A recent BBC News investigation has found that looked-after teenagers over the age of 16 are at risk of exploitation and abuse whilst residing in unregulated homes across England and Wales. Such accommodation avoids inspection and regulation due to its provision of ‘support’ opposed to ‘care’, despite the vulnerabilities of these young people. According to figures from the Department for Education, about 5,500 looked after children in England were living in this type of accommodation, up 70% from 10 years ago. This increase is attributable to the rise of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)- these are experiences in which children are exposed to domestic violence, neglect, abuse, drug and alcohol addiction and untreated mental illness. The recent BBC news article highlights cases at Centurion Care. One incident involves a resident who was not provided with sufficient care following incidents of self-harm, and another incident involved resident who absconded for a week despite being seen getting into a car with a large group of males. One of the primary issues that the report highlights is that vulnerable young people were typically placed in towns away from where they were brought up. The Association of Directors of Children's Services said: "There is a national shortage of foster carers and a growing disconnect between the location of residential children's homes and need." The Department for Education in England has described how local authorities have a legal duty to ensure there is suitable accommodation for these children. Local authorities are in breach of duty in allowing the existence of these unregulated care homes that enable young people to be exposed to exploitation. In a welcome move, the government has recently announced a £30 million funding boost that will assist law enforcement with pioneering new technologies to track down paedophiles operating online and help safeguard children who have been abused. [...]
In another recent success for National Legal Service Solicitors, the Administrative Court overturned a decision to extradite a man to Poland for a second time as a disproportionate interference with his human rights.
Our client had been extradited to Poland in 2009 for an assault offence. He had been released from Polish prison for good behaviour and was free to return to the U.K. It took our client many months to recover from the experience and to re-establish himself in this country.
Some nine years later, the same Polish court – indeed, the same judge – who had dealt with him in 2009 sought our client’s (re) extradition in relation to an offence dating back to 2005. No reason was given as to why this had not been dealt with in 2009. Indeed, the Judicial Authority did not disclose the previous extradition, even when specifically asked about it by the CPS here. It was good fortune that our client had retained documents from 2009 confirming that he had already been extradited to Poland.
At the full hearing, we argued that extradition now would be disproportionate, oppressive and amount to an abuse of process given the apparent lack of candour on the part of the judicial authority. The District Judge rejected these arguments, surprisingly finding our client to be a fugitive from Poland, notwithstanding that he had surrendered to Poland and had been dealt with and released.
The Administrative Court found that there was no evidence to suggest that our client was a fugitive and that it was now far too late to seek his extradition for the 2005 matter. We are delighted that our client will now not have his life disrupted again and can continue to blossom in this country with his family.
Noam Almaz successfully opposed an extradition request from Hungary. In a positive application of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights the Court accepted that our client’s extradition would amount to a disproportionate interference with his and his family’s Article 8 rights.
Our client was a young man of only 14 when who was accused of a crime in 2009 in Budapest, Hungary. He subsequently moved with his parents to the UK and lived here since 2011. In 2018, the Judicial Authorities in Hungary issued a warrant which resulted in a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), the purpose of the EAW being to secure the return of our client to Hungary to face prosecution. Our client was arrested on the EAW and taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court. We represented him throughout his case and from the beginning advised that he had grounds to successfully oppose his extradition. He was someone who had lived in the UK since 2014, extradition would result in distress to his both his elderly parents partner and young children and also lead to severe financial difficulties to them. In addition the alleged offending in Hungary took place a long time ago and at a time when he was very young. All these arguments were put forward by Noam in Court and gladly these were accepted.
Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights does not guarantee that a person will not be extradited. It only gives a person the opportunity to impress upon the Court the impact that extradition will have on their and their families’ lives.
This was a particularly compelling case, a young father of two, who if extradited would leave behind elderly parents.
Noam Almaz obtained evidence of the impact of the young man’s absence on his family and successfully showed that it would be disproportionate to extradite a young man who had made England his home, for a crime committed when he was a child. The Court accepted all of the evidence put forward and accordingly discharged the EAW. This demonstrates the importance of the Court hearing the story of all those whom extradition will impact.
It is exceptionally hard to convince the UK Courts to doubt the mutual trust they hold in other European countries. The Court have long held that in the absence of ‘clear and cogent evidence’ of the kind approaching an international consensus, the Court will trust that European countries will adhere to their obligations and treat individuals with dignity and respect.
In spite of this the divisional court paused for thought in July 2018 following the case of Shumba, Bechian and Henta v France  EWHC 1762 (Admin), and found that the Appellants faced a real risk of Article 3 breach if extradited to France.
Harun Matin of National Legal Service acted for the third appellant, Mr Henta and with the expertise of Alison MacDonald QC and Emilie Pottle a vast amount of evidence was served to demonstrate to the divisional court that such a real risk existed.
This is a landmark case, as it is the first time in which the UK has considered the conditions of French prisons, following the criticism of such conditions by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in April 2017 and the release of statistics suggesting that some of the prisons were at 190% capacity.
The Court held at para. 87 that
“In relation to those four prisons, we are satisfied on the evidence that there may be substantial grounds for believing that the Appellants face a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment if they are extradited”.
As a result the Court chose to adjourn to request further information on the specific risk to the three extraditees.
In November 2018, following a flurry of material served on both sides, the Court sat again to determine if such a real risk would still pertain.
Ultimately the Court found that, on the basis of the further information served by the French Judicial Authority, the risk no longer existed in relation to the appellants. The actions of Allison Macdonald QC (representing Mr Bechian, Mr Shumba and Mr Henta) and Emilie Pottle (representing Mr Henta and Mr Bechian) and Saorise Towshend (representing Mr Shumba) as well as National Legal Service solicitor undoubtedly contributed to the French authorities’ specific guarantees of the three appellants rights, as well as to more generally shine a light on the actions of the French authorities.
The scrutiny of extraditing states is another level of international accountability, essential to protecting and advancing the rights of those detained in custody.