Date: Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Venue: Westminster Magistrates’ Court, 181 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5BR
Time: 10am (GMT)
A father of two will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 1 November to face extradition charges to Greece and a possible 15-month jail sentence, 13 years after being involved in a minor car crash while on holiday in Crete.
Paul Wright, 35, from Mold in North Wales, was on holiday with three friends in May 2003, when they were offered the use of a car by a waiter. The car hit a parked scooter but no one was hurt in the incident. The driver, who was Paul’s friend, ran off. Paul was a passenger in the car and advised the car owner about the accident. Paul was formally spoken to by Greek police and subsequently released without being told to appear at court or to remain in Greece. As far as he was concerned, he had done the right thing and the case was closed.
In March this year, Paul opened his door to local police in Wales, who subsequently handed him a European Arrest Warrant (EAW). He was taken to the local police station where he was held overnight and then taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court the next morning, in police custody. He was held in the cells at court before appearing in front of a judge, in relation to the allegations from Greece in May 2003.
Paul learned that the Greek authorities had held a trial in his absence and he was convicted of the charges in a Heraklion court in October 2006. A court summons had been sent to the hotel he had been staying in but this wasn’t forwarded to him and as a result, Paul had been unaware of the case against him.
Paul, who is due to become a dad for the third time in February 2017, faces one of three actions: pay £3,000 to have the warrant withdrawn; face extradition to Greece and serve a 15-month sentence; or fight the extradition.
If he wins the case, Paul is only safe from extradition to Greece while he remains in the UK, as the EAW would remain in every other European Union member state. If he is unsuccessful, he may be sent to Greece and face potential imprisonment in the notoriously crowded Alikarnassos prison in Crete, which has been found to be incompatible with parts of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Paul is being represented by Sean Caulfield, a criminal defence partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who says: “There is a recognised problem with Greek authorities sending summonses to hotels for holidaymakers who have long since left the country, rather than to their home addresses in the UK.
“This has complicated what should have been a straightforward case, which could have been resolved when it was first heard in Greece in 2006. As it stands, Paul’s case is now being brought at great cost to the British taxpayer and is one of many being pursued by the Greek justice system against UK citizens. Many people will pay the fine to make their case ‘disappear’ but Paul is determined to clear his name and prove his innocence.”
The hearing is expected to last one day and is open to the public.