Letter: Incompetent Crown lawyers and Westminster politicians ignorant of Irish law caused many extradition refusals

Letters to editor (Photo: JP)
Letters to editor (Photo: JP)

In your editorial (Irish legacy case should cause UK patience to snap, August 29), you refer to Ireland’s “three-decade extradition refusals”. But whose fault was this?

In many cases, the fault lay with totally incompetent Crown lawyers and Westminster politicians – both alike seem to have been almost completely ignorant of Irish law and Irish legal practices and, as a result, could not present their case effectively in an Irish court.


The fact is that, while Irish law and British law were the same on many points until about 1960, much legislation since then has often drastically changed the picture.

In addition, even under British rule before 1922, there were probably already a number of differences between legal practices between the Irish courts and those in Great Britain.

One important difference is the custom of lawyers for opposing sides in Great Britain of “agreeing the evidence” – meaning that, in order to shorten and simplify a trial, it will often be agreed in advance that certain points will not be contested.

In Irish courts, however, each side has to be ready for the other side to contest every single point raised and/or to bring up unexpected questions.

Another difference seems to relate to strict enforcement of the sub judice rule – meaning that the media have to refrain from any comment on a case before the courts that could prejudice the right of an accused person to a fair trial.

This was applied in an extradition case where strong comments by the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in Westminster were reported in the newspapers on both sides of the Irish Sea.

It is probably fair to state that these comments infringed even British legal tradition that an accused person must be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.

I wonder whether British lawyers and politicians would prove equally incompetent in seeking an extradition from any Continental European country where they should be well aware of the differences from British law.

R Seathrún Mac Éin, Dublin