Conwoman's psychological care can be met by UK prison system, judge finds

Farah Damji, the daughter of the late South African property developer Amir Damji, has convictions for theft and fraud dating back to the 1990s.
Conwoman's psychological care can be met by UK prison system, judge finds

Stephen Bourke

A con artist’s human rights won’t be breached by leaving her psychological care in the hands of medical staff in the British prison system, a High Court judge has said.

Farah Damji (54), with a previous address at Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin 2, left the UK in February 2020, midway through her trial on charges of breaking a restraining order against her in April and June 2018. She was convicted in her absence at Southwark Crown Court and sentenced to consecutive jail terms of 18 months and nine months, though an appeal court has since ruled they may run concurrently.

Ms Damji, the daughter of the late South African property developer Amir Damji, has convictions for theft and fraud dating back to the 1990s.

Mr Justice Paul Burns on Monday said he was not in a position to deliver his full ruling because of an ambiguity in the legal position on the European Arrest Warrant system following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. However, the judge added: “I’m going to give my views on the other points in the case so parties know where they stand."

European Arrest Warrant

In July, the Supreme Court referred a case to the Court of Justice of the European Union after two men challenged their surrender to UK Authorities, claiming that the European Arrest Warrant system between Ireland and the UK is invalid.

Ireland can reserve its sovereignty in relation to measures adopted for the EU's Area for Security, Freedom and Justice. Because Ireland retained this “opt-in” to any measures adopted the men argued, the EU did not have the competence to bind Ireland to a measure in this area when drawing up a Brexit withdrawal deal.

The men claim that, although Ireland had accepted both the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on post-Brexit relations, the lack of an "opt-in" measure for arrest warrant procedure meant that Ireland was not bound by terms of those treaties governing surrender to the UK.

The CJEU is expected to return judgement in the case next month.

Extradition

Mr Justice Burns said he was satisfied that there was sufficient correspondence in Irish law to at least the one of the crimes of which Ms Damji was convicted in Britain to allow extradition to go ahead.

At a previous hearing in March, Joanne Williams BL submitted a report by a psychologist arguing Ms Damji requires “long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy” which she had “no prospect” of accessing in the UK due to a lack of specialists in the field.

UK authorities had undertaken to have Ms Damji seen by a GP on her arrival but the report “took issue” with these assurances, Justice Burns said, on the grounds that a general practitioner is not a mental health specialist, and there was a shortage of psychodynamic psychotherapists in the UK.

Mr Justice Burns said it would not be for his court to direct UK authorities to accept the psychologist’s recommendations. He said people living in the community with the resources to do so could hire specialist physicians and doctors of their choosing.

“While in prison you can’t expect to command a similar level of medical care,” he said. “Difference in itself cannot be reason enough,” he said, saying Ms Damji's treatment would have to be “not simply suboptimal but cruel and indecent” to prevent her extradition on human rights grounds.

He said he was satisfied with the assurance that she would be attended to by a GP.

Mr Justice Burns said he would dismiss the respondent’s objections to extradition and said he would have his provisional judgment sent to counsel by electronic means.

“There’s nothing happening between now and the 6th of December,” he said. He adjourned the matter to that date and remanded Ms Damji on continuing bail.

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