Legal misinterpretation leads to release of sex offender

Former criminal law lecturer Julian Myerscough set free and may leave country

Image issued by Suffolk Police of Julian Myerscough, who  absconding from a British court shortly before being convicted of downloading indecent images of children. File photograph: Suffolk Police/PA Wire

Image issued by Suffolk Police of Julian Myerscough, who absconding from a British court shortly before being convicted of downloading indecent images of children. File photograph: Suffolk Police/PA Wire

 

A misinterpretation of the law by the State was responsible for the release of a convicted sex offender on Thursday.

The High Court has directed that Julian Myerscough (57) be immediately released from custody after ruling there was a fundamental flaw in the legality of his detention.

Myerscough is now free to leave the country. A fresh warrant is expected to be issued but this may take up to a week.

In September 2015, Myerscough stood trial in the UK for possession of child pornography, having been previously convicted of the same offence five years earlier.

The former University of East Anglia criminal law lecturer had denied responsibility for the images found on his computer said the courts couldn’t tell him what to do. Myerscough fled while on bail shortly before the jury found him guilty.

The judge issued an international warrant for his arrest. Myerscough had taken a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin where he was arrested by gardaí in a hotel two days later. He was found with a plane ticket for a flight to Budapest, Hungary, scheduled to leave that day.

Myerscough was held in Arbour Hill Prison pending his surrender to the UK authorities. He fought the extradition but on February 29th, 2016, the High Court ordered his surrender.

This order started the clock on a 25-day time limit the State had to hand him over to the UK police.

On March 21st, just before the 25 days elapsed, Myerscough brought the first in a series of challenges to his continued detention. The Minister for Justice then applied for a stay on the 25-day limit so the challenge could be heard.

The final challenge was rejected by the Supreme Court on July 26th. Two days later, the State applied for the stay to be lifted so it could hand Myerscough over to the UK.

However there was no effort to extradite him between then and August 11th by which time the time limit had expired.

Lawyers for Myerscough brought an application stating the State was 10 days over the time limit and had not returned to the High Court “within a reasonable period” to explain the delay.

Defence barrister Kieran Kelly told the court that from July 29th, the State had only three days left to extradite the accused as 22 days of the time limit had expired before the stay was issued in March 2016.

Unlawfully in custody

On Thursday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott agreed and ordered the release of Myerscough without conditions on the basis that he was unlawfully in custody.

Sources with knowledge of the case said the State did not extradite Myerscough in time because its lawyers believed they had 15 days from when his final challenge was rejected.

“They misinterpreted the law. I think they took a view of the law which wasn’t correct,” said a legal source.

“They should have done one of two things. They should have surrendered him or they should have gone back to the High Court and asked for more time. Neither was done.”

Irish authorities now expect the UK to issue a new arrest warrant which will allow them to re-arrest Myerscough and restart the extradition process.

There is precedent in Ireland for extradition requests to be made two or even three times.

However in the meantime Myerscough is to free to leave the country. He cannot be detained by gardaí until a new arrest warrant is received.

It is understood Myerscough’s release has taken the UK authorities by surprise and that it could take up to a week for a new warrant to be issued.