Germany refuses to extradite man to UK

Germany refuses to extradite man to UK over concerns about British jail conditions

I know things are bad in this country – I know courts have been closed (even without containing RAAC), I know legal aid has been cut, I know prisons are overcrowded (while the government calls for more and harsher sentences) – but this still doesn’t sit very well with me.

A court in Karlsruhe decides against extradition of Albanian man ‘in view of the state of the British prison system’.

A German court has refused to extradite to the UK a man accused of drug trafficking because of concerns about prison conditions in Britain, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind.

This was the Oberlandesgericht.

Karlsruhe higher regional court in south-west Germany made its decision earlier this year, and it has only recently been made public.

A translation of the court report said: “The court decided that the extradition of the Albanian to Britain was ‘currently inadmissible’. Without British guarantees, extradition is not possible in view of the state of the British prison system. There are no legal remedies against this.”

The man was arrested by German police and held in extradition custody.

His defence lawyer, Jan-Carl Janssen had studied in Glasgow and had written a thesis that looked at UK prison conditions.

In court, Janssen cited his research about chronic overcrowding, staff shortages and violence among inmates in British prisons. On the back of this evidence, the German court sought reassurances on two occasions from the UK authorities about prison conditions there.

The court said guarantees from the UK of compliance with minimum standards in accordance with the European convention on human rights were required. In addition, the court asked the British authorities to specify which prisons the Albanian man was going to be detained in and what his conditions of detention would be in those prisons.

A police station in Manchester replied to the court’s first request on the final day of the deadline for a response, saying 20,000 extra prison places were being built to deal with the problem of overcrowding. The second request for reassurance about UK prison conditions received no response from the UK.

…Since the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the rules of the European arrest warrant no longer apply.

It does look as though similar decisions have been made in Ireland and the Netherlands. It does sound rather weak to promise that the UK is building prisons for 20,000 more people.

From the Frankfurter Rundschau:

In dem neueren Fall hatte der Verdächtige einen Anwalt, der so etwas wie ein Experte für den Zustand der britischen Gefängnisse war. Jan-Carl Janssen schrieb seine Dissertation über das Strafvollzugssystem in England, Wales und Schottland und führte vor Gericht seine Untersuchungen zu Themen wie chronische Überbelegung, Personalmangel und Gewalt unter Insassen an. Er sagte auch, dass einige Zellen zu klein, zu dunkel und schlecht belüftet sind.

That’s a one-year LL.M. dissertation btw.

Here is Jan Carl Janssen and here is his book on prison conditions.

LATER NOTE: A report on this case on Udo Vetter’s blog, with four comments (glad the UK is out of the EU, especially because the right of silence has been weakened). Not yet references to how a prisoner escaped from Wandsworth last week. Udo gives the file number of the German case: 301 OAus 1/23


ChatGPT in the news for lawyers in Germany too

Great excitement has been caused by the case reported in the New York Times (and elsewhere): Here’s What Happens When Your Lawyer Uses ChatGPT – a ten-page pleading submitted by a law firm for its client

cited more than half a dozen relevant court decisions. There was Martinez v. Delta Air Lines, Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines and, of course, Varghese v. China Southern Airlines, with its learned discussion of federal law and “the tolling effect of the automatic stay on a statute of limitations.”

But all these decisions had been invented by ChatGPT, which the lawyer had used to help him write the pleading (US brief).

There’s been some discussion about German lawyers using AI in the beck-community blog.

ChatGPT – Nutzungen durch Anwälte: gefährliche rechtliche Klippen sind zu umschiffen is an entry by Dr. Axel Spies. It refers to an article which I don’t have access to. The main conclusion is that it is a violation of the GDPR (German DSGVO) to enter a client’s name, for example, into ChatGPT. It’s hard to imagine this happening in Europe. But obviously, even in the USA the judge soon noticed the problem. I suppose ChatGPT could devise deceptive arguments, but once it invents facts, it should be obvious it is false.

