International and organised crime

International and organised crime presents a serious threat to our national security as well as the economic well-being of the UK. 

The CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division prosecutes members of the most serious organised crime groups in England and Wales.

We work with the National Crime Agency to tackle cross-border crime including sexual exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery, drug and firearms smuggling and many other serious offences. A team of CPS prosecutors is based in key countries overseas to assist with international cases such as these.

CPS specialist prosecutors can also conduct extradition proceedings on behalf of foreign authorities when requests for a person located in the UK are received from abroad. Prosecutors can also make extradition requests to non-European countries. 

Child sexual exploitation Toggle accordion

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse, which can involve children being groomed, online exploitation of children or the trafficking of children.

Sometimes children being exploited can be given gifts or accommodation, alcohol or drugs as a result of performing sexual activities. They may be led to believe they are in a loving relationship and do not recognise that what is happening to them is exploitation.

Child sexual exploitation can also occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition. They may be persuaded to post sexual images online.

In all cases of child sexual exploitation, those exploiting children have some kind of power over them, whether this is their age, gender, intellect, physical strength, economic or other resources. 

Drug and firearms trafficking Toggle accordion

Trafficking of drugs and firearms can take place in various ways, with criminals also turning to the web to evade law enforcement action.

The CPS is constantly working to meet the challenges brought by new methods of drug importation, supply and production, and firearms importation. 

We work with law enforcement colleagues both in the UK and abroad to prosecute the drug traffickers and suppliers.

Modern slavery Toggle accordion

Modern slavery is an umbrella term covering slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking. Offences of slavery, forced labour and human trafficking are criminalised by the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and may include other serious offences such as conspiracy to traffic, false imprisonment, controlling prostitution for gain and rape.

A person is ‘trafficked’ when they are moved to or around a country by others for the purposes of exploitation, for example low or unpaid labour or illegal sex work. 

Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour is described as: "Holding another person in slavery or servitude or requiring them to perform forced or compulsory labour, construed in accordance with Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention."

The CPS is working across government and with law enforcement agencies in the UK and abroad, to improve the criminal justice response to these offences and build capacity and capability in key source countries, in support of the Prime Minister's task force on modern slavery.

We recognise the need to build investigatory and prosecution capabilities in modern slavery cases.  Prosecutors provide early investigative advice to the police, assist with pre-charge procedures and work with investigators to build strong cases.

CPS criminal justice advisors, based overseas in the ‘Organised Immigration Crime Taskforce’ assist with casework and investigations, effectively disrupting trafficking cases. Prosecutors also work closely with law enforcement and prosecutors overseas in Joint Investigative Teams, leading to prosecutions both in the UK and in the countries where trafficking originates.

Extradition Toggle accordion

Extradition is the formal procedure for requesting the surrender of persons from one territory to another for the following purposes:

  • to be prosecuted
  • to be sentenced for an offence for which the person has already been convicted
  • to carry out a sentence that has already been imposed.

The relevant primary legislation is the Extradition Act 2003. For a full understanding of extradition proceedings with any given state, one must also consult any applicable extradition instrument (treaty, convention or scheme).

What are 'export' and 'import' extradition requests?

An 'export' extradition request is made by another state to the United Kingdom, for the extradition of someone from the UK. It is sometimes known as an 'incoming' request as it is made to the UK.

An 'import' extradition request is made by the United Kingdom to another state, for the extradition of someone to the UK. It is sometimes known as an 'outgoing' request as it is made by the UK. 

What offences can people be extradited for?

Not all offences are "extradition offences". This depends on the definitions in the Extradition Act, and any applicable treaty or convention governing extradition proceedings with the state in question.

Export extradition to category 1 territories

Part 1 of the Extradition Act regulates export extradition from the United Kingdom to category 1 territories. These territories are the other 27 Member States of the European Union, and also Gibraltar. This part of the Act implements the European Union Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States.

The National Crime Agency is the designated authority for the receipt of European arrest warrants (EAWs). It has an administrative function in certifying warrants that satisfy the requirements of the Extradition Act; for example the warrant must contain specified information relating to the alleged offence in accusation cases, or the sentence in conviction cases.

Role of the CPS and process

The CPS acts as the representative of the requesting judicial authority in extradition proceedings. All export extradition cases where the person is arrested in England and Wales are dealt with at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.

After the EAW has been certified the wanted person can be arrested. In certain circumstances a provisional arrest is possible before the EAW has been issued.

