The Supreme Court has upheld an order for the surrender to Latvia of a man, living here more than 12 years and married to an Irish citizen, arising over a 2008 offence for theft and misuse of an ex-girlfriend's credit card.
Ivo Smits received a two-year suspended sentence in Latvia in May 2008 after admitting the offence. But the sentence was activated six months later when he did not comply with suspension conditions, including paying compensation to the woman.
He claimed he had become homeless as a result of his conviction and was unaware of the re-entry of the matter. When he learned the sentence was activated, he lodged an appeal but in the interim travelled to Ireland to take up employment and has been here since 2008.
Giving the Supreme Court judgment, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley noted, since coming here in 2008, Mr Smits has resided and, at various times, worked, paid tax, claimed social welfare and studied here. Having becoming unable to do physical work due to long-term issues with his back, he obtained a masters degree in business studies.
He married an Irish citizen in September 2017 and said in court documents they hope to have children. He said he is positively involved in the local community and has not come to any adverse Garda attention.
He is on a waiting list for spinal surgery and expressed fear he would not get adequate treatment if imprisoned in Latvia but had provided no evidence in that regard, the judge said.
He had not attended his appeal in Latvia and the court there ordered he serve the two-year sentence, she said.
After the Latvian authorities learned in 2014 Mr Smits was in Ireland, a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued in June 2015. The warrant was not transmitted to Ireland until 2018 when the High Court here endorsed it.
The core issue in this appeal was whether the potential impact on his rights caused by a lapse of time between the issuing and execution of the warrant is a matter requiring judicial oversight and therefore a judicial process in the issuing State.
The judge said this case had “certain troubling aspects” and the court was concerned about the fact that a request for information about the delay between issuing of the EAW and its transmission to the Irish courts was simply left unaddressed by the issuing judicial authority in Latvia.
Abuse of process
However, the facts of the case would not go so far as to support any finding of an abuse of the process, she held.
Mr Smits had adduced evidence there is no procedure in Latvia for reopening his appeal against sentence for the purpose of reassessing its proportionality given events in his life since, she said.
The absence of such a procedure is “hardly surprising”, no such procedure exists here and it is difficult to see why it should for reasons including finality of appeals, she outlined.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the private and family life rights does not appear to be relevant to the actual sentence imposed in a given case, she added.
The facts did not present “a genuine issue” concerning a potential violation of Mr Smits rights and no question of law arose requiring a reference to the Court of Justice of the EU, she held.
Based on those and other findings, the appeal was dismissed.