Dominic Raab said the current arrangements with the US have been “practically all one way”, with 24 Britons extradited for trial in the States while only one American citizen was forced to stand trial in the UK.
He also hit out at the European arrest warrant which was allowing European Union (EU) member states to extradite British citizens so they could investigate the case rather than charge the suspects and bring them to trial. This led to many languishing in squalid foreign jails for months on end.
Mr Raab told a packed Westminster Hall that in some cases the accused were “plainly and demonstrably innocent”, adding that the courts had lost sight of the basic principle “that you were innocent until proven guilty”.
He said: “In practice, as it affects our British citizens, the arrangements (with the US) have been practically all one way. That said, I have to say that my view … that the main problem has been any discretion that would allow the UK to deprive extradition in cross-border cases having taken into account the interests of justice.”
Mr Raab said discretion by judges was particularly needed in the case of Gary McKinnon, a 45-year-old computer hacker who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome wanted for trial in the US after allegedly hacking into Pentagon and Nasa’s network in his search for aliens.
Instead of being treated with sensitivity, he was equated with “a high-level terror suspect or gangster” by the courts as Home Secretary Theresa May currently decides whether he should be forced to face trial in the US.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old British student Andrew Symeou, who was extradited to Greece on a European arrest warrant in 2009 after he was falsely accused of killing a teenager on the island of Zante, showed that often the evidence of prosecutors in the EU was flimsy, MPs heard.
He was forced to endure a cockroach-infested prison cell next to a sewer for two years before he was finally cleared despite eyewitness accounts at the time proving he was not in the nightclub when the teenager died.
Mr Raab said a review by Sir Scott Baker, commissioned by the coalition to look into the UK’s arrangements, had failed to interview the victims of those extradited and take into account the impact on thier lives.