Friday, 13 January 2012

Extraordinary Extradition?

A judge has agreed that Richard O'Dwyer, a young guy who set up a web site that pointed to (but didn't itself host) copyrighted material is to be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial.

Now I'm no lawyer, but I'm clueless as to how justice is best served by extraditing the guy to face trial abroad. First off, did he actually commit a crime? Sure, his site kept links to copyrighted material, but he didn't copy the material himself. However, he may have unwittingly left himself open to a conspiracy charge. But, any crime he did commit was committed in the UK, not the US. As a UK citizen residing in the UK and subject to UK law, there should be no circumstances where he is liable to be subject to US law unless he committed the crime in the US. Hmm, just where was his website hosted I wonder?

So why are those that want to prosecute him wanting to do it in the US, when there is a perfectly good law in the UK to cover the crime and the crime (if the crime actually covers his activities) was committed in the UK?

Is it because a jury in the US would be less sympathetic to a foreigner in the dock and the chances of a successful prosecution are higher? Is it because he won't be able to mount a successful defence due to the expense? Is the prosecutor's aim to crush any opposition to the charges and establish case law for further future prosecutions?

Talking to people they are astounded that such a minor offence warrants extradition. They understood that extradition would be used in serious cases, such as murder, terrorism and large fraud cases. They are uneasy seeing it being used just as a tool to ensure a successful prosecution. Such malicious extraditions should be resisted by our judiciary, especially when there are adequate laws here.

To my mind Mr O'Dwyer must have had a pretty crap legal team, because surely he should have been able to resist the extradition.

The thing is, if the law is being extended to relatively minor offences, what next? Will we find ourselves being extradited for jaywalking, or unpaid parking tickets in future?

There are a few salient points from this case:

Make sure you chose the servers hosting your website well. If you're hosted on American servers, better prepare for sharing a cell with Bubba if you so much as type anything out of line.

All laws suffer from mission creep. Whatever the original spirit of the law, if the wording of the law allows lawyers to extend it's use, they will do. 

UK law is subservient to any other law in the world. This supposed bastion of justice now bows to its US and European masters. Justice in the UK is now the purview of anyone but the UK public.

I feel less and less like this is my country. Its more like living on the premises of some global conglomorate.