(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – A U.K. policeman who allegedly raped a university student while vacationing in Antigua three years ago, has been ordered extradited to face the very thing he took an oath to enforce – the law.
The officer, who cannot be named due to restrictions under the Sexual Offences Act in Antigua and Barbuda, learned last week that the British Home Secretary had decided to issue the order for him to be sent to Antigua for criminal proceedings for the offence which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
It’s the first time, according to the Ministry of Legal Affairs here, that officials from the twin island have sought and obtained an extradition order from the English Court. But it was not as easy as it sounds – the first request made by the local authorities was argued in November 2016 and denied in February 2017.
The second application, which was also done through the United Kingdom Crown Prosecutions Service which presented the extradition request in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court before a senior District Judge, was argued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anthony Armstrong, in October last year.
Subsequently, in July this year it was granted after the British Court heard legal arguments for and against the request for the police officer’s extradition to Antigua and Barbuda. And, after the assurances were given regarding where the accused would be held.
Then, the order was sent to the British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, for him to decide whether to issue an order for the return of the fugitive officer.
Although he signed the order, the officer’s return can still be challenged in another court.
Yesterday, the DPP told OBSERVER media, “I am grateful and humbled by the decision. Extradition is a very tedious and technical process which involves several layers and different areas of law; plus the involvement of two branches of government to include the courts and the executive, both acting independently of each other.”
Armstrong thanked Sirah Abrahams of the British High Commissioner’s Office in Bridgetown Barbados; and Antigua and Barbuda’s Superintendent of Her Majesty’s Prison Albert Wade; as well as the Attorney General, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, for their cooperation throughout the process.
He also thanked the lead investigator, Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department, Clayton Davis and Corporal Forbes who consulted with him throughout.
The first request for extradition was denied mainly because the U.K. court was not satisfied with the conditions at the prison in Antigua and Barbuda, having found that both remand and convicted inmates were subjected to “inhumane and degrading” standards.
Back when the court process started, the accused hired an investigator to look into and report to the U.K court, details of the conditions under which he would have to stay if he is not granted bail or cannot afford bail, or if he’s convicted in Antigua.
Issues were raised about the small size of cells which allow inmates only two square metres of personal space; the food which was described as “awful ”; as well as lack of fresh drinking water.
It was argued that cells were built to hold four people, but sometimes have to accommodate up to 12 people, forcing inmates to sleep in shifts.
Two buckets, which do not have covers, are kept in the cells for the inmates to use to urinate or defecate. And, the cells, which are 12 square feet in size, have little to no ventilation.
The accused man’s lawyer contended that those conditions violated Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The court in that instance, had agreed there’s a clear breach, stating that it was a combination of overcrowding and “dreadful sanitary arrangements and also the fact that remand prisoners are in their cells for 19 to 20 hours a day” with not much to do.
The court had said that even though, if convicted, there are laws between the two countries that would allow for the accused to be transferred to a U.K. prison facility to serve his time, there was no definite answer as to when the transfer would take place, which could mean he would have to spend days or months in Antigua’s jail.