At the initial hearing the district judge decides whether the person arrested is the person named on the warrant; fixes a date for the start of the extradition hearing within 21 days of the date of arrest; informs the person about the content of the EAW; explains to the person that he may consent to his surrender; and decides whether to grant bail or remand the person in custody pending the extradition hearing.

At the final extradition hearing the district judge must decide a number of issues including: is the offence an extraditable offence? Are there any bars to the extradition? Is the extradition compatible with the person's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and is extradition proportionate to the seriousness of the conduct and the likely sentence? If there are no statutory grounds to refuse the request, an order is made for the person's surrender.

Where a person is wanted for prosecution or has not yet been sentenced, an extradition offence is one with a maximum prison sentence of 12 months in the requesting state. For certain prescribed offences, there is no requirement that a parallel offence exists in UK law. Otherwise the conduct complained of in the EAW must also be an offence in the United Kingdom.  Where the person is wanted to serve a sentence, an extradition offence is one where a sentence of 4 months is imposed in the requesting state.

The Extradition Act gives either the wanted person or the requesting state a mechanism of appeal against the decision.

If, during the extradition proceedings, the requested person is charged with an offence in England and Wales, the extradition proceedings will await the outcome of the domestic matters. If the requested person is already serving his sentence, the judge can be asked to adjourn the extradition proceedings.  Often this will depend on the length of sentence remaining, or whether the requested person can temporarily surrendered for the foreign trial and then returned to complete his UK sentence.

Export extradition to category 2 territories 

Part 2 of the Extradition Act, in conjunction with any applicable extradition instrument, regulates export extradition from the United Kingdom to category 2 territories. These are states outside the European Union. At present there are almost 100 states designated as category 2 territories.

Upon receipt of a an extradition request from a category 2 territory the Secretary of State for the Home Department, acting on the advice of the Home Office's International Criminality Unit, must decide whether or not to certify the extradition request. 

Having certified the request, documents are sent from the Home Office to Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Role of the CPS and process

The CPS has conduct of proceedings on behalf of the requesting state in category 2 cases (as for category 1 territories), and all proceedings are heard at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

On receipt of papers a district judge at this court decides whether or not to issue an arrest warrant for the wanted person. The judge must have reasonable grounds to believe that the offence is an extraditable offence, which is defined in sections 137 and 138 of the Act and is similar to the provisions for category 1 territories, although the rules on dual criminality are different. A second requirement in accordance with section 71 of the Act is, in simple terms, that depending on the state concerned, the judge must also have reasonable grounds for believing that evidence or information contained in the request would in an analogous domestic case justify the issue of a warrant for the persons arrest.  If the judge issues a warrant, the person may be arrested.

At the first court hearing the district judge informs the person about the content of the extradition request; explains to the person that he may consent to his extradition; fixes a date for the start of the extradition hearing, within 2 months from the date of the first appearance; and decides whether to bail the person or remand him in custody till the extradition hearing.

As with category 1 territories, provisional arrest is also possible with requests from category 2 territories, in accordance with sections 73 and 74 of the Act.

At the extradition hearing the judge must decide a number of issues: whether the documentation sent to the court by the Secretary of State complies with the Act; whether the individual arrested is the person named on the warrant; whether the offence detailed in the request is an extradition offence; be satisfied that the person has been given the necessary documentation including copies of the request and the Secretary of States certificate; whether any of the bars to extradition apply, whether the extradition would be compatible with the person's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and, for certain states, whether the request contains sufficient evidence.

If the district judge is satisfied on all the above issues at the extradition hearing, the judge must send the case to the Secretary of State.  It is the Secretary of State’s decision as to whether the requested person should be extradited.

The Secretary of State must then consider a number of issues including the following: the possible imposition of the death penalty, in which case extradition cannot be ordered; the rule of specialty, which prohibits a person being dealt with in the requesting state for matters other than those referenced in the extradition request; and whether or not the person was in the UK following extradition from another state, in which case that states permission must be obtained before extraditing to a third state.

If these factors do not prevent extradition, the Secretary of State must order extradition within 2 months of the appropriate day, defined in section 102 and in most cases the day on which the district judge referred his decision to the Secretary of State.
The Extradition Act gives both the requested person and the requesting state a right of appeal against the decision of the district judge, or the Secretary of State. Appeals are to the High Court with timeframes set out in the Act. It is also possible to appeal to the Supreme Court but as with category 1 territories this is only possible if the High Court certifies that the appeal involves a point of law of general public importance, and either the High Court or the Supreme Court gives leave for the appeal to be made.

