Judge Tries to Stem ‘Inundation’ of Polish Extradition Cases

Posted: 3rd August 2012

A senior judge has stepped in to stem the ‘inundation’ of the English courts by appeals against extradition by Polish nationals who say conditions in the country’s prison system are so poor that they amount to a violation of human rights.

Polish FlagDismissing six such cases in one fell swoop, Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen's Bench Division, rejected arguments that inmates of the Polish prison system suffer ‘inhuman or degrading’ treatment in breach of their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

He said that the courts of England and Wales have to assume that Poland, as a member state of the European Union (EU), is ‘able and willing’ to meet its obligations under the ECHR unless there is ‘compelling’ evidence to the contrary.

The courts had been ‘inundated’ by large numbers of appeals by Polish nationals seeking to avoid extradition to their homeland on criminal charges on the basis of complaints about the state of the nation's jails, the judge added.

Sir John, sitting with Mr Justice Globe, took into account evidence from Polish judges that conditions in the country's penal system are ‘good enough’ and that difficulties, particularly chronic over-crowding, are being tackled.

Lawyers for the six men facing extradition had pointed to evidence from Maria Ejchart, who works with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and Dr Piotr Kladoczny, who is head of the Institute of Law at Warsaw University.

They gave evidence that new prisoners are often kept for weeks in temporary cells; that proper medical facilities are often not available; that opportunities for rehabilitation are almost non-existent and that prisoners are guaranteed cell space of only three square metres.

However, Sir John said that that evidence was ‘simply insufficient’ to overcome the presumption that, as an EU member, Poland complies with its obligations under the ECHR.

Sir John warned that any further extradition challenges based on prison conditions in Poland would have to be backed by fresh evidence of the most ‘clear, cogent and compelling’ kind.