Jack Shepherd resists extradition following speedboat death
Jack Shepherd was arrested last week after apparently surrendering himself to police in Georgia. Shepherd was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence of Charlotte Brown, who died when his speedboat crashed on the Thames during their first date. He absconded prior to his four-week trial at the Old Bailey and was convicted in his absence in July 2018 and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
Sajid Javid, prior to Shepherd’s arrest, told Ms Brown’s family that Shepherd would be extradited back to the UK quickly once he was found, but was Mr Javid right to make such a promise?
Extradition is a complex area of law and the speed and ease in which a country can obtain the extradition of a wanted person depends on the arrangements between the requesting country and the requested country.
Georgia, while a member of the Council of Europe, is not part of the European Union (EU) and therefore the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) scheme does not apply. The EAW scheme was introduced to make extradition easier and quicker between EU member states.
Instead, Georgia and the UK do not have a bilateral extradition treaty and therefore have to rely on the European Convention on Extradition 1957 (the Convention), of which they are both signatories. As one might expect from legislation that is now over 60 years old, the Convention is dated and can be cumbersome to navigate.
The Convention sets out circumstances in which countries may refuse to extradite, for example if it is a political offence or the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person is on account of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion. It also requires the offence to be punishable in both the requesting country and the requested country by a sentence of detention of at least one year or, in the case of a conviction, for the sentence passed to be of at least four months.
Shepherd’s lawyers in Georgia have indicated that he would resist extradition on the basis that the manslaughter offence he was convicted of in the UK would not constitute an offence in Georgia. Shepherd himself has also told media outlets in Georgia that he would fear for his life in prison in the UK. As Georgia is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) it may be possible that Shepherd’s life is at risk if extradited or that he would be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Articles 2 and 3 ECHR.
In another development, the judge in Tbilisi refused the prosecutor’s application to expedite the hearings and remanded Shepherd in to custody for three months pending a full extradition hearing. It is not known at this point how effective any challenge to extradition may be but it appears that Mr Javid’s remark to the Brown family that Shepherd would be extradited quickly was optimistic at best.