Glasgow & West Scotland

Murder suspect Phillip Harkins loses extradition case

Phillip Harkins
Image caption Harkins is alleged to have killed a man during a robbery in Florida

A Scottish man who is wanted for murder in the United States has lost a nine-year legal battle to avoid extradition.

Phillip Harkins, 33, is alleged to have killed 22-year-old Joshua Hayes during a failed robbery in Florida in 1999.

He returned to Scotland after being released on bail in 2002 and was jailed the following year for killing a woman in a road crash in Greenock.

Harkins fought extradition attempts and his final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights has been turned down.

The 33-year-old allegedly shot Mr Hayes with an assault rifle during an attempted robbery in Jacksonville, Florida.

He denies any involvement, and campaigners on his behalf say there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and the case rests on testimony provided by a co-accused as part of a plea agreement.

Death crash

Harkins returned to Scotland after being released on bail in 2002 and was involved in a car crash in his native Greenock, which claimed the life of 62-year-old Jean O'Neill.

He was jailed for five years at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2003 after he admitted causing death by dangerous driving.

While in custody, Harkins was transferred to Wandsworth Prison in London, while proceedings got under way to extradite him to the US.

After losing a succession of attempts to block his extradition, Harkins took his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case focused on Harkins' complaint that if he was extradited, he was at risk of the death penalty or a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

In its unanimous ruling, the European Court said that "diplomatic assurances" from the United States that the death penalty would not be sought in Harkins' case "were clear and sufficient to remove any risk" that he could be sentenced to death if extradited.

The court also ruled that it would not be "grossly disproportionate" for Harkins to be given a mandatory life sentence.

'Aggravating factor'

It said that he had been over 18 years of age at the time of his alleged crime and had not been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

The seven judges also found that the killing of Mr Hayes had been part of an attempted armed robbery and said this was "an aggravating factor".

The court also noted that Harkins had not yet been convicted and, even if he were, keeping him in prison might continue to be justified throughout his lifetime.

The judges said that even if that were the case, the Governor of Florida and the Florida Board of Executive Clemency could decide to reduce any sentence.

In a separate development, the European Court also turned down an appeal against extradition to the US from British national Joshua Edwards.

He is accused of having intentionally shot two people, killing one of them and injuring the other, who had allegedly made fun of his appearance.

As in the Harkins case, the European Court ruled that there would be no violation of Edwards' human rights if he was extradited to face trial.

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