Arunas Aleksynas and Others v Minister of Justice, Republic of Lithuania and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMr Justice Jay,Lord Justice Moses
Judgment Date24 Feb 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] EWHC 437 (Admin)
Docket NumberCase Nos: CO/11054/2013; CO/11056/2013; CO/11118/2013; CO/11314/2013; CO/11269/2013; CO/11309/2013; CO/11310/2013.

[2014] EWHC 437 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

DIVISIONAL COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Lord Justice Moses

Mr Justice Jay

Case Nos: CO/11054/2013; CO/11056/2013; CO/11118/2013; CO/11314/2013; CO/11269/2013; CO/11309/2013; CO/11310/2013.

Between:
(1) Arunas Aleksynas
(2) Gintaras Lapinskas
(3) Aurimas Petronis
(4) Stasys Podrezas
(5) Rimas Danielius
(6) Edgaras Gudauskas
(7) Petras Zideckas
Appellants
and
(1) Minister of Justice, Republic of Lithuania
(2) Prosecutor General, Republic of Lithuania
Respondents

Mr David Josse QC and Ms Mary Westcott (instructed by Dalton Holmes Gray) for the First Appellant

Mr David Josse QC and Mr David Williams (instructed by Dalton Holmes Gray) for the Second Appellant

Mr David Josse QC and Mr David Williams (instructed by TV Edwards LLP) for the Third Appellant

Mr David Josse QC and Ms Amelia Nice (instructed by Kaim Todner Solicitors LLP) for the Fourth Appellant

Mr David Josse QC and Mr R Jesurum (instructed by Lansbury Worthington Solicitors) for the Fifth Appellant

Mr David Josse QC and Miss Natasha Draycott (instructed by Kaim Todner Solicitors LLP) for the Sixth Appellant

Mr David Josse QC and Mr Ben Cooper (instructed by Kaim Todner Solicitors LLP) for the Seventh Appellant

Mr Alun Jones QC and Mr J Stansfeld (instructed by CPS, Extradition Unit) for the Respondents

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mr Justice Jay Mr Justice Jay

Introduction

1

These are seven appeals brought under section 26 of the Extradition Act 2003 ("the 2003 Act") against the orders of the Senior District Judge given on 9 th August 2013 that the Appellants be extradited to the Republic of Lithuania. The Ministry of Justice, Republic of Lithuania, is the Respondent to the appeals of Mr Arunas Aleksynas, Mr Rimas Danielius, Mr Edgaras Gudauskas and Mr Stasys Podrezas, whose extraditions are being sought for the purposes of executing custodial sentences ("the conviction cases"). The Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Lithuania is the Respondent to the appeals of Mr Aurimas Petronis, Mr Gintaras Lapinskas and Mr Petras Zideckas whose extraditions are being sought for the purposes of prosecution ("the accusation cases").

2

The First Respondent accepts that the appeals of Mr Podrezas and Mr Gudauskas should be allowed: the former on the basis that the European Arrest Warrant was not issued by a judicial authority (see Bucnys v Ministry of Justice, Republic of Lithuania and others [2013] 3 WLR 1485); the latter on the basis that he has only one day of his sentence left to serve. Pursuant to our direction at the start of the hearing, orders for their discharge have therefore been made under section 27(5)(a) of the 2003 Act.

3

Lithuania became an independent Republic on 11 th March 1990 following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It joined the Council of Europe on 14 th May 1993 and acceded to the European Union in 2004. In such circumstances Lithuania has been designated a Category 1 territory pursuant to section 1 of the 2003 Act, and Part 1 accordingly applies.

4

Notwithstanding paragraph 11 of the Respondents' Skeleton Argument, it now appears that no issue arises in this appeal whether evidence which post-dated the Senior District Judge's decision was 'not available at the extradition hearing' for the purposes of section 27(4)(a). Evidence bearing on the Appellants' abuse of process argument came to light after 9 th August 2013, and Mr Alun Jones QC for the Respondents indicated that he would not take a point under section 27(4)(b) in relation to evidence of admittedly limited significance bearing on the Article 3 issue.

5

The issues arising in the five remaining appeals are as follows:

(i) whether assurances given by the Vice-Minister of Justice amount to an abuse of the process of the Court such that they cannot be relied on (this issue relates only to the accusation cases).

(ii) whether, in the light of (i) above or independently, and in view of prevailing conditions in Lithuanian police stations, remand prisons and prisons for convicted persons, extradition would violate the Appellants' rights under Article 3 of the ECHR (this issue relates to all the Appellants, although the potential interplay with issue (i) applies only to the accusation cases).

