction torture.

    Oh, but wait…

  • Adam Thomson

    This is almost unbelievable. A government’s first responsibility is the protection of its own citizens. When it fails to provide this, I believe massive civil disobedience would be in order.

  • buckingham88

    Another reason for Scotland to secede.

  • Adiutricem

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I’ll lock them prison, and then I shall lock the door!

  • Adam Thomson

     I’m a Unionist. But if I thought Scottish Independence would free us from this kind of thing, I’d vote for it without hesitation.

  • Mark Castilano

    Dear Mr Thompson, I imagine that you personally have not read The Extradition Act 2003 and your information is second or third hand. You plot a dangerous course with your “massive civil disobedience” quip.  Please read what the Act says actually says and why.  Mr Tappin like all businessmen had access to the very strict protocols and trading laws with Iran. For whatever reason he choose to ignore them (deliberately or inadvertently). The truth is that the UK does not possess “the clout” it once had to control it’s own defence without the US. These are pragmatic facts of life and it does not matter about William Oddie’s superficial, emotive, skewed and facile proposition because the US holds the reins and the power to stop a bunch of murderous Muslim clerics in Iran from blowing the whole world to smithereens. Mr Oddie. it is easy to talk cheap, especially from a comfortable armchair or sitting behind a desk. It was not within the power of Mr Blair (or any prime minister) to pass laws. The laws were passed by an Act of Parliament, and it is insulting to the integrity of Parliament for someone with William Oddie’s experience to present such a shallow clichéd argument. He clearly has not studied the antecedents, committee stages and other ramifications of The Extradition Act 2003 that is concerned with European arrest warrants and not just the UK. Finally, I imagine the “Massive Civil disobedience” that you mention is intended for other people, and not for yourself. You will be able to watch it on television, just like William Oddie from an armchair.These are pragmatic facts of life and it does not matter about William Oddie’s superficial, emotive, skewed and facile proposition because the US holds the reins and the power to stop a bunch of murderous Muslim clerics in Iran from blowing the whole world to smithereens. Mr Oddie. it is easy to talk cheap, especially from a comfortable armchair or sitting behind a desk. It was not within the power of Mr Blair (or any prime minister) to pass laws. The laws were passed by an Act of Parliament, and it is insulting to the integrity of Parliament for someone with William Oddie’s experience to present such a shallow clichéd argument. He clearly has not studied the antecedents, committee stages and other ramifications of The Extradition Act 2003 that is concerned with European arrest warrants and not just the UK. Finally, I imagine the “Massive Civil disobedience” that you mention is intended for other people, and not for yourself. You will be able to watch it on television, just like William Oddie from an armchair.

  • Bryan Gonzalez

    Sounds like you need a Dr. Ron Paul in England as badly as we need him here in the US!

  • W Oddie

    You haven’t put up a single argument against what I have actually said here. Furthermore, what do you know about my experience? You assume it’s negligible, I perceive; but what do you KNOW? And what precisely is yours?

  • Mark Castilano

    Before you presented your contribution I would have expected a man of your education and academic background to have done your homework regarding the antecedents, preamble, committee findings, discussion and debates in both houses of parliament regarding The Extradition Act 2003. This is the sort of discipline that is to be expected from serious researchers and academics. Clearly you did not do this and you misconstrued the corollary of the act, either on purpose or through academic carelessness. I have read and discussed every aspect of this legislation and it is right and proper that those who support the ideals terrorists must answer in a court of law. The conditions for awarding export licences to businesses are very clear and Mr Tappin may have misunderstood the terms of the export licience, the court will decide that, not me. Sadly you have inflated the power of the Prime Minister, and attributed blame to Mr Blair. You seem to suggest that you believe that when Mr Blair was Prime Minister he ran the country,  he did no such thing, because there are much higher powers than that, only we don’t see them. As for me, well I am just another lawyer.Clearly you did not do this and you misconstrued the corollary of the act, either on purpose or through academic carelessness. I have read and discussed every aspect of this legislation and it is right and proper that those who support the ideals terrorists must answer in a court of law. The conditions for awarding export licences to businesses are very clear and Mr Tappin may have misunderstood the terms of the export licience, the court will decide that, not me. Sadly you have inflated the power of the Prime Minister, and attributed blame to Mr Blair. You seem to suggest that you believe that when Mr Blair was Prime Minister he ran the country,  he did no such thing, because there are much higher powers than that, only we don’t see them. As for me, well I am just another lawyer.

  • Mark Castilano

    Before you presented your contribution I would have expected a man of your education and academic background to have done your homework regarding the antecedents, preamble, committee findings, discussion and debates in both houses of parliament regarding The Extradition Act 2003. This is the sort of discipline that is to be expected from serious researchers and academics. Clearly you did not do this and you misconstrued the corollary of the act, either on purpose or through academic carelessness. I have read and discussed every aspect of this legislation and it is right and proper that those who support the ideals terrorists must answer in a court of law. The conditions for awarding export licences to businesses are very clear and Mr Tappin may have misunderstood the terms of the export licience, the court will decide that, not me. Sadly you have inflated the power of the prime minister, and attributed blame to Mr Blair. You seem to suggest that you believe that Mr Blair ran the country when he was Prime Minister, he did no such thing because there are much higher powers than that, only we don’t see them. As for me, well I am just another lawyer.Clearly you did not do this and you misconstrued the corollary of the act, either on purpose or through academic carelessness. I have read and discussed every aspect of this legislation and it is right and proper that those who support the ideals terrorists must answer in a court of law. The conditions for awarding export licences to businesses are very clear and Mr Tappin may have misunderstood the terms of the export licience, the court will decide that, not me. Sadly you have inflated the power of the prime minister, and attributed blame to Mr Blair. You seem to suggest that you believe that Mr Blair ran the country when he was Prime Minister, he did no such thing because there are much higher powers than that, only we don’t see them. As for me, well I am just another lawyer.

