Supreme Court on children’s best interests in extradition cases

Fri, 09 Mar 2012

HH and PH v Deputy Prosecutor of The Italian Republic, Genoa, and Official Solicitor, JUSTICE, Coram Children’s Legal Centre intervening; BH AND KAS v The Lord Advocate, The Scottish Ministers and Coram Children’s Legal Centre intervening; FK v Poland
A bench of seven Supreme Court judges has this week been hearing 3 extradition appeals under the Extradition Act 2003. The appeals concern extraditions to Italy and Poland under European Arrest Warrants and an extradition to the USA under the much criticised UK-USA extradition treaty. The case raises the question of how the best interests of the children of extraditees should be assessed. It gives the Supreme Court its first opportunity to consider the application of the ground-breaking principles that were established in ZH (Tanzania) [2011] UKSC 4, [2011] 1 FCR 221, [2011] 2 WLR 148 in the context of the children of deportees. It was clear at the time of ZH (Tanzania) that its principles would soon be applied to almost every area of the law; and so they have been. Indeed, in ETK v News Group Newpapers [2011] EWCA Civ 439, a case involving an injunction against a newspaper, the Court of Appeal referred to them as universal principles. 
In extradition however, the High Courts in the present appeals each decided to follow the previous decision of the 9–judge Supreme Court in Norris v USA 2010] UKSC 9, [2010] 2 AC 487 in which it had been held that only in very compelling family circumstances would the heavy public interest in honouring extradition arrangements give way to the family life concerns under Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. But Norris did not concern children and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 played no part in that decision. 
The Supreme Court’s decision in the current case has been reserved. It may well have an impact on aspects of the criminal justice generally and its treatment of children in terms of prosecution, sentencing and penal policy. It will therefore probably be relevant to all those working on child-related issues. 
Manjit S. Gill QC and James Dixon provided submissions to the Supreme Court as interveners instructed by the Coram Children Legal Centre.
Manjit S. Gill QC had previously presented the lead arguments in ZH (Tanzania). 

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