Prendi (aka Aleks Kola) v The Government of the Republic of Albania [2015] EWHC 1809 (Admin)

Flag_of_Albania_svgOn 24 June 2015, the High Court blocked the extradition of Aleks Kola, in relation to a robbery carried out in Albania in 2000. The Court found that the District Judge had erred, in admitting into evidence the content of an INTERPOL Red Notice that had not been authenticated under the Extradition Act 2003 (EA 2003). Accordingly, the appellant was not, on the balance of probabilities, the individual sought by the Albanian authorities. The judgment is here.

Background

On 13 December 2000, an individual named Leke Prendi was convicted in absentia by a District Court in Pukë and sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment for murder, armed robbery and weapons offences, committed in Albania in 2000. On 7 February 2005, an INTERPOL Red Notice was issued for his arrest.

In November 2007, INTERPOL issued an “addendum/corrigendum” to the Red Notice. This contained the same photograph included in the original Red Notice and now included purported copies of the fingerprints of Mr Prendi.

Separately, Mr Kola was arrested in July 2013, on an unrelated allegation of common assault in the UK. His fingerprints matched those contained in the Red Notice issued for Mr Prendi, and he was arrested on a provisional warrant in relation to the offences in Albania.

On 17 October 2014, District Judge Coleman held, on the balance of probabilities, that the defendant before him was Mr Prendi. The case was remitted to the Secretary of State.

Appeal

Mr Prendi appealed, on the basis that he was not the person requested and should be discharged, pursuant to ss. 78(4) and (5) EA 2003. Mr Prendi further contended that he would be entitled to a re-trial under s. 85(5) EA 2003.

Lord Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker held:

  • The District Judge was required to identify whether the person appearing before him was “the person whose extradition is requested” (s. 78(2) EA 2003). The burden of proof is on the requesting state. The standard is the balance of probabilities (ss. 78(4) and (5) EA 2003). The only link between the appellant and Mr Prendi were the facts contained in the Red Notice and the addendum/corrigendum.
  • A threshold question of law applied: in what circumstances may a document be admitted as evidence of the facts stated in it, in extradition proceedings in relation to a category 2 territory on an issue of identity (and ss. 78(3) and (4) EA 2003), when the document concerned has not been authenticated under s. 202(4) EA 2003?
  • The test applied by District Judge Coleman, of whether the Red Notice and the addendum/corrigendum was “a document from a reliable source” was not the correct test under ss. 77 and 202 EA 2003.
  • The test is whether a document, which has not been authenticated under s. 202(3) EA 2003, is admissible as evidence of the facts stated in it, according to the English rules of criminal evidence, applying s. 77(1) EA 2003. R(B) and Friesel applied; ex p Levin and Savvas considered.
  • In limited circumstances, s. 202(5) EA 2003 may be used to admit an unauthenticated statement which does not meet the rules of criminal evidence. The factors set out in ss. 84(3) and 86(3) EA 2003 may be relevant to this assessment.
  • In the present case, even if the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Tirana was a “reliable source”, that does not prove that the sources of information contained in the Red Notice were reliable. District Judge Coleman erred in admitting the Red Notice as evidence at all.
  • If the Red Notice was correctly admitted as evidence of the facts stated in it, District Judge Coleman still had to consider the weight of those facts to the necessary standard. First, the photograph was not official. Secondly, the provenance of the fingerprints was not demonstrated. Thirdly, the appellant does not share the height of Mr Prendi. Fourthly, the birth date of the appellant was not verified.

Accordingly, the Albanian government has not proved, on the balance of probabilities, that the appellant is Mr Prendi. Appeal allowed.

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