Supreme Court: Courts must consider children’s rights during extradition

The Coram Children’s Legal Centre has welcomed Supreme Court clarification on the importance of children’s rights in parental extradition cases.

Judgment was handed down by the Supreme Court on 20th June 2012 in three cases.

The Coram Children’s Legal Centre intervened in all the cases before the Supreme Court to make submissions on the weight and importance to be given to the interests of children whose parents or carers face extradition to stand trial or serve sentences abroad, in deciding whether or not to allow extraditions to proceed.

The ruling by the Supreme Court makes it clear that requested states must do much more, and at a much earlier stage, to understand the impact on the lives of children affected by such requests, the Coram Children’s Legal Centre said. They must also consider alternatives to extradition, seek to minimise the damage to children if possible and, in particular, to ensure that children’s best interests are of primary consideration when making a decision which is likely to have a serious and fundamental impact on a child’s family life.  

Professor Carolyn Hamilton, Director of the Coram Children’s Legal Centre welcomed the judgment saying: “The highest court in the UK has once again underlined the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, whenever government authorities make decisions that affect children’s lives.”

Syd Bolton, instructing solicitor for the Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: “Whilst there is a public interest in upholding criminal justice and in the UK fulfilling its obligations under international extradition treaties, Coram Children’s Legal Centre is very pleased that the Supreme Court has confirmed that there is also a wider public interest and benefit to society in promoting the best interests of its children.”

The Court held that, as a starting point, “no factor must be given greater weight than the interests of the child.” It also confirms that under European Union law, children’s interests must inform how the UK implements EU directives, including extradition treaties.
The Coram Children’s Legal Centre said the judgment should now require a review of practices in issuing and agreeing to requests, especially European Arrest Warrants, particularly where warrants are issued for what might be considered less serious offences.

It should be accepted that the UK is now under a duty to perform a more detailed examination of the impact on children where the extradition of parents would curtail family life with those parent(s) and with other family members, the Coram Children’s Legal Centre said.

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