Somchai Liangsiriprasert v Government of the United States of America: PC 1991

(Hong Kong) Application was made for the defendant’s extradition from Hong Kong to the USA. The question was whether a conspiracy entered into outside Hong Kong with the intention of committing the criminal offence of trafficking in drugs in Hong Kong was justiciable in Hong Kong although no overt act in pursuance of that conspiracy had yet taken place in Hong Kong.
Held: English criminal law is generally local in its effect. The criminal law does not concern itself with crimes committed abroad. Any offence may be tried in this country even if the last act did not take place here, provided the court sees nothing contrary to international comity in its assumption of jurisdiction. Conspiracy being an inchoate offence, no ‘last act’ was required.
Lord Griffiths said: ‘Unfortunately in this Century crime has ceased to be largely local in origin and effect. Crime is now established on an international scale and the criminal law must face this new reality. Their lordships can find nothing in precedent, comity or good sense that should inhibit the common law from regarding as justiciable in England inchoate crimes committed abroad which are intended to result in the commission of criminal offences in England.’ and
‘The English courts have decisively begun to move away from definitional obsessions and technical formulations aimed at finding a single situs of a crime by locating where the gist of the crime occurred or where it was completed. Rather, they now appear to seek by an examination of relevant policies to apply the English criminal law where a substantial measure of the activities constituting a crime take place in England, and restrict its application in such circumstances solely in cases where it can seriously be argued on a reasonable view that these activities should, on the basis of international comity, be dealt with by another country.’ and ‘Their Lordships can find nothing in precedent, comity or good sense that should inhibit the common law from regarding as justiciable in England inchoate crimes committed abroad which are intended to result in the commission of criminal offences in England.’ and
‘It is notoriously difficult to apprehend those at the centre of the drug trade: it is only their couriers who are usually caught. If the courts were to regard the penetration of a drug dealing organisation by the agents of a law enforcement agency and a plan to tempt the criminals into a jurisdiction from which they could be extradited as an abuse of process it would indeed be a red letter day for the drug barons.’


Lord Griffiths


[1991] 1 AC 225, (1991) 92 Cr App R 77, [1990] UKPC 31




England and Wales


CitedTreacy v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 1970
Blackmail was alleged under section 21 of the 1968 Act, the letter making the unwarranted demand with menaces having been posted from England to an intended victim in Germany.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. To allow an English court to have . .

Cited by:

AppliedRegina v Smith (Wallace Duncan) (No 1) CACD 13-Nov-1995
In the offence of fraudulent trading, ‘creditors’ are those to whom money was owed, including future creditors, not just those who can presently sue. Deceptions practised in UK, but having their effect abroad are prosecutable here. The only feature . .
CitedRegina v Manning CACD 24-Jun-1998
The defendant appealed his conviction for obtaining property by deception where part of the offence had taken place abroad.
Held: Smith should be overturned. The last act or terminatory theory remains the binding common law of England and . .
AppliedRegina v Sansom 1991
Conspiracy over international borders – comity rule applied to provide jurisdiction. . .
CitedHer Majesty’s Advocate v Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah HCJ 8-Dec-1999
The court considered whether the criminal complaint that the defendants had been part of a conspiracy to set a bomb aboard an airliner which exploded over Scotland, was justiciable in Scotland. Lord Sutherland: ‘Where however, a crime of the utmost . .
CitedOffice of the King’s Prosecutor, Brussels v Cando Armas and others HL 17-Nov-2005
The defendant resisted extradition to Brussels saying that the offence had been committed in part in England. He had absconded and been convicted. Application was made for his return to serve his sentence. The offences associated with organisation . .
AppliedRegina v Sansom CACD 2-Jan-1991
The appellants had been charged with conspiracy contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. The court rejected the argument that the principle laid down in Somchai referred only to the common law and that it could not be applied to . .
CitedRegina v Bartle and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte; Regina v Evans and Similar (No 3) HL 24-Mar-1999
An application to extradite a former head of state for an offence which was not at the time an offence under English law would fail, but could proceed in respect of allegations of acts after that time. No immunity was intended for heads of state. . .
CitedRegina v Latif; Regina v Shahzad HL 23-Jan-1996
The defendant had been lured into the UK by the unlawful acts of customs officers. He claimed abuse of process.
Held: The category of cases in which the abuse of process principles can be applied is not closed. A customs officer committing an . .
ApprovedRegina v Manning CACD 23-Jul-1998
The accused dishonestly falsified a number of insurance cover notes which were said to be documents required for an accounting purpose, namely, those of the persons who had sought cover and to whom the cover notes were forwarded. The accused ran his . .
CitedPurdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 30-Jul-2009
Need for Certainty in Scope of Offence
The appellant suffered a severe chronic illness and anticipated that she might want to go to Switzerland to commit suicide. She would need her husband to accompany her, and sought an order requiring the respondent to provide clear guidelines on the . .
CitedSheppard and Another, Regina v CACD 29-Jan-2010
The defendants appealed against their convictions for publishing racially inflammatory material. They skipped bail during the trial, were convicted in their absence, and returned after being refused asylum in the US. The convictions related to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Jurisdiction, Extradition

Updated: 13 May 2022; Ref: scu.196558