Pair face wait for Cyprus court verdict

TWO men from Witham will have to wait until next week to find out if they are to face jail in Cyprus.

James Hore

TWO men from Witham will have to wait until next week to find out if they are to face jail in Cyprus.

Cousins Luke Atkinson and Michael Binnington could be sentenced to 15 years after they were found guilty of manslaughter following the death of 17-year-old moped rider Christos Papiris.

The pair were passengers in a car being driven by their uncle, Julian Harrington, when the incident happened in August 2006.

After several months in prison on remand the pair returned to the UK while Harrington changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to 15 years.

But this January there was a prosecution appeal and the two 23-year-olds were told that their acquittals had been overturned.

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Sentencing for the pair was due to take place yesterday but a Supreme Court judge reserved his decision “for a few days” and the men will be give 24 hours notice of when it will happen.

Atkinson and Binnington have remained in the UK, but if they are sentenced to jail it is likely that the Cypriot Court will issue a European arrest warrant, although the men would have a chance to fight extradition.

The court originally heard Harrington, a fence maker from Witham, rammed Mr Papiris' moped in the resort of Protaras as part of a revenge attack after another Briton was hurt in a fight outside a local nightclub.

But Mr Papiris had not been involved in the altercation, prosecutors said.

Richard Howitt, MEP, has been working to ensure the men get a fair hearing.

Speaking after the court case yesterday he said: “Yet again this represents more waiting and more agonising for the two young men.

“This is a tragic case and I extend my sympathy to all sides.”

A spokeswoman for Fair Trials International has warned the men should not get their hopes up.

She said: “We are not really hoping for anything as we think the outcome is inevitable I am afraid - it is likely to be in the region of what Julian Harrington was given.

“I think if they had gone out there, they would have been given the sentence and started it immediately, but at least this way they will have a chance to fight extradition in the British courts which they can have faith in.”