Extradition from Ireland to the United Kingdom

Published date01 May 1989
AuthorPeter Charleton
Date01 May 1989
Subject MatterArticle
Peter Charleton*
While no exact figures have been compiled, it has been estimated
that since 1982only 30 per cent of extradition requests from Ireland)
to the UK in major terriorist-type offences, have succeeded.' The
scheme for extradition from Ireland to the UK is contained in Part
III of the 1965 Extradition Act" (hereafter called
as amended. The passing of this Act was necessitated when
arrangements, which had existed prior to independence, were
found by the Supreme Court to infringe the requested person's
(hereafter called the accused) constitutional right of access to the
the pre-1965 system, warrants from the UK were
executed by the
Siochana who, on arresting the accused,
surrendered him directly to the requesting authorities (the backing
of warrants system). The procedure was constitutionally flawed
because of its efficiency. The accused was surrendered almost
immediately on his arrest and therefore had no opportunity to
apply to the High Court to test the legality of his detention.' The
right of access to the courts is a fundamental principle of Irish
constitutional law.
Generally, English law requires that aprima facie case of guilt
be made out against the accused in extradition proceedings. The
pre-1965 procedures between Ireland and the UK did
have such
Barrister, Member of the Dublin Circuit, Lecturer in Criminal Law, Trinity
College, Dublin.
IIreland is the correct legal name for the State. Northern Ireland is the correct
legal name for the portion of the island of Ireland which is part of the United
Kingdom. These proper names will be used in this article.
2This figure was compiled by Sean Flynn, Security Correspondent of The Irish
Times; see The Irish Times, November 3,1988.
3The 1965 Act as commenced by SI 161 of 1965 and the Backing of Warrants
(Republic of Ireland) Act 1965, as commenced by SI 1965No. 1850.
4State (Quinn) v. Ryan [1965]I.R. 70.
SFord, Extradition Law in Ireland (Dublin, 1988) Chapter 1.
Criminal Law
arequirement. In that year, when the pre-existing arrangements
collapsed, the Irish Government had already decided to ratify the
1957 European Extradition Convention (to which the UK is not
a party). The Convention did not include a prima facie case
requirement. A desire to retain the expedition and convenience
of the old backing of warrants system, enforced by a realisation
that the Government could not demand from its nearest neighbour
aproof that it did not require from any other country in Europe,
shaped the form of the 1965 Act. This continued the pre-1965
system of extradition but allowed the accused an opportunity of
access to the High Court to test the legality of his detention. Thus,
from that year until 1987, the UK, to secure a fugitive from the
jurisdiction of the Irish Courts, had simply to issue a warrant for
his arrest on a criminal offence common to Ireland and the UK,
and prove the validity of that warrant before the District Court in
Until 1982 few, if any, persons accused of terrorist-type criminal
offences were extradited from Ireland. This was because the 1965
Act excepted from extradition persons accused of political offences
or offences connected with political offences. In 1986 Dail Eireann
(the Irish Parliament) debated the Extradition (European Conven-
tion on The Suppression of Terroism) Bill. The purpose of this
measure was to exclude from the political offence exemption under
the 1965 Act the vast bulk of terroist type offences (see below
"Political Exemption"). The Bill was passed and was due to
become law on December 1, 1987. In the meanwhile, rightly or
wrongly, much public disquiet was created in Ireland over the
newspaper reports on terrorist trials involving Irish people in the
UK. The "Birmingham Six" appeal caused particular concern. The
Fianna Fail party, who had opposed the Bill, were meanwhile
elected to government. In order to ensure some administrative
control over extradition to the UK The Extradition (Amendment)
Act 1987 was passed. Under it, extradition between Ireland and
the UK is no longer an automatic process. Its purpose is to
introduce into the extradition arrangements, between Ireland and
the UK, a prima facie case requirement. The issue of deciding
whether or not there is a prima facie case of guilt is shifted from
the courts to the Attorney-General. After considering "such
information as he deems appropriate" the Attorney-General has

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