Ben Keith, comments in the Times following the recent developments in the Jack Shepherd case.
Jack Shepherd, the British man dubbed the speedboat killer, has ditched his fight against extradition from Georgia and will return to the UK to appeal against his conviction.
He was convicted of manslaughter in his absence by a UK court last July for the death of Charlotte Brown, 24, who was thrown from his boat on the Thames during a first date.
Shepherd, 31, appeared in a Tbilisi court where a hearing learnt that the Briton had informed the Georgian authorities that he wished to return to the UK to appeal against the conviction.
After the hearing, Shepherd’s lawyer, Tariel Kakabadze, told reporters that:
“He is not fighting extradition”.
Shepherd’s legal team in London confirmed that he has been granted permission to appeal against the manslaughter conviction.
The turn of events comes after a Georgian judge ruled in January that the court would block an application for a fast-track extradition of Shepherd back to the UK.
At the time, the court in the Georgian capital ruled that Shepherd should be held in prison for at least three months while Britain’s extradition request was processed. His lawyers then forecast that the process could take up to nine months.
Addressing the court at that hearing, Shepherd said that he did not want to be sent back to the UK. He alleged that Ms Brown’s father, a civil servant, had threatened that he would face violence in a British prison over his daughter’s death.
Mr Brown has strongly denied those accusations.
Ms Brown died after being thrown from Shepherd’s speedboat when it flipped on the Thames in 2015. Shepherd fled to Georgia in March 2018 and spent ten months on the run before handing himself in at the beginning of this year.
At the hearing, the court was told that there were two limbs to the extradition application: the manslaughter conviction and an allegation of causing grievous bodily harm with intent that relates to an incident in Devon before Shepherd fled to Georgia.
Local prosecutors told the Tbilisi court that both charges fall under the Georgian criminal code and therefore there was no reason to object to an application for Shepherd’s extradition.
UK extradition law experts predicted that if the process continued unhindered, Shepherd could be extradited within a fortnight, and no longer than 30 days from now under a treaty with Georgia.
However, Ben Keith, a specialist barrister, said that there could be local procedural issues that could still delay Shepherd’s return to the UK. Nonetheless, Mr Keith said:
“I expect him to return as soon as the arrangement can be made.”
After Shepherd was imprisoned in Georgia in January it emerged that his English lawyer had been sent death threats.
Richard Egan, a solicitor at the London law firm Tuckers, received a letter saying: “You have 48 hours to state that you are no longer supporting or providing legal aid to that w***er Jack Shepherd. Remember Jo Cox? You have been followed — nice house!”
Police launched an investigation and David Gauke, the justice secretary, wrote on Twitter:
“I am deeply concerned to hear of the threats made against the lawyers representing Jack Shepherd. Criminal defence advocates play a vital role in . . . ensuring everyone has the opportunity to defend their rights.
“Whatever your views about this particular case, such intimidating and threatening behaviour is completely unacceptable in a civilised society.”
The article was published in the Times on 26 March 2019 and can be viewed here via the Times subscription service.
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.