Audio: Northampton Couple Speak On Extradition Fight

20 February 2014, 15:20 | Updated: 21 February 2014, 07:09

A Northampton couple have lost their High Court fight against extradition to the US over an alleged work expenses fraud.

Paul and Sandra Dunham launched their action after the US Department of Justice sought their extradition over what the couple claim is an "employment-related dispute".

Mr Dunham, 58, who was chief executive and president of Pace, a US company manufacturing soldering irons for the electronics industry, was indicted on 13 counts of fraud and money laundering by a grand jury in Greenbelt, Maryland, in December 2011, while his 57-year-old wife is accused of aiding and abetting him.

The couple "vehemently reject" allegations relating to expenses claims while working in the US.

Their counsel Ben Watson had asked Lord Justice Beatson and Mr Justice Simon to allow their claim under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which relates to private and family life.

He said the couple's lives had been "shattered" and that extradition would be disproportionate in the circumstances.

The Dunhams were not in court in London to hear the judges dismiss their case.

Mr Watson said the Dunhams were both British citizens with a long-established family life in this country. They had been married 35 years and had one son and five grandchildren aged between one and 15.

"They were in the US for a decade from 1999 to 2009 and their lives have already been shattered by the events underlying these proceedings. They lost their jobs and therefore the stake they had in the company in which they had worked for many years and their assets in the US including their residential home. They were declared bankrupt in this country, they lost their good standing and meaningful employment opportunities and their mental and physical health has suffered severely too.

But what tips the balance, we say, is what awaits them in the US. There isn't a realistic prospect of bail and the facility they are most likely to be remanded to has, on the evidence, wholly inadequate medical facilities to care for Mr Dunham's mental health."

The court heard that Mr Dunham suffered a series of mini-strokes

Couple Not Facing "Trivial Charges"

Mr Justice Simon said the couple were not facing "trivial" charges; to describe them as "only an expenses fraud" did not address the gravity and extent of the alleged criminality over a number of years.

The alleged offences might equally be characterised as "a substantial and protracted fraud carried out in breach of trust".

He added: "In some cases there is compelling evidence of an acute or chronic psychiatric illness which cannot or will not be treated if the requested person is extradited. This is not such a case.''

The evidence was that Mr Dunham was suffering from an adjustment disorder due to a high degree of stress arising out of the prospect of extradition.  "The stated intention to commit suicide is not linked to his mental condition, but appears to be a rational choice that the Dunhams have said they will make if they are ordered to be extradited."

Mr Dunham's mental condition did not approach the threshold test set out in the Extradition Act 2003 which related to mental conditions such that it would be unjust or oppressive to order extradition.

With regard to Mrs Dunham, her mental condition of moderate to severe depression was not as serious as her husband's.

As was said in a previous case, interference with private and family life was a sad, but justified, consequence of many extradition cases.

In the case of the Dunhams, he was not persuaded that the public interest in extradition was outweighed by an ``exceptionally severe'' interference with their Article 8 rights.

Later, Mr Dunham said: "We've been totally let down. Neither our Government nor courts can see the injustice of sending innocent British citizens thousands of miles away to be jailed pre-trial without having examined a shred of evidence in the case. Without the Supreme Court or Europe's intervention, we're yesterday's people. Our lives are shattered. The cruelty of this injustice is too much to bear. Unless someone intervenes at the 11th hour, we've lost our wealth, health, liberty and, likely, our lives."

He added: "It's a monumentally sad day for Sandra and me, and for those who follow us on this conveyor-belt to the US."

Paul Dunham speaks to Heart