Friday, April 16, 2010

Date set for extradition hearing of Ciaran Tobin

"Date set for extradition hearing
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - 05:19 PM

A date will be set by the High Court next week for the hearing of fresh extradition proceedings, brought against an Irishman wanted in Hungary for causing the death of two children 10 years ago.

Hungarian authorities are seeking the surrender of Francis Ciaran Tobin (aged 46) of Offington Drive, Sutton, Dublin, who was convicted and jailed for 18 months in his absence, of negligent driving causing the deaths of Marton (aged five) and Petra (aged two) Zoltai in April 2000.

Today the High Court, Mr Justice Michael Peart presiding, heard the case was "ready" to have a date for its hearing fixed but that a short adjournment was being sought to allow for the "direct exchange" of legal submissions to take place.

Mr Ronan Kennedy SC, for the State, said there were more than 60 points of objection being raised on Mr Tobin’s behalf, some of which were of a constitutional nature, and that the hearing was likely to take two, perhaps three days.

The court was also told that a case heard by the Supreme Court earlier this week, related to an issue being canvassed in this case, and that it “might be helpful” to have the outcome of that decided before proceeding.

The judge said it was his desire to fix a date “urgently”, indicating his willingness to sit on a Saturday in an effort to alleviate scheduling difficulties on behalf of the legal teams involved.

The matter was adjourned until April 21 next when a date for the hearing will be fixed.

In 2007, a request by the Hungarian authorities for Mr Tobin's extradition was refused by the High Court. In its judgment it found Mr Tobin's departure from Hungary could not be defined as "fleeing", as had been contended on the extradition warrant.

The High Court said it accepted Mr Tobin's argument that he and his family left Hungary, on November 30, 2000, following the completion of his work and that he never fled Hungary.

That ruling was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court in February of 2008.

Since then there was a change to the law contained in the 2009 Criminal Justice Act.

A fresh European Arrest Warrant seeking Mr Tobin's arrest was issued by the Hungarian authorities and it was endorsed by the High Court.

In the EAW it is claimed that Mr Tobin's car mounted a footpath in a built up area of Budapest on April 9, 2000.

As a result of the incident, Marton Zoltai, who was standing on the footpath, and Petra Zoltai, who was sitting in a pram at the time of the accident, were both killed.

It is claimed that Mr Tobin's wife and two Irish friends were in the car at the time of the fatal collision.

The following day, all four attended a police station, and made a statement with the assistance of a Hungarian lawyer. At the time of the crash he had been working for Irish Life in Budapest for three years.

Mr Tobin was sentenced to three years in prison by a Budapest Court, but this was reduced to 18 months on appeal.

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