No cause of death throws parts of extradition warrant into disrepute, court told

The fact that there is no cause or time of death for the 39 people found in a container in Essex throws parts of an extradition warrant into disrepute, a court has heard.

Eamonn Harrison, 23, from Mayobridge in Newry, Co Down, appeared on Thursday at Dublin’s Central Criminal Court regarding a European arrest warrant to have him transferred to the UK.

Eight women and 31 men, all Vietnamese nationals, were found in the refrigerated trailer in an industrial park in Gray, Essex, in the early hours of October 23.

The court previously heard Harrison is sought in respect of 41 offences, 39 counts of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, one count of a human trafficking offence and one count of assisting unlawful immigration.

He is alleged to have driven the container, which held the 39 people, to a port in Zeebrugge in Belgium, and later signed the shipping notice for the container.

Defence for Mr Harrison, Siobhan Stack SC, said that on the allegations of manslaughter, the offence cannot be made out without the cause of death.

She told the court the medical examiner does not know the cause or time of death for the 39 people, but hopes to have some clarification in the coming weeks.

“There is nothing alleged about how the people came on to the truck, nothing suggests that he (Mr Harrison) knew they were there,” Ms Stack told the court.

“It does not say he placed these people in this truck or knew they were there, but says that he transported the trailer.

“The link between the people and the respondent is not stated.

“The critical missing facts are not there because that information is not yet available.

“We do not yet know enough.”

Ms Stack also raised a number of other issues with the warrant for extradition, which she said was “thin in the extreme and lacking”.

A previous hearing heard that the original warrant issued for Harrison was “rushed and at times contradictory” and both legal teams were given time to seek additional information.

Ms Stack argued that additional information added to the warrant in recent weeks altered the character and changed the content.

Police at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays
Police at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays

She said that the Crown Prosecution Service is not permitted to issue the new information in the case, and it should have come from the judge who issued the warrant originally, and suggested that the court issue a new document.

“The court has to ask itself how the warrant in this case was really compiled, there is excessive reliance on supplementary information five or six weeks afterwards from the Crown, only when asked by this court,” she said.

Ronan Kennedy SC, appearing for the Minister for Justice, said Harrison “failed to put any persuasive evidence” forward against the grounds on which the warrant was issued, and “against the backdrop of mutual trust and confidence, the court is required” to act on the warrant.

He added that “time was of the essence” when the warrant was first issued.

Mr Harrison wore a grey sweatshirt, tracksuit bottoms and glasses, and did not speak throughout the proceedings.

The hearing will continue on Friday.