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One step closer to justice for PC Yvonne Fletcher? Unlikely.

The memorial at the site where PC Yvonne Fletcher died in 1984


Since the Libya crisis it has been easy to forget other significant incidents between the UK and Libya. The release of the Lockerbie Bomber last year, and the shooting of the British Police Officer Yvonne Fletcher who was policing a protest outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984 being two that spring to mind.

No one has ever been brought to justice over the death of PC Fletcher, and as a police officer myself i have always felt like this was unfinished business...unfinished business that i thought would remain unfinished. However it appears that the Libyan rebels have detained someone in Libya for her murder. This is great news, and brings us one step closer to justice for Yvonne and her family, but this news should be taken with some caution.

There are two ways forward from here. Either, the Met Police could take over the investigation and build a case against this person. Once they have got enough evidence to arrest, they would apply to Libya to have him extradited to the UK. By the time this happens, he would no doubt be long gone. The other way forward is; the rebels present evidence to the Met that is capable of forming reasonable suspicion, and that evidence is reliable. Extradition could then be applied for by the UK. Extradition is the issue in question.

The first issue is that of the status of Libya in the eyes of the UK. The UK have/had an extradition treaty with Libya. This is between the UK and "THE GREAT SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA". So the first hurdle is to decide if the rebels have the legal power to arrest and detain the suspect, and if this extradition treaty is capable of being exercised between the UK and the rebels. Its important to know this, as it is possible a UK judge would dismiss a trial where the offender was extradited to the UK under an extradition treaty that was excersised illegally.

Lets say, for the sake of argument, that the treaty applies, and extradition would be legal. The next hurdle is evidence. The extradition treaty between the UK and Libya (cited above) says; "The evidential requirements set out in the treaty mean that both the United Kingdom and Libya must provide evidence establishing a prima facie case against any person whom they wish to extradite" This is a simple test in theory, it just means that a reasonable suspicion is capable of being reached from the evidence. What evidence do the rebels have? I suspect that atmosphere in which the evidence was gathered is one that would make any evidence unreliable. Libya is in the middle of civil war, and i doubt the rebels have had the time or inclination, to do a proper investigation...but i am prepared to stand corrected.

That leads us nicely onto the next part of the extradition treaty; "Extradition may be refused if (among other things) it would breach a person’s human rights.". If the Libyan rebels have gained a confession under oppression, for example, that would breach the suspects human rights. Presuming the rebels have a system in place to handle an extradition request, they are not likely to refuse extradition on the basis of their own breaches of human rights law. So in the context of any extradition request, this wouldn't practically be a bar. However, in the UK the prosecution hold the burden of proof to prove that any confession was not gained by oppression. Considering the climate under which this guy has been arrested, i should imagine his defense team will raise oppression as a 'defense' to any confession evidence, and the prosecution will surely be incapable of proving otherwise. Therefore any confession made in Libya at this time would almost certainly not stand up in a UK court.

This news of his 'arrest' is fantastic, but i strongly doubt that this guy will never be brought to trial in the UK. The only way this could be achieved is if the suspect surrenders himself voluntarily, and confesses while in UK custody.


Note: I am writing this at 0200 in the morning because i cant sleep, fingers crossed my reasoning is clear! Please leave a comment if not, and i will tidy up once i have had some kip.