(iii) whether, in the cases of Messrs Aleksynas and Danielius, extradition would be disproportionate and/or in breach of their rights under Article 8 of the ECHR.

6

These issues are of general application to Lithuanian extradition cases, and a number of similar cases have been held in abeyance in Westminster Magistrates' Court awaiting the outcome. We were informed that there have been 34 accusation cases extradited to Lithuania since 20 th March 2013 and that there are 55 pending cases.

7

The legal issues governing the five remaining appeals are not significantly in dispute, and the Appellants do not contend that the Senior District Judge perpetrated legal errors. These appeals are brought under section 26(3) of the 2003 Act on questions of fact. In relation to issue (i) above, the Court's task is to assess whether the relevant assurances may properly be relied on by the Respondents; and in relation to issue (ii) above this Court's task is to evaluate all the available evidence as to prevailing conditions in Lithuania.

The Circumstances of the Individual Appellants

Mr Arunas Aleksynas

8

Mr Aleksynas was born on 12 th April 1994. On 29 th August 2008, when he was just 14, he kicked a young man to the chest who fell to the ground, hit his head on the concrete floor, and sustained what appears to have been a serious head injury. On 15 th June 2009 Mr Aleksynas received a suspended sentence of two years' imprisonment at the Šakiai Region District Court [File B/tab 2/page 3]. This sentence was suspended for two years subject to conditions, namely 'restriction on behaviour for 12 months and prohibiting from changing the place of residence without the knowledge of the institution controlling the restriction on behaviour'. The EAW states that Mr Aleksynas did not comply with these conditions (presumably within the stated 12 month period) and on 14 th February 2011 the suspended sentence was activated. Mr Aleksynas left Lithuania for the UK in March 2011.

Mr Rimas Danielius

9

Mr Danielius was born on 3 rd December 1971. On 2 nd July 2010 he received a sentence of 18 months' imprisonment imposed by the Kaunas Region District Court for an offence of burglary committed on 12 th April 2003. The sentence was suspended but its execution was ordered on 22 nd February 2011, on account of his failure to comply with the conditions of the suspension [File B/tab 3/page 14]. Mr Danielius absconded before serving the whole of his sentence: the European Arrest Warrant records that the period remaining to be served is 1 year, 2 months and 26 days.

Mr Aurimas Petronis

10

Mr Petronis was born on 10 th June 1987. He is accused of committing one offence of violent robbery committed on 8 th December 2007 [File B/tab 6/page 48], the maximum sentence for which is six years' imprisonment. On 6 th January 2009 the District Court of the Alytus Region issued the arrest warrant.

Mr Gintaras Lapinskas

11

Mr Lapinskas was born on 13 th August 1985. He is accused of committing an offence of theft of LTL 45,000 from a home in the Kaunas District between October 2011 and 13 th March 2012, the maximum sentence for which is eight years' imprisonment [File B/tab 7/page 59]. The arrest warrant was issued by the District Court of the Kaunas Region on 7 th December 2012.

Mr Petras Zideckas

12

Mr Zideckas was born on 25 th February 1984. He is accused of committing an offence of robbery and an offence of causing grievous bodily harm, both against the same victim, on 21 st November 2004 [File B/tab 8/page 72]. The maximum sentence for the offence of robbery is six years' imprisonment and the maximum sentence for the offence of causing grievous bodily harm is twelve years' imprisonment. The arrest warrant was issued by the Kaunas Regional Court as long ago as 25 th May 2005.

The Consequences of Extradition for these Appellants

13

In the two remaining conviction cases (viz. Mr Aleksynas and Mr Danielius), the Lithuanian authorities have been unable to specify the correctional facility into which these men would be placed upon return to that jurisdiction. This is because the relevant authorities would be taking into account a number of fluid factors including 'the personality of the offender, [and] the nature and dangerousness of the committed crime' [File B/tab 10/page 87]. This is no doubt significant for Article 3 purposes inasmuch as the entirety of the adult prison estate in Lithuania therefore falls under scrutiny for present purposes.

14

The position is different as regards the accusation cases (viz. Messrs Petronis, Lapinskas and Zideckas). In their cases it is common ground that the 'territorial principle' applies: in other words, that they will be remanded in custody to the remand prison within or closest to the town or district whose court has issued the arrest warrant. There are three remand prisons in Lithuania, namely Kaunas, Lukiskes (this is the Anglicisation of the Lithuanian, Lukiškiu) and Šiauliai. Subject to the application of the assurances on which the Respondents place heavy reliance, it is clear that Mr Petronis would be remanded to Lukiskes remand prison. Messrs Lapinskas and Zideckas, on the...

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