UK and US sign ’21st century’ extradition treaty

The UK and US have signed a new bilateral extradition treaty, which will allow the extradition of suspected internet paedophiles among other enhanced measures.

Home office minister Baroness Scotland and the US ambassador Robert Tuttle exchanged the instruments of ratification today as the 2003 bilateral extradition treaty entered into force.

The new treaty extends the 1972 list of extraditable offences to cover “21st century crimes”, such as internet child pornography. An extraditable offence will now be counted as one punishable by a minimum of 12 months in prison in either country.

The government claims the treaty will ensure offenders in either state are brought to justice and Baroness Scotland said the move was part of wider efforts to rebalance the justice system in favour of victims.

“Ratification of this treaty is a key example of how we are working with our international partners to achieve these goals,” she said.

Baroness Scotland continued: “The ratification of this treaty will allow us to ensure that criminals in hiding in the US, who have been wanted by this country for some time, are returned here to face justice.

“At the same time it will provide full and effective safeguards for the rights of requested persons from the UK.”

Mr Tuttle said that the treaty would benefit both countries. The government added it redresses the “unequal terms” of the 1972 treaty, which required more from the US. The UK only had to demonstrate “probable cause” when requesting extradition from the US, but demanded prima facie evidence in return.

Other changes ratified today include new measures to enable defendants to be temporarily surrendered for trial, even when serving a prison sentence in the other state. The move means victims will not have to wait for justice to be served in the US before it can be faced in the UK and vice versa.

The rule of speciality can now be waived in some circumstance, meaning an offender can be extradited for one case and then tried for further offences. Today’s reforms also removed the US statute of limitations, meaning offenders can now be extradited to the UK even if US time restrictions have lapsed.