German court rules UK prisons unsafe
A court in Germany has refused to grant an extradition request from the UK, citing suboptimal conditions in British prisons. The ruling, made in March, has only recently been made public.
The case involved an Albanian man wanted in Britain on drug-related charges. The presiding judge ruled that the extradition request was “currently inadmissible” because there were “valid grounds” to believe that “there is a real threat for the protection of the prosecuted person’s basic rights.”
“Without British guarantees, extradition is not possible in view of the state of the British prison system,” the court decided, adding that “there are no legal remedies against this.”
The Albanian is accused of trafficking approximately 5kg of cocaine and laundering about £330,000 ($414,104) in the UK. Westminster Magistrates Court issued an international arrest warrant, also known as an Interpol red notice, for the individual.
He fled to Germany, where the authorities detained him.
His defense lawyer, Jan-Carl Janssen, who had studied in Glasgow and authored research on prison conditions in the UK, managed to convince the judge that the British penitentiary system is plagued by chronic overcrowding, staff shortages and violence among inmates.
The German court contacted the UK authorities, requesting guarantees that conditions in the country’s jails are compliant with the minimum standards stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The judge also asked British officials to specify in which prisons the Albanian man would be detained if he were extradited, and what the conditions were like in these institutions.
A police station in Manchester replied to the court’s first request just before the deadline for a response, assuring the judge that 20,000 extra prison places were being provided to deal with the issue of overcrowding. The British authorities, however, left the other request unanswered.
As the Albanian man was not wanted for any offenses in Germany, he was subsequently freed.
The Guardian reported that the case is thought to be the first of its kind in Germany, with courts having previously denied extradition to some other European nations, but not the UK.
Commenting on the ruling, Jonathan Goldsmith of the Law Society of England and Wales wrote in the organization’s Gazette that it represented an “embarrassment for the UK” and a severe rebuke of the government’s record on the administration of justice.