Belfast Telegraph

Fugitive Polish death driver can stay in Northern Ireland, say senior judges

By Alan Erwin

A man wanted in his native Poland to serve a jail sentence for a motoring offence which resulted in two people being killed has won a legal battle to remain in Northern Ireland.

Senior judges in Belfast today upheld a verdict that extradition would disproportionately interfere with his vulnerable son's right to family life.

The man, who cannot be named, was granted bail while the Polish authorities consider whether to mount a further challenge to the verdict.

He was sentenced to five years in prison for failing to act with due caution while performing an overtaking manoeuvre and colliding with an oncoming car.

Two passengers were killed and another four seriously injured in the August 2001 incident.

Following a failed appeal against conviction he left Poland and moved to Northern Ireland where he has lived since July 2005.

He was arrested in December 2011 and remanded in custody as an extradition process was launched.

During an initial hearing it was set out that his son, now aged 10, suffered from speech and language delay and attended special schooling. 

With the boy said to have developed behavioural problems as a result of his father's imprisonment, two child psychiatrists gave evidence that removal to Poland would have significant consequences for the child's social, emotional and academic function.

It was also noted that the wanted man had served around half of the five year sentence in custody.

In March this year Her Honour Judge Smyth ruled against the extradition request based on the Article 8 rights to privacy and family life.

The fact that the requested person is now eligible for release having served 50% of his prison term also featured in her decision.

Appealing the verdict, lawyers for the Polish authorities claimed she was wrong and said it was for the Polish court alone to determine whether and on what conditions he should be released.

Delivering judgment on their challenge in the High Court today, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan identified the central issue as the striking of a balance between the public interest in honouring extradition arrangements and the proportionality of the consequent interference with the private and family life of the child. 

Sir Declan, who heard the appeal with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, pointed out that the relationship between the boy and his father had been maintained through prison visits and telephone calls to the child's benefit. 

"That was an indication of the significant contribution by the respondent to this vulnerable child's welfare and reinforced concerns about the impact of the child should he be extradited," he said.

Despite acknowledging it was a difficult case involving serious offences, the deaths of two people and serious injuries to four others, the Lord Chief Justice noted a doctor's conclusion that extradition would have significant consequences for the boy's social, emotional and academic functioning.

"In those circumstances we are not persuaded that the overall conclusion reached by the learned trial judge that extradition would be disproportionate was wrong."

Granting bail to the wanted man, Sir Declan ordered him to surrender any passport and prohibited him from leaving Northern Ireland.

The Polish authorities now have 14 days to confirm whether they will mount a further appeal.

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