The chair of the influential House of Commons home affairs committee,Keith Vaz, has said the extradition of Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer is the most apparent example of the “one-sided” UK/US extradition agreement which “did not protect the rights of British citizens”.
O’Dwyer faces up to 10 years in a high-security US prison for alleged copyright violations after setting up tvshack.net in 2007, a search engine linking to sites where users could watch and occasionally download TV shows online.
The Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, has called on the home secretary to revoke her permission for his extradition, as the Guardian reported yesterday, calling the bid ludicrous.
Vaz, whose committee recently reviewed the US/UK extradition arrangements, plans to meet with O’Dwyer and his mother Julia next week.
“The home affairs committee’s report into extradition arrangements with the US concluded that they were one-sided and that they did not protect the rights of British citizens in the same way as American citizens,” he said.
“This is most apparent in the case of Richard O’Dwyer, who allegedly committed crimes while living in the UK.
“British citizens must be given the opportunity to face trial in the United Kingdom. I have today asked him and his mother to discuss this report with me next week.”
The home affairs committee report, which was published on 27 March, recommended re-negotiation of the US/UK extradition treaty to increase the evidence requirement on US authorities, require more information from prosecutors, and introduce a hearing to discuss which jurisdiction should hear cases.
The O’Dwyer case comes as UK authorities continue to work out how to tackle the thorny issue of regulating the internet. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, cautioned that internet businesses such as Google and Facebook could not be expected to “act like a policeman” monitoring the contents of their sites.
“If a breach [of a court order] is brought to their attention then they will take action. But they can’t act as a policeman on their network; I don’t think that’s necessarily helpful. They do need to act responsibly and clearly need to abide by the laws of the land,” he said.
However, Grieve also cautioned users of social networks that they should not expect to be able to break court orders with impunity for an indefinite period, as happened en masse in the cases of previous injunctions – most famously in the case of mass-tweeting about a ‘superinjunction’ obtained by Ryan Giggs.
Grieve said he did not believe that the Giggs injunction was an example of a conspiracy to undermine the courts, but added that he would intervene in civil cases if his action served a wider public interest.
“The blunt reality is that somebody who tweets is likely to find themselves in contempt by the party who obtained the order … It is only a matter of time before that happens if people continue behaving this way.”