The High Court is today hearing from lawyers for radical cleric Abu Hamza who say that medical tests could establish that he is unfit to plead and should not be extradited to America to face trial.

GCN's Brigid Baillie, a criminal practitioner with a particular interest in fitness to plead proceedings, has provided the following commentary on fitness to plead in extradition cases:

"Extradition can be barred if a person's physical or mental condition is such that would make it unjust or oppressive to extradite them S.91 Extradition Act 2003.

If this is found to be the case the judge must discharge the person or adjourn the proceedings until the condition is no longer satisfied, usually until they have improved physically or mentally.

If Abu Hamza's team is saying he is unfit to plead, it means that, because of his mental condition, he cannot plead as he is unable to understand the proceedings, the details of the evidence, put forward a defence, instruct his or her lawyers and challenge a juror.

A person can be unfit to plead and become fit to plead or vice versa so even if his team was successful in their argument, it wouldn't necessarily be an end to the matter if his condition improved."

Press coverage

3rd of October 2012: Abu Hamza suffering from depression and sleep deprivation, court told - The Guardian

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