Extradition order to Italy for international drug smuggling quashed

On 17 June 2021, Mr Justice Johnson quashed the decision of District Judge Ezzat ordering L’s extradition to Italy.

L is sought by Italy to serve a sentence of 3 years, 10 months and 27 days for being part of an international criminal organisation involved in the importation of large amounts of heroin, cocaine and hashish from Albania to Italy, with onward exportation to Germany, from 1999 to 2000. The UK courts considered that “the offences were serious and involved significant criminality” and that the sentence was equally “significant and substantial”. The UK courts also concluded that L had left Italy at least in part to put himself beyond the reach of the Italian legal process and that he was therefore a fugitive from justice.

The District Judge concluded that the delay in this case was extensive, unexplained and culpable. However, the District Judge concluded that L had in fact benefitted from the delay as he had met his now wife and had children. The High Court concluded that the District Judge’s assessment was flawed as he failed to identify that the delay decreases the public interest in extradition and failed properly to consider how L’s private and family life had developed as a consequence of the delay.

Johnson J. therefore conducted his own assessment of the relevant factors and concluded that although the offending was “very serious” and the sentence substantial, the public interest in extradition was “ameliorated to a very significant degree” by the delay, which was not caused by L’s flight but rather appeared to be due to systemic delay in Italy’s criminal justice system. Further, given the family circumstances, extradition would breach L and his family’s rights to a private and family life as protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Johnson J. therefore quashed the order for extradition.

L is represented by Graeme Hall, who is instructed by Edward Jones of Hodge Jones and Allen Solicitors. Professor Andrea Saccucci, an Associate Tenant at Doughty Street Chambers, provided expert evidence on Italian law and procedure.