Extradition to and from Ireland
Extradition means the transfer of someone from one country to another for the purpose of prosecution or punishment for an offence of which they have been convicted. In general, extradition is only possible if there is an extradition agreement between the two countries in question.
This means that Ireland must have an agreement with the other country before someone can be extradited to or from Ireland. Individual countries also have specific rules about extradition. For example, Ireland does not allow extradition for the purposes of investigation of a criminal offence only.
Since 2004, extradition between EU member states has been governed by the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision. This has been implemented in Ireland by the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003. Extradition to other countries from Ireland is governed by the Extradition Act 1965 as amended.
Extradition from Ireland to non-EU Countries
You may be extradited from Ireland to countries with which Ireland has extradition agreements where certain conditions are met.
The most important conditions are:
- You are charged with an offence: punished by imprisonment in Ireland and in the other country for at least a year. Or, you are convicted of such an offence, and a sentence of at least four months has been imposed. This principle, that the offence must be the same in the two countries is known as the principle of dual criminality. You may not be extradited if you are going to be held in custody for the purpose of investigation.
- The offence is not a political offence: or one connected with a political offence. The definition of political offence was initially quite wide but has now been narrowed considerably. In general, it does not include terrorist type offences.
- The death penalty does not apply to the offence.
The authorities in the other country requesting your extradition from Ireland, apply to the Minister for Justice and Equality for your extradition. All extradition proceedings are then dealt with by the High Court. The usual rules in relation to criminal trials apply to extradition prodeedings.
Extradition between EU member states - European Arrest Warrant
Since 1 January 2004 a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) valid throughout the EU has replaced extradition procedures between EU member states. An European Arrest Warrant may be issued by a national judicial authority if the person whose return is sought is accused of an offence for which the maximum penalty is at least a year in prison or if he or she has been sentenced to a prison term of at least four months.
The European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 implements the procedures in Ireland. It applies to extradition between two EU countries and does not affect extradition to any other country.
The Irish legislation implements the EU framework decision of 13 June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant. At the time that decision was adopted, Ireland made a statement to the effect that it would implement the decision for the purposes of bringing a person to trial or for the purpose of executing a custodial sentence or detention order. The idea is to ensure that a person may not be extradited from Ireland and kept in custody for investigation purposes. As a general rule, it is not legal to arrest a person in Ireland in order to investigate an offence, it is only legal to arrest them in order to charge them with an offence. This is not the case in a number of EU countries. This statement is reflected in the European Arrest Warrants Act 2003.
Requirement for dual criminality
Until January 2004, dual criminality was required in respect of all offences. This meant that you could be extradited to face prosecution or service of a sentence in another state only where the offences concerned were offences under the laws of both states. Dual criminality is no longer a requirement for extradition between EU member states in respect of certain major offences which are listed in the European Arrest Warrants Act 2003.
They include participation in a criminal organisation, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography; trafficking in arms, ammunition and explosives; corruption, fraud, money laundering and counterfeiting of money. European Arrest Warrants issued in respect of crimes or alleged crimes on this list have to be executed by the arresting state irrespective of whether or not the definition of the offence is the same, providing that the offence is serious enough and punishable by at least 3 years' imprisonment in the member state that has issued the warrant. The dual criminality requirement remains for all other offences.
Timeframe for European Arrest Warrants
A decision on whether or not to extradite someone should normally be taken within 60 days of their arrest or, if this is not possible, within 90 days. These are not legally binding limits but are indicative of the time scales involved.
Processing times for warrants
Each member state nominates a central authority for the purposes of the European Arrest Warrant. In Ireland, this authority is the Department of Justice and Equality. The High Court is responsible for the execution of European Arrest Warrants received by Ireland.
The Director of Public Prosecutions may apply Court for the issue of a European Arrest Warrant where a person in another member state is facing charges or is required to serve a sentence in Ireland.
Irish legislation on European Arrest Warrants
Part II of the Extradition Act 1965 provides for extradition between Ireland and countries other than the UK. This legislation is modelled on the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition to which Ireland is a party. Ireland is also a party to a number of international conventions which provide special extradition arrangements in relation to specific offences - for example, in the aviation field. The 1965 Act has been amended on a number of occasions. In fact, Part III of the 1965 Act dealing with extradition between Ireland and the UK was repealed by the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003.
The Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act 1987 is based on the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. This legislation restricts the circumstances in which a person can avoid extradition on the grounds that the offence in question is a political offence or an offence connected with a political offence. The underlying principle of the terrorism convention was that perpetrators of acts of terrorism should not be immune from extradition, by pleading that the act they had committed was a political offence.
The Extradition (Amendment) Act 1994 extended the range of offences that could not be regarded as political for extradition purposes.
The Extradition (European Union Conventions) Act 2001 provided for the implementation of the 1995 and 1996 Conventions on Simplified Extradition Procedure between the member states of the European Union. The Act also provides that all extradition proceedings are to be heard in the High Court.
Information on the European Arrest Warrant is available on the Europa.eu website.