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NEWS

The Lauri Love decision - what are its wider implications?

editor - February 9, 2018

This week, the UK High Court refused to order the extradition of British/Finnish activist Lauri Love to the US, where he is wanted on hacking charges, on the grounds that sending him to US jail would be "oppressive" given poor conditions in US custody, and that the interests of justice required the case to be prosecuted instead in the UK. This decision marks the first time a UK court has used a "forum bar", years after the power was introduced. In October 2012, Theresa May, then Home Secretary of the UK, announced significant reforms to the way in which extradition requests are handled in the UK. These changes included a new ‘forum bar’ to extradition, which gave courts the power to refuse extraditions if the UK is the more appropriate place (or ‘forum’) where the criminal case should be heard. The introduction of the forum bar followed a number of high profile cases of individuals facing extradition to the United States, such as Gary McKinnon, who faced up to 70 years in prison in the United States for crimes that had allegedly been committed entirely in the UK. Fair Trials has long campaigned for fairer extradition laws, and we have highlighted the injustices caused by cross-border justice mechanisms and laws that favour ease and efficiency over the basic human rights of individuals. The changes to UK laws on extradition were informed by Fair Trials’ recommendations to the UK Parliament, which included the introduction of the forum bar. The forum bar, as well as a range of other reforms to UK extradition law, was largely welcomed by Fair Trials at the time they were announced. However, the fact that there was not a single reported case in which the forum bar has blocked extradition led some commentators to describe it as ‘illusory’, and this view would have no doubt been reinforced by the Magistrates’ Court’s decision in September 2016 to order Lauri Love’s extradition to the United States. Lauri Love faced extradition to the United States under circumstances that are remarkably similar to those of Gary McKinnon. Like McKinnon, Love was facing criminal allegations in the United States despite never having visited the country, and he also had significant mental health issues that could deteriorate considerably if he were extradited. If the forum bar had been introduced as a way to prevent the injustices in McKinnon’s case, its effectiveness would surely hinge on whether the courts are prepared to apply it in Love’s favour. The High Court’s ruling on Lauri Love’s case yesterday provides welcome relief and hope to UK extradition lawyers and campaigners. The Court decided that the strength of Love’s connections with the UK (viewed in combination with other factors), given the care and support he receives from his family and others on account of his vulnerabilities, is such that the forum bar should apply in his case. This is a landmark decision that dispels the perception that the forum bar is merely a theoretic bar to extradition under UK law. However, the judgment in Love’s case also seems to suggest that his case was a marginal one, and it appears to confirm that cases in which the forum bar prevents extraditions will continue to be few and far between.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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