Regina v O’Brien: SC 2 Apr 2014

The court considered how to apply the rule that an extradition may only be for trial on matters committed before the extradition if they have been the basis of the request to a defendant’s commission of contempt of court after conviction. After being subject to proceedings anticipating a prosecution for large scale financial fraud, the defendant had fled to the US. He was then found guilty of contempt. On his extradition, he objected to the prosecution for contempt, saying that it was subject to the specialty rule.
Held: His appeal failed. Section 151A did not apply directly, and reading the Act as a whole, conduct must be criminal offence under the jurisdiction of the state requesting extradition. There was a significant distinction between civil and criminal contempt. The first derives from the court’s inherent power to ensure obedience to court orders. Criminal contempt is a serious interference with the administration of justice. A hypothetical person obtaining a finding of contempt whilst the contemnor was abroad would not be prevented from pursuing his committal on his return. The director of the Serious Fraud Office would have no less ability. Mr O’Brien’s contempt was civil, and his committal was not barred by the specialty principle.

Lord Mance, Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes, Lord Toulson
[2014] UKSC 23, [2014] Lloyd’s Rep FC 401, [2014] 2 WLR 902, [2014] 2 All ER 798, [2014] WLR(D) 151, UKSC 2012/0143
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary
Extradition Act 2003 151A, Administration of Justice Act 1960 13
England and Wales
CitedRegina v Seddon CACD 10-Mar-2009
The court considered the concept of specialty with extradition proceedings. Hughes LJ VP said: ‘Extradition is a process involving agreement between Sovereign States. The requesting State has no power to send its policemen into the requested State . .
See AlsoOB v The Director of The Serious Fraud Office CACD 2-May-2012
The court considered an application by the defendant for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, noting that section 13 of the 1960 Act did not provide for such a right after the 2006 Act.
Held: The words could not themselves be construed to . .
Appeal fromOB v The Director of The Serious Fraud Office CACD 1-Feb-2012
The court was asked whether a breach of an order under section 41 of the 2002 Act was a civil or a criminal contempt of court. The defendant had fled to the US to avoid complying with restraint orders on being investigated for financial fraud. He . .
CitedHome Office v Hariette Harman HL 11-Feb-1982
The defendant had permitted a journalist to see documents revealed to her as in her capacity as a solicitor in the course of proceedings.
Held: The documents were disclosed under an obligation to use them for the instant case only. That rule . .
CitedAttorney-General v Times Newspapers Ltd HL 1991
Injunctions had been granted to preserve the status quo in proceedings brought to prevent the publication of the book ‘Spycatcher’. The defendants published extracts, and now appealed a finding that they had acted in contempt.
Held: The . .

Cited by:
CitedCommissioner of Police of The Metropolis v DSD and Another SC 21-Feb-2018
Two claimants had each been sexually assaulted by a later notorious, multiple rapist. Each had made complaints to police about their assaults but said that no effective steps had been taken to investigate the serious complaints.
Held: The . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.523423