  • Mark Castilano

    Whoever is responsible for duplicating the posts in order to devalue the writer or to render them inadmissible should correct these errors. The posts are not as I presented them.

  • Joe

    Yes, keep him for British Justice.  And, you can also have Anjem Choudary and Abu Hamza.  The British Judiciary and Constabulary are so carefully trained to protect Muslims, as they roam the streets, looking for another local Brit to assault.  And also to fully protect Islamic mobs screaming for Sharia to replace British institutions.  Freedom of Speech, you know…
    Meanwhile, give us your poor shoebomber, your wretched underwear bomber, and your huddled NY Times Square Bomber, and we’ll send them to a rat infested prison for life.  There have been around 46 of these attacks planned since 911, most luckily caught by the police.  We do realize the unfairness of it all, and how awful it appears to the British judiciary, that we actually imprison these folks!

  • Victor

    As an American I can’t imagine the lack of self respect a foreign leader must have for himself and his own country to be as slavish to Bush as Blair was.

  • Jameshughes1947

    Why do we hand over our citizens to a jurisdiction which doesn’t even adhere to its own finely written constitution? As far as I can discern the extradition act was introduced in respect of the prevention of terrorism yet we continuously see it being applied to matters which are clearly not related to that evil. When you fail to properly hold governments to account ,including the police , then you get tyranny just as they had in eastern Europe under the communist regimes. The americans have clearly let their government ‘off the hook’ by allowing their security services to lure individuals into compromising situations and then prosecute and imprison them , thats called entrapment. Mark Castilano also shows almost total ignorance about how the parliamentary system works in the UK in respect of the passing of legislation,has he not heard about the whipping system? This act should be scrapped and no further such treaties be enacted to assist such a corrupt system which would do credit to some of the tinpot dictatorships which litter the globe. 

  • Jameshughes1947

    If this guy is ‘just another lawyer’ he should be struck off,period.

  • Jameshughes1947

    Kind of agree,but it wont  .Have you ever seen they way the Scottish parliament operates? It’s full of ‘numpties ‘ and god knows who drafts their legislation.

  • Mark Castilano

    This is like the story of the mice that were going to hang a bell around the cat’s neck, and then they would know when he was coming. Then the question was: Who is going to do it?What you write my be laudable but what are you going to do about it, other than issue facile comments. I am very aware of every aspect of the parliamentary system including it’s failings, but the fact is, Parliament have the power to make changes and you do not. I make no claim about being right, and it is neither “here of there” what I think. I have read, studied and debated the act with people who understand the system. Yes, the act may be thoroughly unfair, but the point is: It is the Law. America may be unfair, but it is there.

  • Harry McCracken

    Mr Castilano has presents a cogent account of why he has arrived at his opinion. He has read all studied all the ramifications of The Extradition Act 2003 and he acknowledges that the law is imperfect, but it is the law nevertheless and will remain so until changed by another act of Parliament. The question is, what sort of lawyer would you wish him to be? Is he to be someone who turns a blind eye to what may have been a serious criminal offence? Do you want a sliding scale, “make it up” sort morality and a loose interpretation of the law and international justice? Please intelligently and objectively elucidate as to why you think he ought to be struck off the register of barristers. Please demonstrate that you understand the delicacy and subtlety of this case. I will await you response, but I expect to wait for a long time.

  • Harry McCracken

    Mr Castilano has presented a cogent account as to why he has arrived at his opinion. He has read all studied all the ramifications of The Extradition Act 2003 and he acknowledges that the law is imperfect, but it is the law nevertheless and will remain so until changed by another act of Parliament. The question is, what sort of lawyer would you wish him to be? Is he to be someone who turns a blind eye to what may have been a serious criminal offence? Do you want a sliding scale, “make it up” sort of morality and a loose interpretation of the law and international justice? Please intelligently and objectively elucidate as to why you think he ought to be struck off the register of barristers. Please demonstrate that you understand the delicacy and subtlety of this case. I will await you response, but I expect to wait for a long time.

  • WelcomeToElPaso

    I’m sorry, but how many tens of thousands of people were allowed to enter the UK without passport checks during the the Home Secretary’s “pilot program”? That’s just arrivals at airports – you do realize that people can use a ferry, private boat or even swim across the channel to enter your country illegally, right? This is why the agreement is “one-sided”; not only is the UK a breeding ground for muslim extremism, it’s an excellent staging area from which to launch terror attacks againt the US, and most importantly, a country someone can easily enter illegally. If you want a fairer extradition agreement, you need to do your part; a good start would be not letting people like Abu Qatada go free and updating your definition of a life sentence from 35 years (people live longer than that now, in case you hadn’t noticed) to a more realistic figure. Do you really think the US likes spending money attempting to take up the slack as far as UK border security? We have enough problems without having to worry about the lax security of our closest ally.

  • Julia Odwyer

     This law was not passed through parliament but instead via the back door under Queens Prerogative No transparency and plenty of objections frpm Lords and MP’s whilst in the making.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Why should the US distrust UK ‘justice’?

    Two words: Lockerbie bomber.