IBB in last ever House of Lords case
8th April 2009
Partner Anil Rajani from IBB Solicitors instructed Edward Fitzgerald QC CBE (leading Counsel in the field of Extradition) and Ben Cooper of Doughty Street to act on behalf of their client Rick Gomes, a Trinidad and Tobago national.
Mr Gomes was charged with possession of a large quantity of narcotics in 1998. He was remanded in custody in the notorious Frederick Street Prison and Golden Grove Prison in the old quarter of Port of Spain in deplorable conditions.
Following a trial, he was acquitted of all charges and the judge was highly critical of the police in their conduct of this matter, finding their evidence to be dishonest. Mr Gomes was advised by his lawyers to leave the country as they feared a police reaction against him and his family. In his absence, the Court of Appeal set aside the decision of the High Court and in July 2000 ordered a re-trial. A warrant for his arrest and extradition was issued.
Mr Gomes was finally arrested at Heathrow airport in May 2006 and held at Wandsworth Prison – up until then he had been travelling freely via the major airports. Acting for IBB Buckinghamshire Solicitors, the defence argued that the return of Mr Gomes to Frederick Street Prison was unfair and oppressive and in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Former chief inspector of prisons and presiding judge, Lord Ramsbottom was instructed as an expert and visited the prison. He agreed with the defence’s argument and suggested that Mr Gomes could be fairly extradited to the newly built Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Arouca.
Irrespective of the outcome, the Trinidad and Tobago government has given a diplomatic assurance that Mr Gomes will not be held in any prison other than the MSP.
During the trial the District Judge pointed out a conflict in the law as it currently stood in relation to the passage of time and Extradition. Accordingly, IBB West London Solicitors applied to the High Court to certify this point of law of general public importance. The High Court certified this point and granted IBB leave to appeal to the House of Lords.
Lead partner, Anil Rajani commented “This case highlights two points. The first is the importance of human rights and the second is how different levels of the law operate and can be in conflict with each other. It is due to the second point that the Supreme Court was introduced and will in future sit above all three of the UK’s judicial systems. Fortunately for our client we defended his wishes not to be returned to such conditions and we were pleased to have Lord Ramsbottom supporting our arguments. To be the last case presented to the House of Lords was an honourable experience and one which I am most proud of.”