London, January 28
A British fugitive wanted in India to serve a 10-year sentence after his conviction for possession of 10 kg of charas (cannabis) in April 2002 appealed to the High Court in London on Thursday against being extradited to India on serious mental health grounds.
Ivor Fletcher, who is said to be a "very high suicide risk", has used the same prisons and mental health experts to argue his appeal as those deposed by diamond merchant Nirav Modi – wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering related to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.
Dr Andrew Forrester, a forensic psychiatrist, and Dr Alan Mitchell, a medical practitioner and prisons expert as chair of the Independent Prisons Monitoring Group in Scotland, were quoted as experts in the Fletcher case during a remote hearing before Justice Martin Chamberlain.
“Mr Fletcher has serious and long term mental health issues. The unchallenged psychiatric evidence from Dr Forrester is that Mr Fletcher is a very high risk of suicide and has a high chance of completed suicide if extradited. Mr Fletcher is impulsive and has also planned to take his own life,” argued Fletcher's barrister Ben Keith.
James Stansfeld, appearing on behalf of the Indian authorities, countered the arguments and stated that Indian government assurances in the case would provide adequate medical care for the accused.
“The Appellant (Fletcher) is a fugitive from proceedings in India. He is sought to serve a lengthy sentence of imprisonment for serious offences. He can be, and will be, provided with appropriate care in India and in transit from the UK,” said Stansfeld.
The appeal is being argued on the grounds of Section 91 of the Extradition Act, which prohibits extradition from the UK if it would be “unjust or oppressive” to the person. During closing submissions in the Nirav Modi case last month, his legal team had raised similar Section 91 arguments when citing his severe depression and high risk of suicide.
Therefore, the outcome of the Fletcher appeal – in which the judge has reserved his judgment to be handed down in the coming weeks – could go on to have some bearing on the Nirav Modi extradition case, which is scheduled for a ruling at Westminster Magistrates Court in London on February 25.
According to court documents, Ivor Fletcher was arrested in the Kullu region of India with charas in biscuit-shaped packets wrapped in khaki-coloured paper in an attache case and his appeal against his arrest in the case went up to the Supreme Court in India, where it was dismissed in August 2011.
India put in an extradition request in June 2018 for his return to serve his sentence after he was discovered in the UK, following which he was arrested and the UK Home Secretary ordered his extradition in March last year following a magistrates' court ruling in India's favour.
During Thursday's hearing, the High Court was told that because Fletcher suffers from severe recurrent depression and a form of long-term personality disorder which puts him at a high risk of committing suicide, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown, it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him to an Indian prison.
Meanwhile, the Indian authorities argue sufficient provisions are in place to take his mental health into consideration in prison, including regular monitoring.
The judge will hand down his ruling at a future date after weighing up both sides of the argument. PTI
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