A foreign doctor accused of raping a child in the United States has been allowed to stay in Britain because he could face a tough jail term in America.
Immigration judges in London ruled that Tobias Bowen, 48, would suffer a breach of his human rights if they allowed an extradition request by US authorities.
The 48-year-old fugitive fled New York for Africa four years ago after being charged with two counts of raping a child, Westminster magistrates’ court heard.
He also spent time in the Netherlands before arrested by police after stepping off a plane at a London airport in April last year.
The court was told that he had settled in Milton Keynes, Bucks, with his wife and young family and that Britain was his “safe haven”.
The magistrates court – which deals with extradition cases from across the country – ruled that Bowen’s “right to liberty and security” under the European Convention on Human Rights was at threat from his extradition.
District judge Margaret Rose said: “I have found after hearing the evidence that extradition would not be incompatible with the defendant’s Article 6 [fair trial] or Article 10 [freedom of expression] rights.
“However, his Article 5 right to liberty and security would be at risk if he were to go back and convicted in New York state and face indefinite imprisonment, therefore he is discharged.
“I understand this is a decision the US government wants to appeal.”
Bowen, a doctor who ran a public hospital in his native Liberia, was charged with rape and criminal sex acts in New York in March 2010.
But he fled after supporters raised £6,600 ($10,000) bail money.
Daniel Sternberg, prosecuting, told the court: “Bowen is undoubtedly a fugitive from justice from the legal powers of the United States.
“He was granted bail for a huge amount of $10,000 and subsequently left the country in 2010.
“He was given bail and released and his record is not good, he has not attended court and travelled in Liberia and the Netherlands.”
But Malcolm Hawkes, defending, spoke of Bowen’s “good character” and argued he should be allowed to return to his family.
He had “lived openly” in Liberia but had now surrendered his Dutch and Liberian passports, Mr Hawkes said.
He added: “The time has come to give my client the benefit of the doubt.
“It would be regrettable if the appeal against today’s decision were to take some time and he were to spend a year in jail.
“This is likely to be a non-answerable case, his proper place is with his family and the UK is his safe haven.”
Judge Rose remanded Bowen in custody until US authorities could be contacted but said he could in the near future be bailed with a surety of £10,000.
Bail conditions would include no access to his passport, no international travel and a 12 hour electronic curfew plus daily reports to a police station.
Mr Hawkes said outside court: “The reference to Article 5 means that there is a fear if he goes back to America he will be put in indefinite detention.”
Source: By David Barrett – The Telegraph