UK fugitive sought over paedophile charges staves off extradition
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A FUGITIVE sought by the UK for retrial, over a raft of paedophilia charges, has received a breather at the Constitutional Court, in his legal battle to stave off extradition.
Lee Nigel Tucker enjoyed victory against the Director of Public Prosecutions, Western Cape (DPP), at the apex court.
The two parties had squared off over whether a magistrate, that presided in his pre-extradition hearing, committed a grave irregularity against Tucker.
This irregularity, Tucker held, was the magistrate’s refusal to hear expert evidence on his claim that he would not get a fair trial in the UK.
The former helicopter pilot and IT consultant alleged that the country’s laws discriminated against gay men.
The ruling by the magistrate resulted in Tucker being detained at the Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, pending a decision by the justice minister on his extradition.
He was arrested in Cape Town, in 2016, 16 years after he fled the UK on the eve of his conviction on charges of sexually assaulting boys, between the ages of 12 and 15.
The UK’s Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in 2002, after he appealed in absentia, but it ordered a retrial.
In 2016, the UK applied for Tucker’s extradition so he could stand trial at the Bristol Crown Court.
He faced 42 counts over sexual offences allegedly committed against eight complainants, between 1983 and 1993.
These included allegations that he prostituted the boys and also used them for pornographic films.
Tucker submitted at the Constitutional Court that the magistrate was legally obligated to admit his evidence relating to trial fairness in the UK.
This evidence would be part of the particulars that the justice minister would consider when deciding whether to extradite him or not.
But the DPP wanted the matter to be transferred straight to Minister Ronald Lamola, instead of being remitted to the magistrate.
The minister would hear all Tucker’s submissions before making a decision, the DPP maintained.
In its majority judgment penned by Justice Leona Theron, the Constitutional Court agreed with Tucker.
Justice Theron ruled that the magistrate was legally bound to admit the evidence Tucker sought to submit.
“In this case, the magistrate breached that duty,” said Justice Theron.
“Allowing a sought person to lead evidence relating to surrender promotes their right to a fair hearing.
“It affords them the liberty to raise pertinent evidence that they feel might be relevant to the minister’s decision, from the start of their extradition proceedings, and have that evidence recorded in open court,” added Justice Theron.
She remitted the matter to the magistrate.