South Africa: no answer to real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment

A British man, represented by Malcolm Hawkes, has been discharged from an extradition request issued by the government of South Africa, to stand trial for offences of fraud.

As a financial advisor in that country, the requested person was accused of embezzling half-a-million pounds of his clients’ funds over a period of years before he moved back to the UK, an allegation which was firmly denied.

He argued that prison conditions in KwaZulu-Natal province were so overcrowded and materially poor, they breached the minimum standards required by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In response, the South African government issued an assurance, guaranteeing placement at Durban Medium A prison, pre-trial and post-conviction with Article 3 compliant conditions. However, following an inspection of that prison by Dr. Alan Mitchell, it was clear that the conditions there are woefully inadequate. Inmates were forced to crouch down in the corridor whenever prison guards, who openly carried batons, walked by. Not only did the prison staff themselves not have any clear idea where the man would be housed, the conditions which Dr. Mitchell did see fell far below Article 3 standards: in the cells, windows were broken, toilets didn’t flush and the so-called ‘outside space’ comprised a small balcony, entirely encased in bars. One British inmate told Dr. Mitchell that he hadn’t been allowed outside for over 13 years.

In response, the South African government proposed a different prison, at Pietermaritzburg and supplied the CPS with supporting evidence, including photographs. However, prosecution counsel conceded in open court that this evidence showed conditions there were even worse than at Durban.

It was also argued extradition would be oppressive on mental health grounds; both the requested person and his disabled partner depend upon each other for support and extradition would entail a real risk of a devastating decline in their mental health and attendant suicide risk.

In the face of an unanswerable defence case, the extradition request was withdrawn and discharged.

In South Africa v MH, Malcolm was instructed by Leftheris Ridgeway of McMillan Williams solicitors.