Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report

Appendix A



This Home Office note outlines the main stages and procedures in extradition requests made to the United Kingdom. It is intended simply as an introduction to a complex subject; it is neither comprehensive nor a statement of law.

This guide does not explain the procedures for Scotland which, because of its separate legal system, are slightly different from those for the rest of the United Kingdom. A separate guide to Scottish procedure will be forthcoming on the Scottish Executive web-site.

Extradition provides for the return of persons accused or convicted of serious offences from the United Kingdom to other jurisdictions, or vice versa. The domestic legal framework for this is the Extradition Act 1989. The United Kingdom has general extradition relations with over 100 countries under the provisions of three main schemes: the European Convention on Extradition (ECE), the Commonwealth scheme for the Rendition of Fugitive Offenders; and a number of bilateral treaties. The majority of extraditions from the United Kingdom take place under the ECE.

We also have extradition relations with co-signatories of international conventions which contain extradition provisions, relating to specific forms of very serious crimes. The Act also provides for the negotiation of a special arrangement for extradition with states with whom no other provision exists. These types of provisions are only rarely used.

Requests for Extradition

Requests to the United Kingdom can be made in two ways:

  • provisional arrest request: in cases of urgency. The request is generally made through police channels, for arrest on the basis of a domestic warrant; or
  • full order request: where the full papers are submitted through the diplomatic channel in advance of the arrest.

Generally the information required to accompany the request will include:

(a) particulars of the person whose return is requested;

(b) particulars of the offence of which he is accused or was convicted;

(c) in the case of a person accused of an offence, a warrant or a duly authenticated copy of a warrant for his arrest issued in the requesting state, or for a provisional arrest, details of such a warrant;

(d) in the case of a person unlawfully at large after conviction of an offence, a certificate or a duly authenticated copy of a certificate of the conviction and the sentence, or for provisional arrest, details of the conviction.

If the fugitive contests the request, it may then be subject to a lengthy procedure. The Act provides for the expedited return of fugitives who waive their rights.

The Extradition Process

Extradition from the United Kingdom requires decisions by both Ministers and the courts:

Stage in Extradition Process

Who makes the decision?

Authority to Proceed



District Judge

Habeas Corpus

Divisional Court


House of Lords Appellate Committee



Decisions of Ministers and District Judges may be subject to judicial review.

Authority to Proceed (ATP/OTP)

Where a request is made for the provisional arrest of a fugitive, the fugitive will be arrested before an ATP/OTP is signed. He is brought before the District Judge, who sets an initial period —generally between 40 and 60 days depending on the scheme—for the receipt of the formal extradition request and supporting documents, and the signing of the ATP/OTP by the Secretary of State. If the request is not received within this period, or if the requisite supporting documents are not supplied, the fugitive is released immediately. The District Judge will also decide whether the fugitive should be remanded in custody, or can be released on bail. Where a full order request is made through the diplomatic channel, the ATP is signed before the fugitive is arrested.

Statutory Bars to Extradition and General Restrictions on Return

In order to protect fugitives' rights, extradition from the United Kingdom is barred by statute if:

  • the requirement for dual criminality is not satisfied. This requires the offence to be a crime in both the requesting and requested states. In ECE and Commonwealth cases, it must also be punishable in both states by a minimum sentence threshold (normally 12 months imprisonment); in bilateral treaty cases, a list of offences is generally used;

  • the offence for which extradition is requested is of a political character;

  • the offence is one found in military law but not in general criminal law;

  • the request is made in order to prosecute or punish the fugitive on account of his race, faith, nationality or political opinions, or if he might be denied a fair trial for these reasons;

  • the fugitive has previously been acquitted or convicted of the same crime for which his extradition is sought.

There are further bars to extradition if it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite the wanted person.

The United Kingdom will not extradite for an offence carrying the death penalty in the requesting state: in such cases an undertaking is required that the death sentence would not be carried out.

If the papers are in order, the Secretary of State may decide to issue an ATP. The ATP and the supporting documents are sent to Bow Street Magistrates' Court for the committal hearing.

Committal Hearing

At the hearing, the extradition request is considered, and the identity of the fugitive is verified. The District Judge must be satisfied that the documents have been correctly authenticated and certified, that the ATP/OTP relates to an extradition crime and that none of the prohibitions on return applies. If so, he is required to commit the fugitive to await the Secretary of State's decision as to whether to order the fugitive's return. In both Commonwealth and bilateral treaty cases, evidence of a case to answer (prima facie evidence) is required to be presented at the Committal hearing. The ECE dispenses with this requirement.

The requesting state is generally represented before the courts by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Habeas Corpus

Following committal, the fugitive has 15 days to appeal against the District Judge's decision to commit him by applying to the Divisional Court for a writ of habeas corpus. During this period, if such an application is made and proceedings are still pending, he cannot be returned to the requesting State.

House of Lords

If the fugitive's application for habeas corpus is dismissed, he may appeal to the House of Lords. It is also open to the requesting state to appeal a decision to the House of Lords.

Once all the stages before the courts have been completed, the case returns to the Secretary of State to make a decision on whether to order surrender.


In Part III cases involving foreign states and the Hong Kong and Special Administrative Region, and by analogy in Commonwealth and bilateral treaty cases, the Secretary of State must give notice to the fugitive that he is contemplating making an order for his return and give him the opportunity to make representations against it. The case, including any representations, is then considered by the Secretary of State to decide whether to sign an order for the fugitive's return.

Order for Return

After all the judicial decisions have been completed, the Secretary of State has two months to decide whether or not to surrender the fugitive.

If the Secretary of State is satisfied that there are no statutory bars to the fugitive's extradition, and there appears to be no other reason why extradition would be wrong, unjust or oppressive, he may sign an order for the fugitive's return. The fugitive may apply for permission to seek judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision. If an application is made, the fugitive cannot be surrendered while the judicial review proceedings are pending.

Upon return the rule of specialty provides that the fugitive cannot be charged with any conduct committed before surrender for which he was not extradited. This is designed to prevent a requesting state trying someone, on return, for offences completely different from those for which extradition has been granted and thereby evading, for example, other barriers to extradition, such as bar on military offences.

The overall time taken to complete a case can vary considerably depending, for instance, on its complexity and whether the fugitive contests extradition. Independence of the judiciary means that the Secretary of State has no influence over the time a case takes to clear the judicial stages.

Backing of Warrants

The Backing of Warrants scheme between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland allows for direct police-to-police co-operation in the return of wanted fugitives. The warrant must be "backed" by a court in the requested state, but the scheme dispenses with the discretionary functions performed by ministers. Full provision for habeas corpus and appeals is retained, however. A similar arrangement provides for delivery of fugitives to the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

Home Office

24 September 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 5 December 2002