Liberty represents mother-of-three in final attempt to halt her US extradition

07 March 2012

Today Liberty announced it will represent Eileen Clark in a last-ditch attempt to save the mother-of-three from extradition to the US.

Eileen is fighting removal to the US on charges relating to an event that took place 14 years ago. A US citizen, she left her husband John in 1995 following domestic abuse; taking her children. Some time later they moved to Britain, but Eileen’s husband pursued his case through US courts. The Home Secretary ordered her extradition last May and last month the High Court ruled that she should be returned.

Liberty is asking the High Court to allow Eileen to appeal to the Supreme Court. We are asking the Court to clarify three important points of law:

  • Whether any public interest in extraditing Eileen is outweighed by her rights under Article 8 of the European Convention, the right to a private and family life, given the unusual circumstances of her case. Eileen originally fled because her husband was abusive and she has established a strong family life for herself and her children in the UK over the last 14 years. The original charge against her – custodial interference – was not even a criminal offence here in the UK – that is why US prosecutors upgraded it in 2008 to kidnapping. There can be little public interest in revisiting a complicated family dispute that no longer persists 17 years on – the extreme measure of extradition is unjustified;
     
  • Whether it is oppressive to return Eileen to the US now given the time that has passed, especially considering the factors outlined above;
     
  • Whether the conduct of US prosecutors, in pursuing a new extraditable charge so many years after the alleged conduct, constitutes an abuse of process and breaches Eileen’s right not to be subjected to an arbitrary criminal process under Article 5 of the Convention, the right to liberty.

Emma Norton, legal officer for Liberty, said: “The failure to prosecute Eileen’s extradition until 14 years after the alleged offence renders this request to return her oppressive, disproportionate and abusive.

“Of course divorce can be messy and difficult, but should this mother of grown-up children really be dragged across the Atlantic and hauled before a US court so many years after her marriage ended?

“Just as Gary McKinnon’s search for UFOs became cyber-terrorism, now Eileen is a transatlantic fugitive. This isn’t what extradition is for and some compassion and common sense in the law is long overdue.”

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The US originally filed charges against Eileen for custodial interference, which were twice dismissed by the US court. These were non-extraditable offences and they became time barred. In 2010, the US sought Eileen’s extradition for the first time to stand trial on a new charge, filed in 2008, alleging “international parental kidnapping”. This new extraditable offence, which carries a sentence range from a fine to a maximum sentence of three years in prison, appears to have been brought for the first time 13 years after the event in order to secure extradition. It does not reflect the intention of those responsible for prosecuting the alleged conduct for the previous 13 years.

2. The Supreme Court is currently hearing five joint appeals, arising from two English cases and one Scottish case, on the application of Article 8 of the Convention to extradition proceedings. These appeals will decide the appropriate weight that should be given to the Article 8 rights of extraditees and their families – in particular their children – when assessing the proportionality of extradition. One of the cases concerns the relevance of a very long delay similar to that in Eileen’s case, where adult children would be affected by removal. Given that the law is at present being clarified in this area, Liberty invites the Court to postpone its final resolution in Eileen’s case pending the outcome of these appeals.