The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a further appeal over the extradition of a Polish man accused of drug trafficking.
Artur Daniel Celmer's extradition case was at the centre of controversy when High Court judge Aileen Donnelly referred it to the Court of Justice of the EU(CJEU).
She had found “generalised and systemic” violations to the independence of the Polish judiciary which “gave rise to a real risk” that fair trial rights would be breached.
It arose after Mr Celmer's lawyers argued that he faced a risk of an unfair trial because of "radical changes" to the Polish justice system, which has put the country at odds with the European Union in recent years.
Ms Justice Donnelly postponed her decision on the extradition request pending a decision from the CJEU.
Last June, advocate general to the CJEU, Evgeni Tanchev, said while it cannot be ruled out that lack of independence of the courts of member states issuing a European arrest warrant may, in principle, amount to a flagrant denial of justice, it must be "so serious that it destroys the fairness of the trial."
It was for the Irish court to determine whether this was so on the basis of information that is objective, reliable, specific and properly updated and demonstrates that the deficiencies affecting the Polish system of justice exist, Mr Tanchev said.
When the case returned to Ms Justice Donnelly in November, she ordered Mr Celmer's surrender to the Polish authorities after saying she was only concerned with determining whether the issues in Poland specifically related to him, in accordance with the CJEU's ruling.
She concluded that, of themselves, the systemic and generalised deficiencies in the independence of the Polish judiciary did not reach the threshold of amounting to a real risk that there would be a flagrant denial of a fair trial.
Mr Celmer’s lawyers sought leave from the Supreme Court to bring a further appeal on grounds that the case involved a matter of general public importance.
Among their grounds were that judges at all levels are subject to a significant pressure from the (Polish) minister for justice, who has disciplinary powers over them, and who influences how they are appointed and replaced. This is particularly pernicious in the context of criminal trials because the minister for justice is also the public prosecutor, it was claimed.
In a written determination published recently, the Supreme Court said the Irish Minister for Justice, who sought the extradition, had disputed the claims raised by Mr Celmer’s lawyers but had not opposed the application for leave to bring a further appeal.
The question for determination, the Supreme Court said, is whether the application meets the constitutional criteria of being a matter of general public importance. “It clearly comes within that category”, it said.
The court also noted the Minister for Justice also said the grounds of the further appeal significantly expanded the grounds raised in the High Court.