Similar provisions apply as for category 1 territories if the wanted person is either charged with, or serving a sentence in respect of, a domestic offence.

Export extradition to non-category 1 or 2 territories 

Many states are not designated as either category 1 or 2 territories. For these states export extradition from the United Kingdom may still be possible, although rare.

Reasons for refusing an extradition request

Reasons for refusing an extradition request include the following:

  • 'Double jeopardy'; a person must not be prosecuted or sentenced in respect of an offence that he has already been convicted or acquitted of.
  • Extraneous considerations; the request will be refused if the purpose of the request is deemed to be to prosecute or punish the person on account of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions, or if extradited the person might be prejudiced at his trial or punished unfairly for any of these reasons.
  • Passage of time; the request will be refused if it would be oppressive to prosecute or punish the person for the extradition offence due to the age of the alleged offence.
  • Age of wanted person; extradition is not possible if due to his age the person could not be convicted of the offence in the United Kingdom.
  • Absence of speciality provisions; specialty is the principle that a person may only be dealt with in the requesting state for the conduct in respect of which extradition was ordered. Extradition instruments invariably include specialty provisions.
  • Earlier extradition of the wanted person to the United Kingdom; in order to permit extradition to the requesting state in this situation the United Kingdom must first obtain permission from the state that extradited the person to the UK.
  • Human rights; extradition will be refused if it would not be compatible with the person's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act.
  • Death penalty; a person must not be extradited if there is a possibility that the person will be sentenced to death. Extradition may be possible if the requesting state gives an undertaking that the death penalty will not be imposed.
  • Physical or mental condition; if it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite the wanted person on these grounds the extradition request will either be refused or adjourned until the condition improves.
  • Forum; a person must not be extradited if the judge decides that a substantial measure of the activity in question was performed in the United Kingdom. and that, having regard to a range of matters specified in the Act relating to the interests of justice (and only those matters), the extradition should not take place.
  • Proportionality; in relation to EAW cases where the requested person is wanted for prosecution, extradition must not take place if  the judge decides that extradition would be disproportionate. taking into account the seriousness of  the conduct alleged  to  constitute the extradition offence, the likely penalty and the  possibility of  the foreign authorities taking less coercive measures than extradition.
  • Absence of a decision to charge and try; in EAW cases involving accusation warrants, extradition is not possible where it appears to the judge that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the requesting authority has not yet taken a decision to charge and try the requested person unless the sole reason for that situation is the absence of the requested person.

Import extradition 

Import extradition essentially falls into two broad categories; extradition from category 1 or category 2 territories.

Category 1 territories are the other Member States of the European Union, and also Gibraltar. For these territories the EAW is the mechanism used to request surrender. Part 3 of the Extradition Act regulates the EAW scheme with regard to import extradition. Crown Prosecutors throughout England and Wales are responsible both for drafting EAWs in their own cases and for applying to the court for their issue. EAWs are issued and processed by judicial authorities without state involvement. In England and Wales, an EAW may be issued by a district judge (Magistrates' Courts), a justice of the peace, or a judge entitled to exercise the jurisdiction of the Crown Court.

Once issued, the prosecutor sends the EAW to the National Crime Agency which acts as the Central Authority for both incoming and outgoing EAWs.

The second category of import extradition cases concerns requests to category 2 territories which are designated states outside the European Union. . The CPS drafts the extradition request which is sent to the Home Office which is responsible for transmission.

For requests to both category 1 and 2 territories CPS lawyers only prepare an extradition request after considering the Code for Crown Prosecutors. A request can be made: to prosecute the wanted person for offences stated in the request; to sentence the person for offences noted in the request that the person has already been convicted of; and, to carry out a sentence on the person that has already been imposed in respect of offences noted in the request.

Upon arrest in the requested state, the foreign court will conduct the extradition hearing in accordance with their legislation.  If extradition is ordered United Kingdom police officers travel to the requested state to collect the person and return them to the UK. The person will be brought to the relevant court or, if the request was issued for the person to complete an existing custodial sentence, to the relevant prison.

Some states are not designated as either a category 1 or 2 territory. It may still be possible to make an extradition request in these circumstances, pursuant to section 193 of the Extradition Act. Such requests however are rare. Another alternative, also rarely used, is for the Secretary of State for the Home Department to seek an ad-hoc arrangement with the other state, to permit a request to be made.

Further reading