A protracted bid to ship alleged paedophile Lee Nigel Tucker back to the United Kingdom, where he’s wanted on more than 40 counts, looks set to drag on even longer after the Constitutional Court on Monday upheld an order to reopen his extradition inquiry.
This will give Tucker an opportunity to present evidence in support of his claims that the UK’s laws discriminate against him because he is gay and that he has been vilified in the media.
The evidence wouldn’t change the original outcome of the inquiry, which was that Tucker was liable to be surrendered. But it could help sway Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, who now has the final say on whether to hand him over.
Tucker fled to South Africa in 2000, with the charges against him, which include sexually assaulting two then teenage boys, dating back to the ’80s and ’90s. He was finally arrested in Cape Town in 2016 and an extradition inquiry was convened.
The magistrate presiding over the inquiry found there was sufficient evidence to warrant his prosecution and he was liable to be surrendered. Tucker was remanded in custody at Pollsmoor Prison pending a final decision to be made by the minister.
In 2017, the Western Cape High Court shot down an attempt by Tucker to have the outcome of the inquiry set aside. But it did reopen the inquiry so he could present evidence the presiding magistrate had originally refused to accept.
This evidence would be passed on to the minister, via a transcript of proceedings and possibly a report. This prompted another appeal, this time by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which argued the evidence in question was irrelevant for the purposes of an inquiry and that the ruling had the effect of further delaying an already drawn-out process.
That appeal wound up before the Constitutional Court in November last year, and Tucker’s legal team did not oppose it – taking a different line, though, that without finding the final outcome of the inquiry was incorrect, the high court could, in fact, not reopen it. But, in the end, the majority bench still upheld the high court’s ruling.
In a judgment penned by Justice Leona Theron, the country’s apex court found while the presiding magistrate had not been tasked with considering the evidence in question at the inquiry, he had been obliged to accept it and that the high court had been spot-on when it ordered the reopening of proceedings to remedy this.
“Allowing a sought person to lead evidence relating to surrender promotes their right to a fair hearing.
“It affords them the liberty to raise pertinent evidence that they feel might be relevant to the minister’s decision from the start of their extradition proceedings and have that evidence recorded in open court,” said Theron.
“It does so without prejudicing or disadvantaging the prosecuting authorities or the requesting state and ensures the sought person’s concerns relating to surrender are recorded in the transcript of proceedings and the possible report forwarded to the minister.”