Extradition Appeal Dismissed: Upholding Human Rights Standards and Proportionality

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2830 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of Vjaceslavs Vascenkovs v Prosecutor General’s Office, Republic of Latvia [2023] EWHC 2830 (Admin) concerns an appeal against an extradition order on multiple grounds, including the claim that extradition would violate the appellant’s article 8 and article 3 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The appeal also addresses the proportionality of extradition under section 21A(1)(b) of the Extradition Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”) in light of recent guidance from the Trade and Co-operation Agreement post-Brexit.

Key Facts

Mr. Vjaceslavs Vascenkovs appealed an extradition order related to accusations of benefit fraud in Latvia. His private and family life in the UK were considered minimal, establishing the main contention that the offence was not serious enough to disrupt his article 8 rights. His legal representation sought to amend the grounds of appeal to include the argument that prison conditions in Latvia posed a risk of article 3 ill-treatment.

Several legal principles and frameworks were pertinent to the case:

  1. ECHR Article 8 (Right to Private and Family Life): The appellant argued that extradition would disproportionately interfere with his rights under article 8 of the ECHR.
  2. ECHR Article 3 (Prohibition of Torture): A proposed amendment to appeal grounds included the claim that potential detention in Latvia could expose him to a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, thereby violating article 3 of the ECHR.
  3. Section 21A(1)(b) of the Extradition Act 2003: This section requires courts to consider whether extradition is disproportionate by evaluating the seriousness of the conduct, the likely penalty imposed if found guilty, and the possibility of less coercive measures.
  4. Proportionality under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement: A significant aspect of the appeal was whether the principle of proportionality within the context of extradition between the UK and EU Member States, as enshrined in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, necessitated a different approach to proportionality from that applied under the Framework Decision preceding Brexit.

The case law referred to within the appeal includes:

  • Miraszewski v District Court in Torun, Poland [2015] 1 WLR 3929 which provided guidance on the proportionality assessment.
  • Danfelds v Latvia (No. 2) [2020] EWHC 3199 (Admin) which addressed concerns over prison conditions in Latvia.

Outcomes

The appeal was dismissed on the following grounds:

  1. Article 8: Extradition was deemed not to be a disproportionate interference with Vascenkovs’ article 8 rights given the seriousness of the offence and the relative lack of private and family life established in the UK.
  2. Section 21A Proportionality: The court maintained that the 2003 Act’s proportionality test should continue to be applied as before, without being influenced by changes in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement post-Brexit.
  3. Article 3 Amendment Request: The court refused to allow the amendment regarding article 3 risks in Latvia on the basis that Latvia is presumed compliant with its obligations, and there was a lack of evidence to demonstrate a real risk of article 3 ill-treatment.

Conclusion

In Vjaceslavs Vascenkovs v Prosecutor General’s Office, Republic of Latvia, Mr. Justice Swift dismissed the appellant’s claims on all grounds. The principles of extradition and human rights within both the context of the ECHR and the post-Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement were solidified in their current interpretation. The appellant’s rights under articles 8 and 3 were deemed not to be violated, and the principle of proportionality was applied without deviation from the existing legal framework, despite Brexit-related changes. This case reaffirms the UK’s extradition arrangements and the threshold required to challenge them on human rights grounds.

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