One commenter on the blog entry actually asked ChatGPT what lawyers should think of a chatbot’s legal advice:

Das meint ChatGPT selbst zu dem Thema:

Als KI-Chatbot kann ich keine Rechtsberatung geben, aber ich kann Ihnen allgemeine Informationen zur Verfügung stellen. …

Zweitens müssen Rechtsanwälte sicherstellen, dass die von ChatGPT bereitgestellten Informationen korrekt und aktuell sind. Rechtsanwälte können sich nicht allein auf ChatGPT verlassen, um rechtliche Fragen zu beantworten, sondern müssen ihre Recherchen sorgfältig prüfen und zusätzliche Informationen sammeln, um eine vollständige und zuverlässige Antwort zu erhalten.

Peter Winslow reports on the US case in German on the beck-community blog too.


Bankers boxes

Following on from the previous post, it seems that US/UK banker’s boxes are similar to the German ones.

Assembling a bankers box – Youtube video. This isn’t quite the same as the German boxes, but a similar principle.

And Thomson Reuters legal blog has a post Why do they call them Bankers Boxes?

It seems that the inventor, Walter Nickel, sold these boxes to banks to store records. He sold the rights when he was called up for WWI in 1917 (did he survive?). The buyer, Harry Fellowes, named his company the Bankers Box Company. It later became Fellowes.

Legal stationery – the topic that keeps on giving.

Thanks to Tom West.


I find the word toque useful in Scrabble (as is roque).

Toque is a French lawyer’s hat, though. It now refers to the lawyer’s ‘letterbox’ at court, which used to be a pigeonhole to put the hat in – similar to the German Gerichtsfach – did those once hold hats too? (Take this with a pinch of salt, as I don’t do French law).

La Toque

Here is a picture of toques.

I’ve been thinking of this after reading the Guardian’s recap of the series Spiral (Engrenages), and in particular the comments. The recap article specifically refers to the commenter auroreboréalis, who is very informative on the law. Here, for example, most recently, on whether Joséphine Karlsson could become a juge d’ìnstruction:

There are 4 different types of passerelles (access routes between professions/occupations) between the profession of avocat and juge d’instruction, depending on your situation, age, years of experience, previous studies etc. It’s all detailed here: Avocat, magistrat, huissier, notaire… les différentes passerelles entre les métiers du droit and here)….

The comments are an excellent aid to watching or rewatching the series.

‘Bonkers’ German law firm site

Roll on Friday has named Streck Mack Schwedhelm as the bonkers law firm of the day

Before putting pen to paper, get to know the recipients better. Each lawyer is allotted a space in which to recall “My path to Streck Mack Schwedhelm”. One partner reveals, “Excel is my passion“, but instead of therapy, “I looked for a law firm in which I could exercise this passion“. She found spreadsheet heaven at Streck Mack Schwedhelm. Another declares that the firm embodies “Enthusiasm/fantasy/commitment”, and in such a crucible is it any wonder that “tax law for me came to have a thrilling legal aura which didn’t let me go“.

The site is in German too.

As they’re tax lawyers, their logo is based on the tithe.

I can understand German lawyers wanting to jazz up their websites. The culture in which they are seen is rather formal. I have translated four different ones and the desire was always to keep the English formal too. After all, the website isn’t directed to a UK or US readership.

The photos are rather fascinating here. I can see what the photographer was trying to do. He often has blurred movement in the background instead of normal bokeh, the lawyers are painfully in focus and heavy shadows show how much lighting was used (a bit like Dougie Wallace shots).

The pocket on a barrister’s gown

I must say I believed the story that barristers’ gowns had a pocket on them because they were not allowed to sue for fees and some money could discreetly be put in there by the client. However, it appears that that story was an invention and the pocket (known as a liripipe) is the remnant of a mourning hood assumed on the death of King Charles II in 1685.

See The junior barrister’s gown on Sir Henry Brooke’s site Musings, Memories and Miscellanea.