Polish woman finally defeats extradition request, marking the end of 5 years of proceedings
A Polish woman, represented by Malcolm Hawkes, has finally succeeded in resisting extradition to Poland across multiple proceedings over the past 5 years.
Originally arrested on 21 November 2015, the appellant, a mother of four children, was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), issued earlier that year, alleging offences of fraud, said to have been committed in 2008-2009. Following protracted hearings at the Westminster Magistrates Court, that case ended after the Polish authorities agreed to her temporary surrender to Poland to be interviewed by a prosecutor. In the autumn of 2016, she duly flew to Poland, had her interview, returned to the UK and the EAW was withdrawn.
However, on 26 February 2019, she was arrested on the foot of a second European Arrest Warrant, issued by a different Polish court, which claimed that she had breached the terms of a suspended sentence, which had been activated in June 2015.
The case focused on the question of whether the appellant was a fugitive or not and the key question as to why, if the suspended sentence had been activated at the time she had flown to Poland in 2016 for interview, the Polish authorities took no active step when she was in that country either to arrest her, or at the very least, to warn her she was liable to arrest and a further extradition request.
There was, in fact, no answer as to why, when one Polish court was arranging for the appellant to travel freely to and from Poland from the UK, another court was trying to have her imprisoned. Equally, there was no answer to the question why, if the prison sentence had been activated in 2015 and one Polish court knew full well the appellant was living in the UK with her family, the other Polish court waited 4 years before it issued its extradition request.
In his judgment, Mr. Justice Fordham found that the appellant could not be considered to be a fugitive where there was no evidence she had fled Poland and had only become ‘unlawfully at large’ while otherwise lawfully living in the UK.
The court was also persuaded that the impact upon the appellant, her husband and their four children would be clearly disproportionate. Each family member was vulnerable in their own right, whether by reason of their physical or mental health conditions, the delay in the case was considerable, largely unexplained and not of the appellant’s making.
Of note, the judge repeated his observations as set out in the case of Lipski v Poland, in which he held that, while a UK court should not second-guess the sentencing regime in a requesting state, it was right for the court, when considering the seriousness of the conduct, to compare the conduct with other offences of its type to determine the question of gravity and the public interest in extradition. This approach distinguishes and partially re-opens the comparative exercise which the court in Poland v Celinski had largely closed.