The extradition arrangements to the USA enacted today associated with Christopher Tappin raise a whole raft of questions that I guess people will continue to debate for some time. Mr Tappin is accused of making batteries available for export that could then to be utilised by Iran for use by their missiles, an investigation which was carried out by the FBI. Under the Extradition Act 2003 these reciprocal arrangements have been in place with the USA, and others, and have already been the subject of review with no major elements being suggested for alteration. So far so good.
Unfortunately the whole subject appears to be being interwoven with righteous indignation levelled at plea bargaining, orange jump suits, terrorists , the need to fund one's own defence and the type of jail accommodation involved! If there is sufficient justification and reasonable grounds, after examination by the Home Secretary, for an accused to be extradited to a country with whom we have arrangements then the transfer proceeds. Prior to this, as we have seen recently, other decisions, based on Appeals, can affect and delay this process, but once these come to an end the physical transfer of the defendant basically means one is under the jurisdiction of the country concerned. Some of these, America included, take a much "harder" view of matters than do we and jump suits, costs and jail accommodation may be part of this. Strangely, few comments have been made in this latest instance on the details of the case, which the accused refutes and asserts he is the victim of an FBI "sting" operation. Time will tell and I dare say that, if the case is proven, many of the protests will die away until the next time! On the other hand, if Mr Tappin is innocent then the whole of this process needs to be more seriously reviewed by the UK Government to, in particular, avoid the extradition of persons accused of crimes against which questionable evidence is being utilised. Mr Tappin's lawyer maintains no real evidence forms the basis of the case and the whole process appears to be tenuous at best.
Leaving the moral and legal elements aside, I think we need to better appreciate that ,sometimes, other countries take matters of security much more seriously in an overt sense than do we. We largely appear to rely on MOD signs politely suggesting entry is forbidden, ratcheted up to chain link fencing if there is a serious need to prevent access. Extremely sensitive sites are undoubtedly guarded, as they should be. Some years ago when leading a birdwatching tour in Tunisia I had the whole bus load of us arrested, plus the driver and guide, for literally being in close proximity to a radio transfer station that army personnel were "guarding". The whole situation was thankfully resolved on site, but I recollected the case of enthusiasts watching aeroplanes at a Greek airfield who were arrested and then had to fight their case. By contrast, we provide, or certainly don't object to, "viewing points" at various of our military airfields from which hobbyists, armed with binoculars and cameras, can indulge their interests. I've seen such a gathering of observers at Leuchars, but noted an obvious absence of such at Lakenheath where, of course, there is an American interest. So even here, we have differing standards operating. I realise such is a far cry from the provision of items on a commercial basis which can then be used by other regimes for their own military purposes, but such serves to highlight the differences in attitudes and culture which exist and subjects over which, sometimes, serious incidents can occur.