The case of R (on the application of Ian Griffin) v City Of Westminster Magistrates' Court and Tribunal De Grande Instance France (interested party) concerned Mr G’s extradition, as he was charged with murder in France. A European arrest warrant was executed and Mr G was brought before the magistrates’ court but was found unfit to attend court due to his mental state. He was subsequently transferred to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA 1983) section 48.
He was assessed as being at risk of self harm and suicide but there was no evidence of psychosis. He was transferred to prison where he self-harmed and made several attempts at suicide. Various medical reports were prepared and when Mr G appeared at the extradition hearing he was declared fit to plead. After the hearing (but before judgment was given) Mr G took an overdose and was detained under the MHA 1983. He was not well enough to attend court for the judgment and an application was made on his behalf for an adjournment. This application was refused and an order made for his extradition.
Mr G applied for judicial review of the decision of the magistrates' court in refusing to adjourn extradition proceedings. He argued firstly that the district judge had no jurisdiction to proceed in his absence, and secondly that the district judge should have requested further information on his condition having regard to his most recent suicide attempt in order to decide whether extradition would be unjust or oppressive under the Extradition Act 2003.
It was decided that the district judge was right to take the view that she had jurisdiction to proceed to give judgment in Mr G's absence. In extradition cases an inherent power to decide the matter in the absence of a defendant existed. There was nothing in the Extradition Act 2003 which expressly required the defendant to be present.
Under section 122 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 a defendant can be deemed present where he is legally represented, however where a defendant's legal representative did not consent, that power would only rarely be exercised.
On the second point it was decided that a risk of suicide could be capable of amounting to oppression so as to prevent extradition. However, in this case the medical evidence established that the attempts at suicide resulted from stress which was just as likely to exist whether Mr G was in England or in France. It was not a case where it could be said that there was higher risk of suicide succeeding if Mr G was extradited, since the French would implement all proper means of treatment.
The district judge was correct to decide that further delay was unreasonable and that consideration of G's physical and mental condition following his most recent suicide attempt was unnecessary.