Bell Yard advised three former NatWest executives who faced extradition to the US, in both their Judicial Review of the decision of the Director of the SFO not to investigate the three for alleged fraud, and in their extradition appeal.
At the outset of Bell Yard’s involvement in August 2004, the media perception was one of three alleged fraudsters trying to escape justice. As a result of repeated and detailed media briefings and political lobbying, together with tactical third party endorsement, the perception evolved to one of three former bankers pleading guilty to one count of conflict of interest in the face of prolonged and disproportionate disruption to their family lives as a result of an unfair and non-reciprocal extradition treaty, poorly negotiated by the then UK government.
As a direct result of this case, the business community has now woken up to the dangers of the 2003 Extradition Act. As we predicted at the time, a raft of cases followed in the footsteps of the ‘NatWest 3’, after their unsuccessful hearings in the Magistrates Court, Court of Appeal, Judicial Review and the refusal of the House of Lords to hear matters which opponents of the Extradition Act considered to be of genuine public interest.
Bell Yard was responsible for ensuring the media were fully briefed on each of the legal rulings and their implications. We remain active, on a pro-bono basis, until such time as we and others are successful in ensuring that a fairer extradition regime is brought into play.
Bell Yard was also responsible for working with prominent entrepreneur Karl Watkin MBE to arrange a protest march to the Home Office by business people concerned by the current US/UK extradition arrangements, which attracted around 200 attendees and secured over 400 signatories to the petition to the Home Office, and secured prime time television, national and international coverage.
We also sought to change the Extradition Act to include a forum provision – which eventually was enacted by Home Secretary Theresa May, albeit the version of the forum bar to extradition she chose to introduce was weighted significantly in favour of the prosecutors and against the interests of defendants. As a result, Bell Yard continues to see unfair and disproportionate efforts by the US government to extradite British citizens and sees first hand the terror this causes innocent victims and their families. We pledge to continue to highlight these injustices until the law is more finely balanced between protecting victims of criminality and protecting defendants from disproportionate abuses of freedom and rights by the state.