Supreme Court to hear convicted fraudster's appeal against extradition

Farah Damji fled to Ireland having absconded during her trial in London

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from a convicted fraudster against her extradition to the United Kingdom, where she is wanted for fleeing her trial.

Farah Damji (55) fled to Ireland having absconded during her trial in London in February 2020. She was convicted in her absence at Southwark Crown Court of twice breaching a restraining order in April and June 2018.

Damji, who was living at an address in Dublin, has a criminal record for fraud and theft reaching back to the 1990s.

She was arrested in Dublin in August 2020. The High Court last month ordered her extradition on foot of a European Arrest Warrant, but she was remanded on continuing bail as the court heard she intended to appeal the decision.

The High Court's Mr Justice Paul Burns rejected her objections to her surrender and later dismissed her application for leave to appeal his decision.

Damji then applied directly to the Supreme Court, which has given her leave to appeal to it after finding her case, premised on a single ground of challenge, raises an issue of general public importance.

In a determination, a three-judge court comprising Mr Justice John MacMenamin, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said it also considers there are "exceptional circumstances" warranting a direct appeal to it from the High Court.

Being someone who has “particular and unusual mental health needs”, said the judges, Damji’s challenge relates to the adequacy of mental health services provided in the UK prison system.

Damji claims there is a general shortage of suitable mental health professionals within the UK prison service, with no effective assurances regarding her treatment further than being seen by a general practitioner. It is further alleged her conditions would likely deteriorate and there would be a real risk a constitutional right would be violated if she is made to serve the remainder of her sentence in the UK, the judges noted

The Minister responded claiming mental illness is not amenable to the list of criteria and standards “which can be objectively verified in a comparable manner to physical prison conditions”. Case law, it was claimed, applies to conditions that would produce a serious, rapid and irreversible decline in a person’s health state to either intense suffering or a significant reduction in life expectancy, said the judges.

The relatively short period of about two months that Damji has left to serve for the stalking-style offences was also highlighted.

The Supreme Court said there is a presumption the issuing State will comply with certain requirements of the Framework Decision of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003. However, it said the case raises important public interest issues relating to the surrender of people presenting with complex mental health needs and their treatment by the prison system of a warrant-issuing State.