Last-minute reprieve for cousins facing extradition

TWO cousins from Essex facing extradition to Cyprus to serve three years in jail for manslaughter have been granted a last-minute reprieve.

James Hore

TWO cousins from Essex facing extradition to Cyprus to serve three years in jail for manslaughter have been granted a last-minute reprieve.

Luke Atkinson, 25, and Michael Binnington, 24, were due to hand themselves in at Belgravia police station in London at 6pm last night to be extradited to the holiday island.

The pair from Witham had been back seat passengers in a car crash which killed a moped rider on the holiday island in 2006 and had lost a legal battle to avoid extradition.

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But it emerged last night the men had been granted a High Court injunction so that it can be decided whether their sentences will be served abroad or in the UK.

The decision, however, does not mean their sentences will be overturned as every legal option has now been explored.

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MEP Richard Howitt, who has backed the cousins in their bid to fight extradition, said this week he believed the men were "victims of a miscarriage of justice that should never be allowed to happen under European law".

Stuart Colley, of Mr Howitt's office, confirmed last night: "I have just heard that the men have been granted a temporary injunction.

"It is good news for them and there will be a further court case next Thursday at the High Court but that will only be about the sentences and whether they are served in the UK or abroad.

"It will not be a hearing about guilt or innocence as all the legal avenues have been exhausted now.

"This is something though and means the families can have more time together - it is a temporary reprieve."

Atkinson and Binnington have already spent six months behind bars in Cyprus on remand before being acquitted of manslaughter and allowed to return to the UK.

Although originally acquitted, the Cyprus Supreme Court later overturned this and ordered the men serve three years each for manslaughter and one year for grievous bodily harm, to run concurrently.

The men opposed the extradition application but a UK judge ordered they be returned to Cyprus.

Their lawyers recently appealed to the UK Supreme Court for leave to appeal against the extradition order but this has been turned down.

A Home Office spokesman said this week: "The Home Secretary has no role in dealing with extradition requests from EU member states and the issue as to whether someone should be extradited is a matter for the courts.

"The Extradition Act 2003 does not allow extradition to be refused on the basis that someone in the UK agrees to serve a foreign sentence here and there are no plans to amend the Extradition Act 2003."

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