Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED November 14, 2003

There was nothing in the applicants circumstances making it unfair or oppressive now to return him to New Zealand to stand trial for serious sexual offences involving abuse of his position of trust as a priest and a teacher.Application for habeas corpus pursuant to s.11(3)(b) Extradition Act 1989 to discharge the applicant ('W') from standing trial in New Zealand in respect of allegations of indecent assault and buggery against young males. W was a 55 year old former priest and teacher whom the government of New Zealand sought to have returned there for trial in respect of a number of alleged sexual offences committed mostly in the early 1980's. W was arrested in 2002 pursuant to a formal extradition request. At a contested committal hearing the judge found that there was a prima facia case against W and he was committed pursuant to s.9(8) of the Act. W submitted that: (i) it would be unjust to return him to New Zealand because it would be difficult to have a fair trial so long after the offences were said to have taken place, on average 20 years ago (relying on R v B (2003) 2 Cr APP R 13); and (ii) it would be oppressive to return him to New Zealand because he had left New Zealand freely in 1987 and had since lived openly in both Ireland and latterly in the UK and since 1996 had heard nothing more about the matter until 2002, despite two of the complainants having already made their complaints to the police.HELD: (1) R v B (supra) was a decision on its facts and could not stand as authority for some broad proposition that without supporting scientific or documentary evidence no-one could be fairly tried for sexual offences after a long period of time. (2) In domestic cases a stay on the grounds of delay should only be granted in exceptional circumstances and the approach of the New Zealand courts was similar to the English courts. (3) Section 11(3)(b) required the court's decision on whether it would be unjust to return an applicant; that required the court to have regard to whatever safeguards were available in the domestic law of the requesting state to ensure that the accused would not be subjected to an unjust trial there. (4) The New Zealand courts had satisfactory procedures for guarding against an unjust trial and under those procedures they would not be bound to find a fair trial impossible. (5) The gravity of the alleged offences was relevant to the question of oppressiveness. The charges related to grave sexual offences against minors involving a serious abuse of W's position of trust as a priest and teacher. (6) There was nothing in W's circumstances making it unfair or oppressive now to return him to New Zealand to stand trial. (7) There could be no cut-off point beyond which extradition had inevitably to be regarded as unjust or oppressive.Application dismissed.

[2003] EWHC 2668 (Admin)