Trial by video-link leads to discharge: possible legal first in Lithuanian extradition case

In what may have been a legal first, an Appellant has been tried from HMP Wandsworth in the UK by video-link in Lithuania and thereby avoided extradition to that country.

The Appellant was accused of committing two low-value offences of theft in Lithuania in 2011. He argued that the offences were committed so long ago and were not serious offending such that extradition would be a disproportionate interference with his right to private and family life.

The High Court dismissed his appeal but, on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, his physical extradition to Lithuania was put on hold for many weeks. In the meantime, his solicitor, Katy O’Mara, wrote to the Lithuanian court to ask if they would agree to try him by video-link instead. They agreed and the High Court stayed his extradition pending the conclusion of that trial.

The trials took place on two dates in November 2020, with the Appellant at HMP Wandsworth, his extradition legal team at Doughty Street Chambers, and his court-appointed Lithuanian-lawyer, the prosecutor and trial judge sitting at the Šiauliai District Court in Lithuania, all linked together using the Cloud Video Platform (CVP).

The Appellant pleaded guilty and on 4 December 2020, he was sentenced to 6 months and 10 days imprisonment which was far below the time he had already spent in custody contesting extradition. The Appellant was admitted to unconditional bail pending formal withdrawal of the EAW.

The case likely represents a legal first in that extradition has been circumvented by a remotely-conducted trial after extradition was ordered. It is significant because, where the person is accused of offending, the UK judge must consider the possibility of the requesting state taking measures less coercive than extradition. In Lithuanian cases at least, that question appears to have been definitively answered.

In Zapalskis v Lithuania, Malcolm was instructed by Katy O’Mara of ITN Solicitors.