The extradition of a terrorist suspect to Italy was barred since his trial amounted to a flagrant breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Represented by Malcolm Hawkes, VS was wanted to serve a 12-year prison sentence for multiple offences of armed robbery, murder and terrorism committed between 1980-1981. He was tried and convicted in his absence in 1989 on the sole basis of evidence from co-accused whose evidence could not be challenged. Under the Italian law in force at the time, the defence could not cross-examine prosecution witnesses, who did not even have to swear that their evidence was true. These witnesses were able to obtain discounted sentences in exchange for their testimony.
Despite a change in the law in Italy in 2005, which enabled those convicted in absentia to obtain re-trials, the court rejected evidence from the Italian Ministry of Justice that VS could also benefit. The court accepted Prof. Andrea Saccucci’s evidence that the Italian Supreme Court expressly prevents those convicted in absence before 2005 from re-opening their trials or appealing.
Consequently, there was no remedy for the flagrantly unfair proceedings which led to VS’ conviction and sentence. Accordingly, the matter was discharged.
These proceedings followed VS’ discharge in 2000 under a near-identical extradition request. On that occasion, the court concluded that his extradition would not be in the interests of justice.
In Italy v VS, Malcolm was instructed by Giovanna Fiorentino of Lansbury Worthington Solicitors.