Polish woman with ‘serious medical condition’ fails in appeal against extradition order

A Polish woman faced with imprisonment in her homeland who claimed that a “serious medical condition” meant it would be “unjust or oppressive” to extradite her from Scotland has failed in appeal against a sheriff’s extradition order.

The Criminal Appeal Court was “unable to fault the reasoning of the sheriff” and said there was “no evidence” to support the woman’s claim that she would not receive the necessary treatment for her medical condition in Poland.

The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway (pictured), sitting with Lord Menzies and Lady Dorrian, heard that the appellant Agnieszka Jantos was the subject of three European Arrest Warrants dated between 2009 and 2012, relating to her convictions for offences of fraud committed between 1996 and 2001.

In October 2014 a sheriff at Edinburgh Sheriff Court ordered her extradition after ruling that the woman had failed to establish that her physical condition was such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite her to Poland, where she had two-and-a-half years of imprisonment to serve in respect of the sentences passed.

Evidence about the appellant’s medical condition came in the form of letters from Dr Fraser Patrick, a consultant haematologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, who confirmed that the appellant had a “polycythaemic disorder”, which caused an over-production of red cells, platelets and white cells in the bone marrow.

According to Dr Patrick, the condition required intermittent venesection – the removal of a pint of blood – about once a year and the taking of hydroxycarbamide tablets, tablets which were said by Dr Patrick to be “cheap and widely available”.

Dr Patrick told the court he did not believe that the woman’s health would be affected by her extradition to Poland and imprisonment as this would not change the management of her condition, as long as she had access to hydroxycarbamide tablets and venesection and medical review.

Were her treatment to be withdrawn, she would be at increased risk of thrombosis, but Dr Patrick repeated that the tablets were used worldwide and he would have been “very surprised” if they were not available in Poland.

But the sheriff also heard testimony from the woman’s daughter, to the effect that she had gone to various pharmacies in Krakow and obtained information from the pharmacies there that the tablets were not widely available in Poland.

However, the respondent, the Lord Advocate, produced a number of letters from judges in Poland – one of which stated that, having consulted the remand centres in Krakow, a full range of therapies, including venesection and hydroxycarbamid tablets, would be available to the appellant throughout her period of custody and would be paid for by the state.

The sheriff considered that he was entitled to proceed upon the assurances of the judges about the availability of medical care in Polish prisons and therefore ordered extradition after concluding that that her condition was treatable in an uncomplicated and non-expensive manner.

The appellant appealed on the basis that, in terms of section 25(2) of the Extradition Act 2003, arguing that the sheriff had “erred”.

She argued that her condition was far more serious than appeared from Dr Patrick’s letters and that the undertakings given by the Polish judges did not meet the required standard to satisfy the sheriff that continued medical treatment could be guaranteed in Poland.

The sheriff had not done enough to ascertain the true position about the availability of the particular drugs in Poland and on what medical treatment she could receive in prison, it was submitted.

Delivering the opinion of the court, the Lord Justice Clerk said: “A high threshold must be reached in order to satisfy the court that a requested person’s physical condition is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him. The onus is on an appellant to demonstrate such oppression.

“As a generality, it is assumed that the prison system of a Category One requesting state will provide necessary medical treatment for prisoners.

“On the evidence which was led at first instance, the court is unable to fault the reasoning of the sheriff. There is essentially no evidence produced to demonstrate that the medical treatment which the appellant requires would not be available in Polish prisons.

“In that regard, the sheriff was entitled to hold that the testimony of the daughter was not of material relevance to a consideration of that topic.

“The sheriff was entitled to proceed on the basis of the clear assurances from the majority of the judges who responded that suitable medical treatment of the type required would be provided in prison. There was no contradictory evidence.

“In all these circumstances, the court is unable to hold that the sheriff made any error and the appeal must be refused.”

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