Canadian extradition for child abduction discharged on dual criminality grounds

On 17 May 2023, Westminster Magistrates’ Court discharged Lauren Etchells from a Canadian extradition request, bringing to an end unique proceeding that had commenced in 2019 with her arrest in Jersey on the warrant. 

Ms Etchells’ extradition had been sought to stand trial in relation to an offence of child abduction and two offences of breaching Canadian family court orders. All the charges arose from Ms Etchells’ departure from Canada with her daughter in May 2016. Ms Etchells was the biological and birth mother to the child with her former wife.  

Ms Etchells travelled to the UK in December 2021 and handed herself in to police when she was duly arrested on an extradition request.  

For Ms Etchells, it was argued that her actions did not amount to criminal conduct - either in Canada or under the equivalent U.K. law and that a prosecution in Canada could not succeed.  This was in part based on the fact that when Ms Etchells left Canada, she was the only legal parent of her daughter; meaning she was the only person with legal parentage, guardianship, and custody of her daughter at the time she left Canada.  

It was also argued that extradition would have a devastating impact upon Ms Etchells and her children and would be incompatible with their Article 8 rights. 

Extensive supporting evidence was served on the Canadian authorities relating to all matters including evidence as to English child abduction law, Canadian law, and the best interests of the child. 

On the eve of the full hearing, after 17 months of English extradition proceedings, the Canadian authorities conceded that the requirement for ‘dual criminality’ was not met in relation to all of the charges.  

On 14 June 2023, the Canadian prosecutors finally discontinued all charges against Ms Etchells domestically. The best interests of the child were paramount in this decision. This now enables Ms Etchells to travel freely without further arrest. 

The case was reported widely: Chek News, CBC , Independent here and here

Ben Cooper KC and Amelia Nice acted for Lauren Etchells and were instructed by Noam Almaz of Duncan Lewis Solicitors.