By Christopher Williams
A US Government attempt to extradite British student Richard O’Dywer for running a film streaming website exposes him to a “flagrant denial of justice”, a court heard.
Richard O’Dwyer, 23, faces criminal charges for operating TV-Shack, which did not itself publish any pirated material but offered links to unlicensed streams television shows and Hollywood films elsewhere online.
The Sheffield Hallam University computer science student now faces a nervous Christmas ahead of the court’s judgment in January.
In a skeleton argument, his barrister, Ben Cooper QC, told a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday there was a “real risk” of him “suffering ill-treatment within a federal system that he will be unable to cope with”.
He also accused US authorities of using delaying tactics to “create an unlevel playing field at trial”. The court heard that Mr O’Dwyer should face a criminal or civil trial in Britain because the alleged offences were all carried out here, between 2007 and 2010, when he was studying an earlier computing course.
“His education, career prospects and his personal development would suffer greatly from being dragged out of university to face pre-trial incarceration in the US,” said Mr Cooper.
Mr O’Dwyer was first arrested in June last year by British police acting on information from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The domestic investigation was subsequently dropped, but Mr O’Dwyer was re-arrested in May on an extradition warrant to face charges in America.
The case has drawn comparisons with that of Gary McKinnon, the Asperger’s syndrome sufferer who hacked into American military systems. He has faced extradition proceedings since his arrest in 2002.
The controversy over the case prompted a Home Office review of Britain’s extradition treaty with the United States, which has been criticised as unfair. In October, retired judge Sir Scott Baker however said reform was unnecessary, despite the fact that nine times as many Britons as Americans have been extradited.
Campaigners had pressed for a so-called “forum bar” to be added to the law to block the extradition of Britons whose alleged crimes are committed on UK soil, such as Mr O’Dwyer, but the idea was rejected.