A ministry of justice could be “judicial authority” for the purposes of Extradition Act 2003, Pt 1


Re: Bucnys v Ministry of Justice, & other cases [2013] UKSC 71

Three appeals concerning requests for extradition under European Arrest Warrants issued in Lithuania and Estonia. In the Lithuanian appeals the defendants appealed from the dismissal of their appeal by the High Court. In the Estonian case the Ministry of Justice appealed from the decision of the High Court allowing the defendant’s appeal. The Lithuanian appellants and the respondent in the Estonian case submitted, inter alia, that a Ministry of Justice could not be a “judicial authority” within the meaning of the Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA and/or the Extradition Act 2003, Part 1, because they were not part of the courts or judiciary as ordinarily understood.

Held: dismissing the appeal in one of the Lithuanian cases, and allowing the appeal in the other, and allowing the Estonian Ministry of Justice’s appeal, that In the context of the Framework Decision, the most obvious purpose of insisting EAWs being issued by a “judicial authority” was to ensure objectivity (including freedom from political or executive influence) in decision-making and to enhance confidence in a system that was going to lead to a new level of mutual cooperation, including the surrender of member states’ own nationals to other member states. An EAW issued by a ministry could be regarded as issued by a judicial authority if the ministry issued the warrant at the request of and by way of endorsement of a decision made by a court etc responsible for the sentence. On the facts, one of the Lithuanian cases and the Estonian case satisfied this test, whilst the other Lithuanian case did not.

Julian Knowles QC, Mark Summers, Michelle Butler and Aaron Watkins were involved in this case.