Original article was published on 24 January 2019 in The Times and written by Jonathan Ames.
Jack Shepherd has two options now that he has handed himself into the authorities in Georgia — he can consent to an extradition request from the British government or he can challenge that request in the Georgian courts.
Extradition between the UK and Georgia is governed by the 1957 European Convention on Extradition and the 2003 Extradition Act, and lawyers said that the process in this case would be fairly straightforward because it involves a conviction rather than an accusation.
Britain’s diplomats will lodge the request with the Georgian government and according to Michael Drury, a partner at BCL Solicitors in London who has acted in extradition cases involving Georgia, Shepherd could be returned to the UK in less than a month if he does not challenge the request.
However, there is a chance that he will contest it on the grounds that he did not have a fair trial in England and is not likely to have a fair hearing if he is returned. If so, a decision by the Georgian courts could take up to six months. “The local courts do not move quickly,” Mr Drury said.
For a challenge brought in Georgia, a judge will have to examine the extradition request from the UK and decide if they have an equivalent crime of manslaughter,
said Ben Keith, a barrister at 5 St Andrew’s Hill Chambers in London.
Mr Keith is confident that:
“in this case they will almost certainly decide that there is an equivalent provision”. It is also unlikely that a Georgian court would agree that Shepherd is not likely to receive a fair hearing in England.
There is one potential complication. The UK has refused to extradite people to Georgia in the past few years amid fears that the requests were politically motivated. Local authorities might use that to ask Britain to reconsider its stance.
However, Mr Keith said that it should have no impact on the case because “extradition is examined by judges and politicians have a very limited part in the process”.
In the unlikely event that Shepherd successfully challenges the extradition request, he is likely to have to get used to life in Tbilisi.
Rebecca Niblock, a partner at Kingsley Napley, said it is likely that British authorities will have asked Interpol to issue a “red notice” in his case, making it difficult for him to move across borders.
Ben Keith is a barrister specialising in Extradition, Immigration, Serious Fraud, Human Rights and Public law. He has extensive experience of appellate proceedings before the Administrative and Divisional Courts, as well as applications and appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and United Nations. He is ranked in Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 in the top tiers.