Thursday, October 19, 2006

Extradition (or is it kidnapping): US Government V Ian Norris

By Kenyon Gibson


A man named Ian Norris was this week accused of committing a legal act in an attempt by the United States to extradite him from Britain - with out giving any evidence, to the shock of the British judges.

In fact, his legal act was a completely honest one, so the plaintiff is not even accusing him of dishonesty. Nor is the plaintiff accusing him of breaking any existing laws of the realm. However, the plaintiff, which is the US government, is stating that what he did was against US laws! And they want his blood, and his body, in their prison system.

Richard Gordon, QC, counsel for Norris, laid plain the facts in court Tuesday and Wednesday, 17 & 18 October, 2006. In five words or more, he went through the whole legal history of the practice of price setting in the UK, showing beyond a shadow of doubt that there was no offence here, and had never been a prosecution for such an act, quoting former legal opinion including the words of a former Vice Chancellor, Sir James Baker, who found an agreement to set prices by three quarry owners to be “perfectly lawful”, and that it did not deserve to be called a conspiracy, which is one thing the US government is calling it.

Such acts may be unlawful in the US, but that is not where Norris ran his business, Morgan Crucible, an automotive parts manufacturer which he started working at 33 years ago in an entry level position. He was well liked and proficient at his job, and in the classic success story, rose to the top post, to which he acceded in 1998. One thing that he set about to change was the policy of price setting, which was legally exercised, part of a long time tradition in Europe, but which Norris found not his style. Ironic then that he should receive a call from his lawyer telling him that he was under indictment in the US. This threw his life into a spin, and immediately affected such things as travel plans; he had to cancel a trip to watch the World Rugby Cup, as the US had put a red flag on his passport. This they did in secret, and it was only by exercising due diligence that Alistair Graham, QC, of White and Case, found out and warned him in time.


A lot was done in secret by the US, in fact a major part of the legal arguments in court this week were over the fact that the US is not supplying information about the case to the defendant, which they would have to do if he were a US citizen. But to a UK citizen, no. On this point the judges on the bench stopped the lawyer for the US on more than one occasion, and they were told, perhaps to their surprise, that the US did not have to supply prima facie evidence, as they would have to do with their own citizens, or with a French citizen…or just about any other country’s citizen. UK citizens under this agreement have less rights than the rest of the world!

With this thought, one must ask how this kind of thing could come about. The fact is that this act was passed in virtual secrecy, signed only by David Blunkett as part of the post-9/11 ‘war on terror’. So far, it really has not resulted in any terrorists being extradited, the man with the hook for a hand is still here and able to preach hate whenever he wants, but the guy whose only previous time in courts was when he was commended by a magistrate for tackling a thief with his rugby skills, is being fast-tracked to orange jump suit land.


To add insult to injury, the US did not have, in my humble opinion, either a very good, or a very honest, barrister in court. By the end of his rap, he was nervously gesticulating with his hands in response to questioning from the bench, and had crucially misstated the date of Norris’ retirement, stating that it was in 2003, after the indictment in the US, when Norris had in fact retired in October 2002. But why let the facts get in the way?

Meeting Norris today, I got an even clearer impression of the man, and more on him and this case will be on this site, and in the Independent, in an article by Geneviève Roberts (who also did a feature earlier this year on Gary McKinnon, who is also up for extradition to the US).

To support the rights of the British people not to be tried by US laws, contact your MP and do not let them weasel out – tell them you are the boss! The Tories and the Lib Dems do believe in the right of the British people not to have these kinds of cases bought against them, but the Labour Party has yet to show its colours.


I endorse no party, nor am I a member of any party of employed by such. I only report on the facts as they are. A hearing in Commons on this issue will take place on Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 3pm. Showing up or calling your MP (all can be reached at 020 7219 3000) will be a good move in the defence of the realm!

Stay tuned for more information.

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