Michael Turner’s long-awaited trial begins in Hungary tomorrow
30-year-old Dorset man, Michael Turner, appears in a Budapest court tomorrow (February 29th), for the first day of his criminal trial in relation to a failed business. Michael was extradited to Hungary on a European Arrest Warrant in November 2009, and spent four months in a Hungarian jail. It was only in December 2011, a full two years after he was extradited, that the Hungarian authorities charged him with any offence.
Fair Trials International’s Chief Executive, Jago Russell, said:
“Michael was the victim of a shocking misuse of Europe’s fast-track extradition laws and suffered appalling treatment during the four months he spent needlessly in a Hungarian jail. The time for talking is over: the UK Government must now reform our flawed extradition laws.”
From premature extradition to pre-trial detention, Michael’s case is symptomatic of the growing need for reform of our extradition arrangements. If uncontroversial reforms called for in Select Committee inquiries, the extradition review, and debates in Parliament had been implemented, Michael’s ordeal could have been avoided.
For more information please contact Fair Trials International on +44 (0)20 7822 2370 or +44 (0)7950 849 851
Notes to Editors
1. Fair Trials International is a human rights charity that provides assistance to people arrested in a country other than their own and campaigns for reform to fight the underlying causes of injustice in cross-border cases.
2. Michael Turner is a British national from Dorset, who was extradited to Hungary in November 2009 and detained in horrendous conditions for four months, following the failure of a business venture there. Extradition occurred even though no decision had been made by Hungary to prosecute. He was released back to the UK in March 2010 and only told he’d been charged in December 2011.
3. On February 21 Michael Turner gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on his extradition. He told the Committee that he was questioned without a lawyer at midnight on the day he arrived in Hungary, pressured to sign documents in Hungarian he didn’t understand, and had no effective interpretation. His evidence is available here.
4. In November 2011 we published a major report calling for action at EU level to prevent the excessive use of pre-trial detention in Europe. It was published in response to a European Commission consultation and contains in-depth comparative studies of the pre-trial detention regimes in 15 EU countries, examining both law and practice. The studies reveal that many countries allow for unacceptably long periods in pre-trial detention and no proper system to review pre-trial detention, with judges repeatedly rubber-stamping decisions to remand the suspect in custody, without asking why it is necessary to keep him or her in prison. This is precisely what happened in Michael Turner’s case. You can read the full report here.
5. Fair Trials International’s demands:
Clearly, in some cases, it is necessary to hold a person in custody for a certain period after arrest, for example, to ensure vital evidence is preserved or key witnesses are protected. If pre-trial detention is justified, those held in detention should be given: facilities to prepare a defence; confidential communications with their lawyer; and a regular review of whether detention remains necessary. Conditions must be sanitary, safe and humane.
6. The European Arrest Warrant is a fast-track system for surrendering people from one European country to another to face trial or serve a prison sentence. It has removed many of the traditional safeguards from the extradition process. If a court in one country demands a person’s arrest and extradition, courts and police in other countries must act on it. In 2010 over 1,000 people were extradited from the UK to another EU country, compared to 699 the previous year.
7. Fair Trials International’s six point plan for extradition reform
We have submitted a six point plan to the Home Affairs Committee to reform the Extradition Act 2003. Many of these changes have already been recommended by other in-depth extradition reviews that took place in 2011. All can be achieved simply and quickly. The impact for people facing extradition requests would be substantial if the reforms were enacted. Our proposed reforms include two which would have made all the difference to Michael Turner:
• No extradition until a case is trial ready, to prevent the many cases of premature extradition currently blighting the system; and
• Allow courts to seek further information from the requesting state before extradition (for example, when it needs to satisfy itself on fundamental rights questions or as to the procedural status);