Rajkovic v County Court in Vukovar Croatia

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMrs Justice Elisabeth Laing,Lady Justice Sharp
Judgment Date22 May 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] EWHC 1403 (Admin)
Docket NumberCO/3879/2017
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
Date22 May 2018

[2018] EWHC 1403 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Before:

Lady Justice Sharp DBE

Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing

CO/3879/2017

Between:
Rajkovic
Appellant
and
County Court in Vukovar Croatia
Respondent

Mr J Atlee (instructed by Atlee Chung) appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

Ms S Townshend (instructed by CPS Extradition Unit) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.

Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing
1

This is the judgment of the court. This is an appeal against the decision of District Judge Timothy Devas (“the DJ”) sitting at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 22 August 2017.

2

Permission to appeal was given by Holman J on the papers on 9 October 2017. The grounds of appeal concerned Art.8 and s.21 of the Extradition Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”). Holman J gave permission on one of the grounds of appeal. He considered that it was “just arguable” that the DJ should have “given more weight to the alleged risk of Serbophobia in a Croatian prison” and that the evidence which the appellant had produced should be considered by a Divisional Court.

3

Holman J refused permission to appeal on the remaining two grounds. Those were that the DJ was wrong not to take in account possible difficulties which the appellant might have re-entering the United Kingdom after serving his sentence of imprisonment and the length of time for which the appellant had been subject to bail. It does not appear to us from his judgment that either of those two arguments was addressed to the DJ.

4

We note that in para.34 of the submissions in support of the application for permission to appeal the appellant specifically abandoned any argument relating to s.13 of the 2003 Act, a position which Mr Atlee maintained in his oral submissions today.

5

The appellant applied to renew the application for permission to appeal in respect of those two grounds on 15 May 2018 and in a skeleton argument dated 27 April 2018, but not, it seems, served on the respondent until 1 May 2018, for the first time to advance an abuse of process argument. We will say more about those applications in due course. The appellant served further evidence on 5 September 2017 and on 19 April 2018.

6

The appellant was represented on this appeal by Mr Atlee and the respondent by Ms Townshend.

The facts

The request

7

The appellant's extradition was requested by the county court in Croatia (“the RA”) to serve a sentence of imprisonment in respect of convictions set out in three European arrest warrants (“EAWs”). The DJ referred to those as “EAW 1”, “EAW 2” and “EAW 3”. We adopt his shorthand.

The European arrest warrants

8

EAW 1 concerned an offence of extortion said to have been committed between 26 October and 5 November 2009. The DJ said that “the framework list has been ticked as ‘racketeering and extortion’.” There was a sentence of one years' imprisonment to serve on EAW 1. EAW 2 related to eight offences of burglary and theft of large amounts of cigarettes, alcohol, food and condoms. Those offences were said to have been committed on various dates in October, November and December 2010. There was a sentence of one year and five months' imprisonment to serve on EAW 2. EAW 3 concerned an offence of driving while disqualified committed on 27 May 2011. There was a sentence of six months' imprisonment to serve.

9

EAW 1 and EAW 2 were issued on 24 February 2014. They were certified by the National Crime Agency (“the NCA”) on 20 January 2015. EAW 3 was issued on 5 December 2014 and certified by the NCA on 31 March 2015. Box D on all three EAWs states that the appellant present at his trial.

The proceedings

10

The appellant was initially arrested on 18 February 2015 in connection with EAWs 1 and 2. The case was listed for hearing. He was remanded in custody. He was given bail later. He was arrested on EAW 3 on 7 May 2015. The case was adjourned to be heard with EAWs 1 and 2. The hearing on 28 May 2015 was adjourned to enable a psychiatric report on the appellant's partner to be prepared. No such report was, in the event, submitted.

11

There was a further hearing on 10 September 2015 at which the appellant gave evidence. The hearing was adjourned, again at the appellant's request, for provision of an expert's report on the subject of ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Croatia which had been relied on in the case of Maric. There were submissions on 4 November 2015. The case was adjourned again until 5 April 2015 to await the decision of District Judge Zani (“DJ Zani”) in Maric. It was adjourned again for the same purpose until 14 June 2016.

12

The hearing resumed on 26 October 2016. Judgment was reserved and the hearing adjourned until 21 November 2016. That hearing was adjourned on 21 November 2016 because the appellant had been arrested and was due to appear at Northampton Crown Court on 14 August 2017 on charges of assault (in a domestic setting). On that date, the prosecution offered no evidence at the crown court against the appellant. The extradition hearing was re-listed for 22 August 2017 for judgment.

13

The appellant was represented at the hearings and helped by an interpreter appointed by the court. The appellant challenged the EAWs on two grounds. First, he argued that they had been issued to punish and detain him or to restrict his liberty because he was of Serbian ethnicity. It was said that his extradition was, therefore, barred by s.13 of the 2003 Act. Second, he argued that his extradition would be a disproportionate interference with his rights protected by Art.8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the ECHR”) and contrary to s.21 of the 2003 Act.

14

The DJ recorded that the appellant's solicitor had on 15 August 2017 applied for further directions and an adjournment because of an official announcement on 5 August by the Croatian Prime Minister. The DJ had decided that it was not in the interests of justice to adjourn the hearing again. The new material, in his judgment, did not significantly add to the material which he already had.

The evidence before the DJ

15

In para.5 of his judgment the DJ listed documents which he had read. They included proofs of evidence from the appellant and from his partner, Ms Simeunovic, two witness statements from his solicitor, Ms Chung, a report by Mr Sbrac in the appellant's case and in the case of Mr Maric, the judgment of DJ Zani in Mr Maric's case and the decision of Hickinbottom J (as he then was) in Mr Maric's case ( Maric v County Court in Osijek, Croatia [2016] EWHC 3526 (Admin)).

16

The DJ said that Maric's case also concerned a request from Croatia and raised issues similar to the issues in this case. The DJ accepted that he was not bound by the decision of DJ Zani, but said that it provided useful background and some guidance. He directed himself that he had taken into consideration any “issues of a similar nature which had been adjudicated upon by the High Court in the Maric case”. He added he had also read many documents which referred to the difficulties between Serbia and Croatia. He did not find it necessary to rehearse all of that material.

17

The DJ referred to the report from Mr Sbrac from the Veritas Information and Documentation Center in Serbia. Mr Sbrac was a former judge. It appears from para.7 of the DJ's description that Mr Maric was a Serb who was accused of war crimes. Mr Sbrac described increasing “Serbophobic” tendencies in Croatia. He said in para.14 of his report that:

“There is a real risk that the phenomenon of virtual impunity for offences committed against Serbs extends to the conditions [in] which Mr Rajkovic can expect to be detained in the present political climate.”

18

The DJ said that he had duly noted the sources referred to in the schedule to the report.

19

Mr Sbrac had given live evidence by video link at the hearing on 25 October 2016. He had adopted his main report as his evidence-in-chief. In cross-examination he had said that he was an ethnic Serb. The DJ recorded some of the cross-examination in para.8 of his judgment. Mr Sbrac had conceded that he had not looked at the appellant's file. He contended, from his analysis of trials over twenty years, that it was twice as hard for Serbs to be acquitted as for Croats on “similar types of evidence”.

20

The appellant gave evidence at the first hearing. He adopted his proof of evidence. In that evidence he gave details of his family life, his relationship with Ms Simeunovic and briefly described her health problems. He also described the difficulties faced in Croatia by ethnic Serbs and the problems he faced when conscripted into the Croatian Army in 2002. In cross-examination he agreed that he had attended the hearings in 2011 and 2012.

21...

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