Anybody who’s friends with me on facebook will know that on Monday or Tuesday of each week I always post a picture of Richard O’Dwyer; something I’ve vowed to do every week until his ordeal is over. For those unaware of the current situation; a ruling by the Court of Appeal on Richard’s extradition has been deferred until October. Unfortunately I’m left with the worry that this may simply be a stay of execution and a prolonging of the agony for Richard, his family (especially his mother Julia who has sacrificed much already to try and save him) and his friends. I was tempted to include his supporters in this but that would be insulting; there’s nothing in it for us, win or lose.
Here’s a new article from The Guardian last week http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/aug/08/richard-odwyer-leaked-memo-hollywood-lobbying which everybody should see, it’s noticeable because it features an interview with the man himself. This is important – this is the human face of the drama. The thing that strikes me most about Richard is his ordinariness. I meet plenty of people like him every week. If you have a 23 year old boyfriend, son or brother (or just know a lad that age) think how they would deal with the threat of extradition to America hanging over them.
Now, before we go any further I am not, in the main, anti American. The judicial system there may not be perfect (neither is ours) but America is not China or Russia, let alone Zimbabwe or Syria. But we need to look at what will happen to Richard if he is extradited.
1, As a foreign national he is unlikely to be granted bail, at least not initially. The experience of Christopher Tappin, the businessman extradited on arms charges, has been widely reported (lights in the cell kept on constantly, limited access to his legal team, his family not knowing where he had been taken for several days). There is nothing that contradicts this.
2, Unlike in the UK America makes no distinction between remanded and convicted prisoners (although according to recent reports even the UK are getting this wrong). Unless Richard is held in solitary confinement (itself a demeaning experience tantamount to torture) he will be housed with hardened criminals. Violence is rife in US jails. There are no guarantees about his physical safety, none at all.
3, The distance is going to make it impossible for Richard to call defence witnesses, therefore his right to a fair trial is being severely compromised before its even started.
So much for the facts of the case and there’s very little I can do about it except blog and spread the word. However I have exchanged several letters with my MP Andrew Jones (conservative Harrogate & Knaresborough) and also written a letter to the Home Secretary to which one of her underlings has replied. Now Mr Jones can hardly work miracles; all he can do is raise the issue with his Parliamentary colleagues and send a few letters on my behalf. That, in fairness, he has done. However every letter I have sent has drawn attention to the humanitarian issues detailed above; because this IS a humanitarian issue foremost and the legal and political issues are secondary. I have asked Mr Jones to comment on this and also asked him for his own personal views. He has declined to do so. I will say this – he lacks the moral courage to do so.
The following metaphor may seem way over the top but I will justify it shortly. Imagine Richard was facing the death penalty for a crime that hardly merited it but due to a prosecutor pressing for that sentence, seeking justification in a law that is being misused (just as the Extradition Act was designed primarily for their extradition of terrorists) would Mr Jones be telling me that the law was under review and a report would be published in due course (a fat lot of good if the execution happened first)? And is that example really all that different? We don’t know what will happen to Richard in America. Whatever happens he will probably bear the psychological scars for some time to come – and this assumes he comes to no physical harm.
So much for the case of Richard O’Dwyer. I shall of course publish updates. But until there are significant developments I shall cease my correspondance with Mr Jones – his last letter was a terse paragraph telling me there was little more he could say on the matter (while not answering the humanitarian questions I posed). However I am disappointed that Mr Jones’ moral courage was tested and found wanting. Worse – if Richard is extradited I doubt this will bother him.