House of Lords throws out Norris extradition case

White & Case

has won a landmark House of Lords victory that will undermine key points of the UK’s extradition treaty with the US.

Handing down a unanimous judgment, five Law Lords ruled against the extradition of Ian Norris, the former chief executive of FTSE 250 company Morgan Crucible, to face charges relating to a price fixing cartel.

The US government attempted to extradite Norris on charges of fixing the price of carbon products between 1989 and 2000. Norris denied the charges.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury quashed part of the Home Secretary’s order that a British businessman could be extradited to the US on a charge of price-fixing.

The decision will have implications for dozens of pre-2003 price fixing extradition cases between the UK and US. The Enterprise Act 2003 outlawed price fixing in the UK but the UK extradition treaty with the US specifically states that for a British citizen to be extradited under price-fixing charges, the practice must have been illegal in both countries at the time when it is alleged to have occurred.

Norris’ counsel White & Case partner Alistair Graham, who instructed Brick Court chambers’ Richard Gordon QC, Jonathan Sumption QC and Martin Chamberlain, successfully argued that the businessman had not acted unlawfully because the act did not come into force until 2003.

Today (12 March) the Law Lords struck out the price fixing charges against Norris, ruling that English common law has never recognised such conduct as illegal.

The Law Lords also ruled that to extradite Norris to the US would be in contravention of his retrospective punishment rights under Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

David Perry QC, Louis Mably QC and Adina Ezekiel of 6 King’s Bench Walk acted for the US Government, while Khawar Qureshi QC of Serle Court represented the Home Office.