Liberty urges Home Secretary to refuse domestic violence victim’s extradition to US

04 July 2012

Today Liberty made an eleventh-hour plea to Home Secretary Theresa May in a final bid to save mother-of-three and domestic violence victim Eileen Clark from an extradition to the US which would breach her rights to private and family life and liberty under Articles 8 and 5, ECHR.

Eileen, resident in the UK since the late 1990s, is facing removal on charges relating to her escape 17 years ago. She left husband John Clark with her children in 1995 after being subjected to almost a decade of violence, threats and psychological control. They moved to Britain and Eileen was charged in her absence with an offence called “custodial interference”. She instructed a US lawyer and honestly believed the charge had been dismissed. Once the US authorities learned Eileen was living here and that the offence was not extraditable, they upgraded it to the more serious charge of “international parental kidnapping” without attempting to contact her or her lawyer. In 2010 a formal extradition request was made and Eileen’s subsequent appeal was dismissed by the British courts. But compelling evidence that she was the victim of serious domestic abuse – never properly considered by the courts – has since emerged.

Emma Norton, legal officer for Liberty, said: “It is appalling that a mother who fled an abusive partner 17 years ago faces being torn from home and family to stand trial in the US for her desperate attempt to escape domestic violence.”

“We can only hope that Eileen Clark’s story serves to kick-start an urgent rethink of our rotten extradition system. The time is long-overdue for politicians to replace these unequal and abusive rules with some compassion and common sense.”

Eileen Clark said: “I have felt at every stage let down, bullied, frightened and in despair. My ex husband hit, threatened, abused and tried to control me for years until I left him.

“I finally felt safe here in England and was able to start rebuilding my life. Now he is using our extradition laws to continue his pursuit of me and it seems the law can do nothing to stop him.”

Liberty now has very strong evidence that she suffered physical, sexual and verbal abuse as well as serious psychological control at the hands of her ex-husband. Many witnesses to this marriage have come forward to report her fear of her husband. Eileen describes being the victim of violent outbursts, threats and physical and other abuse. Liberty’s expert witness says Eileen is a “credible even classic victim” of domestic violence and concludes that she suffers from severe depression, anxiety and traumatic stress. Returning Eileen to face her abuser in court could result in “devastating consequences” for her mental health.

Fast-track extradition has caused mass public concern. Parenting website Mumsnet has said: “There is considerable disquiet amongst Mumsnet users about the underlying fairness of the 2003 Extradition Act, and in particular the ability of courts in the UK to consider all the available evidence before making the decision to extradite. We support Liberty’s efforts to make changes to the extradition laws, and we hope that the Home Secretary will consider their representations carefully.” Eileen’s case is supported by her local MP Nicola Blackwood, women’s group Platform 51 and women’s equality organisation UK Feminista.

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. This was a non-extraditable offence. 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 15 years after the event in order to secure extradition.

2. Eileen has been the subject of extradition proceedings since 15 January 2010. Her extradition order was signed by the Home Secretary on 12 May 2011. On 22 February 2012 the High Court dismissed Eileen’s appeal. Liberty began representing Eileen following the dismissal of her appeal. On 5 March 2012 Eileen made an application to the Administrative Court to certify three points of law of general public importance and grant leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. That application was subsequently rejected. On 14 May 2012 the Home Secretary agreed not to remove Eileen until Liberty had an opportunity to submit representations on her behalf; these are being submitted today. In support of the representations are an expert report and 16 statements from 16 different witnesses.

3. For media interviews with Liberty legal officer Emma Norton, please contact the Liberty Press Office.