High Court Upholds Extradition Ruling in Niziol v Regional Court in Warsaw, Addressing Judicial Independence and Human Rights Concerns

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3252 (Admin)
Judgment on


The case of Zygmunt Niziol v Regional Court in Warsaw ([2023] EWHC 3252 (Admin)) provides a detailed examination of the principles underpinning extradition requests, judicial independence concerns, and the application of human rights law within the context of the European Union’s mutual recognition framework for arrest warrants. The judgement in this case offers valuable guidance on how systemic deficiencies in a requesting state’s judiciary are to be approached when considering extradition applications.

Key Facts

Zygmunt Niziol, a Polish national facing criminal convictions in Poland, challenged his extradition to Poland from the UK based on several key points. The case revolved around an alleged lack of judicial independence and impartiality within the Polish judiciary, specifically concerning judges who are perceived to be under the influence of the executive. Niziol raised fresh evidence, post the District Judge’s decision, which he claimed would have altered the outcome of the extradition hearing. His appeal hinged on fresh evidence related to Polish Supreme Court proceedings about his cassation appeal and the conduct of Judge Kozielewicz in those proceedings.

Independence of Judiciary and Judicial Authorities

The case underscores the legal principle that a body issuing an extradition arrest warrant must be a ‘judicial authority,’ meaning it must display necessary qualities of independence and impartiality. It must be functionally independent of the executive, as affirmed in Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority ([2012] UKSC 22). The court emphasized the two-step test articulated by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in cases like LM (C-216/18) and Openbaar Ministerie ([2022] 1 W.L.R. 3568), concerning systemic deficiencies in the issuing Member State’s judiciary and the need for a case-specific and precise assessment on the impact of such deficiencies on individual proceedings.

Flagrant Denial of Justice

The threshold for resisting extradition under Article 5 or 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on fairness grounds is that of a ‘flagrant denial of justice,’ meaning a breach of the principles of fair trial is so fundamental that it amounts to the nullification of the right itself, as defined in cases like Othman v United Kingdom ([2012] 55 EHRR 1).

Right to be Present at Trial

Section 20 of the Extradition Act 2003 (stemming from article 4a of the Framework Decision) was discussed, determining whether the person was present at the ‘trial resulting in the decision’ and if not, whether deliberate absence entitles the individual to a retrial or a review amounting to a retrial. CJEU jurisprudence in Tadas Tupikas (C-270/17 PPU) clarified that the ‘trial’ refers to proceedings that re-examine the merits of the case in fact and in law.


The High Court dismissed the appeal on all grounds. The court concluded that even with fresh evidence, the Polish judiciary exhibited sufficient functional independence and impartiality to qualify as a ‘judicial authority’ under the Extradition Act. The fresh evidence failed to alter the court’s assessment of the risk of unfairness in proceedings. Additionally, the court held that the threshold for a ‘flagrant denial of justice’ was not met, considering that Niziol had ample fair trial opportunities at the first instance. Lastly, judge Kozielewicz’s decision did not constitute a ‘trial’ regarding the right to be present, as the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction on cassation appeals did not assess the merits of the case.


The High Court’s judgement in Niziol v Regional Court in Warsaw provides a clear analysis of the requisite independence and impartiality of judicial authorities, as well as the each case’s specific evaluation when systemic deficiencies in the judiciary are at issue. It also reaffirms the ‘flagrancy’ requirement when considering ECHR-based arguments against extradition and the proper interpretation of the term ‘trial’ for the purpose of presence at the trial under the Extradition Act. This judgement serves to clarify the interaction of domestic and European legal standards on these issues within the extradition context.