Judges in Holland have refused to send a suspected drugs smuggler back to Britain because they believe the conditions at a British jail are so bad it would be ‘inhumane’.
The UK authorities have applied for the fugitive to be extradited following his capture after nearly two years on the run.
But because of his links to Merseyside, Dutch judges fear he could end up being held in Liverpool prison, where they say ‘there is a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment’.
Because of his links to Merseyside, Dutch judges fear he could end up being held in Liverpool prison, where they say ‘there is a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment’
Concerns over the state of the jail were raised during a hearing at the Court of Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Referring to a UK prison inspectors’ report last year, the court heard how inspectors had found ‘some of the most disturbing prison conditions we have ever seen’.
Among the worst was HMP Liverpool, which was plagued with rats, flooded with drugs and where inmates were living in ‘squalid’ conditions.
A surprise inspection at the jail in September 2017 also found rising violence was leaving prisoners in fear of attack.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: ‘The inspection team was highly experienced and could not recall having seen worse living conditions than those at HMP Liverpool.’
Images taken on an inspection of HMP Liverpool show graffiti and damp-hit walls, smashed windows, a cockroach, litter-strewn walkways and filthy toilets
The court session in Amsterdam was the latest focusing on the case of an unnamed man made the subject of a European Arrest Warrant at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court in July 2017.
The man, suspected of trafficking heroin and cocaine in Merseyside, had been on the run in Spain. An application has been made to have him brought back to the UK for questioning.
His lawyer called on the extradition to be refused based on the prison inspectors’ reports, saying there is no guarantee the fugitive would not be held in Liverpool jail if he surrendered.
The judges appeared to agree, ruling there was a ‘real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment’ should the suspect end up at the jail – contrary to Article Three of the European Court of Human Rights.
But the Dutch ruling that Liverpool – and two other prisons inspectors raised concerns about, Birmingham and Bedford – are no-go zones for extradited prisoners has been strongly denied by the UK Government.
The Dutch ruling that Liverpool – and two other prisons inspectors raised concerns about, Birmingham and Bedford – are no-go zones for extradited prisoners has been strongly denied by the UK Government. Pictured: Images taken on an inspection of HMP Liverpool
A letter written by the Director General of Prisons to the judges overseeing Wednesday’s case argued: ‘We do not accept those conditions anywhere in our prisons amount to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article Three.’
It added that steps are being taken to reduce overcrowding, and new governors have been appointed at the three jails.
However, the Dutch judges argued: ‘What has been put forward by the UK judicial authorities is too general and insufficient to assume that the detention conditions in the aforementioned prison institutions have significantly improved.
‘In these circumstances, the expectation that the situation will improve rapidly is not sufficient to assume that the real risk of inhumane treatment has actually disappeared.’
The court delayed its decision on the extradition ‘until it obtains additional information on the basis of which it can rule out the existence of such a hazard’.