Sunday, May 24, 2009

Law & Order : Scots couple await ruling on extradition to US

Scots couple Brian and Kerry-Ann Howes will hear on Tuesday the result of their appeal against extradition to the USA on charges of supplying two chemicals used in the production of crystal meth, Scots Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has already signed their extradition warrant.

The Sunday Herald reports :

Judgement day for couple who face US jail for selling chemicals online

By Sarah Swain

ON SATURDAY they were set to enjoy a trip to Edinburgh Zoo before gathering today for a traditional Sunday lunch - a normal weekend, but the Howes family knows it could be the last one they ever have together.

Brian and Kerry-Ann Howes are facing extradition to America and the possibility of a long jail sentence on charges of supplying two chemicals used in the production of crystal meth.

It is alleged they used their internet-based company to supply chemicals to illegal drugs labs in the US.

They were arrested by Central Scotland Police on behalf of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in January 2007 after their home and business, Lab Chemicals International in Grangemouth, were raided.

The Howes say they sold chemicals - used for making fireworks, medicines and sheep dip - which were perfectly legal in Britain and deny they knew they were being used to make drugs.

At Brian's final appeal hearing at Edinburgh High Court on Tuesday he will discover if he will be remanded to be sent to the US for a trial that could mean he never sees his five children - including Cassidy, just three weeks old - again. His wife could follow - despite the fact that the couple have not broken any UK laws.

Brian, 45, said he was feeling "very stressed, disappointed and worried about my children and my wife".

He added: "I have been told it is the final hearing. My QC has told me not to drive my car there. I believe they will make sure I am remanded.'' If Brian loses his appeal, his wife would also be sent to the US after her hearing and their children - Leela, three, Ellie, six, Bethaney, 10, Denny, 11, and Cassidy - could be taken into care before their parents even face a trial.

If the couple, from Bo'ness, West Lothian, are found guilty, they would be sent to the Maricopa County Jail, housed in tents in the Arizona desert, where inmates are forced to work in chain gangs in 40C heat.

Brian said: "We've been through hell just thinking about it. My wife won't survive the trip. I'm devastated for the children. I can't think of a much bigger travesty of justice."

A psychologist has said Kerry-Ann, 31, is likely to commit suicide if imprisoned again. Her husband, who is under a curfew and must report to his local police station twice a day, also says he will have nothing to live for if he loses his appeal.

Angus Skinner, secretary for the Howard League of Penal Reform in Scotland, said they were concerned about the case, which could leave young children's lives in turmoil.

He added: "The couple's business activity is based in the UK and whatever the global availability of their product is, Scotland is nonetheless the base for their business. We would argue there is still a long way to go in this within the jurisdiction of Scotland."

John Scott, a human rights lawyer and chairman of the Howard League of Penal Reform in Scotland, said: "The foreign extradition arrangements in relation to American are entirely unsatisfactory. The UK effectively lowered the standards of what evidence was required reasonable to extradite people. No evidence is required; it is simply a case of America says they want them and they will be sent over.

"Given what happened with the case of the Enron Three being extradited to the US despite lengthy battles, it is reasonably clear what could happen in this case.

"The UK government needs to properly look at the arrangements for extradition It seems that the courts are powerless to be able to do something to stop this."

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