22nd April 2014 "IN THE NEWS":

HONEYMOON MURDER - THE EXTRADITION OF SHRIEN DEWANI

In November 2010, a perfect honeymoon turned into a horrific tragedy as newly-wed couple Shrien and Anni Dewani from Bristol were car-jacked by armed robbers on the outskirts of Cape Town just two weeks into their marriage. Shrien was set free whilst Anni was found dead the next day. This would be the start of a long and complex legal battle to bring Anni's murderers to justice, a battle that has continued for over three years to date.

For a timeline of the events in this case click here.

So far three men - Xolile Mngeni, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Zola Tongo - have been convicted of Anni's murder, along with other related offences such as kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Mngeni was jailed for life for shooting Anni, whilst Qwabe was sentenced to 25 years for his part in her murder. It is said that taxi driver Tongo hired the two men to carry out the killing. During his court case, Tongo alleged that Mr Dewani masterminded the plan and offered him £1,400 to kill his wife. Tongo was jailed for 18 years after agreeing a plea bargain with the South African State; he will have to appear as a prosecution witness in the trial of Shrien Dewani.

Last week, Shrien Dewani was extradited to South Africa following a three year legal battle. He faces charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice. But just what is the purpose of extradition and will it be the route to justice in this case?

Leading human rights charity, Liberty, describes extradition as "the transfer of an accused person from one country to another country that seeks to place them on trial." Extradition is a process that is vital to allow the prosecution of cross-border crime. However, many extraditions prove to be anything but straight forward as safeguards put in place mean that a person can only be extradited when it is in the interests of justice.

In this case, Shrien Dewani's extradition to South Africa has been held in abeyance for years over fears about his mental health. Mr Dewani was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression following the murder of his wife. Under section 25 of the Extradition Act 2003, a judge must adjourn the extradition hearing if a person is suffering from a physical or mental condition that would make it oppressive or unjust to extradite him. Mr Dewani's defence team have successfully appealed decisions made by the UK courts to extradite by lodging various appeals, on the grounds that it would cause a setback in his mental state and that he would not be fit to plead at trial.

Despite Mr Dewani's continuing mental health conditions, he was extradited to South Africa on 7th April 2014 and immediately attended a court hearing in Cape Town. Both the prosecution and defence agreed Mr Dewani should be remanded to a local psychiatric hospital. The extradition was based on an assurance provided by the South African authorities that Mr Dewani will continue to receive hospital treatment until he is fit to plead. Further, the authorities in South Africa have provided an undertaking that if Mr Dewani is not fit to plead within eighteen months; he will be allowed to return to the UK.

Extradition is a crucial procedure in the prosecution of world-wide criminals. It allows suspects to be tried in the country in which the crime took place, in the community that has been affected. Most of the time, extradition is a long and arduous process which brings human rights into sharp focus. As a worldwide nation, we must be committed to justice, whilst bearing in mind the fundamental rights of every individual. The safeguards surrounding extradition proceedings should not be seen as "barriers" to extradition, but rather objectives for a safe practice of extradition which upholds and protects the human rights of the individuals involved.

Mr Dewani's case has been adjourned until 12th May 2014 when it will be reviewed further.

AUTHOR PROFILE:

Gemma Stanley, LL.B (Hons)

Paralegal, Industrial Disease Department

Gemma joined Woodward Solicitors in July 2013 and has enjoyed working mainly on holiday illness claims

SOURCES:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-13226067

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-14662727

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20605804

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23432581

http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/justice-and-fair-trials/extradition

Extradition Act 2003

Dewani v South Africa [2014] EWHC 770