A doctor who skipped bail in New York to avoid trial on charges of child rape has been allowed to stay in Britain after judges ruled that locking him up for a long time would contravene his human rights.
48 year old Tobias Bowen, who ran a private hospital in his native Liberia, was charged with two counts of raping a child in New York in 2010. After being granted bail at $10,000 he fled the country, travelling first to Liberia, then to the Netherlands and the UK, the Daily Mail has reported.
Detectives working with the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force tracked his movements, and he was taken into custody at Heathrow when he visited Britain in April last year.
American authorities have requested his extradition so that he could stand trial for the charges brought against him, but judges at Westminster Magistrates Court agreed with his defence lawyer Malcolm Hawkes that extradition would contravene Bowen’s “right to liberty and security” under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Hawkes told the court that his client was of “good character”, and ought to be allowed to return to his wife and children at their family home in Milton Keynes. He argued that Bowen had “lived openly” in Liberia, but had since surrendered his Liberian and Dutch passports.
“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.
“His proper place is with his family and the UK is his safe haven,” Hawkes said.
Daniel Sternberg, acting on behalf of the American authorities, countered that Bowen had skipped bail and ought to face justice. “Bowen is undoubtedly a fugitive from justice from the legal powers of the United States,” he told the court.
“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.”
District judge Margaret Rose dismissed claims that deporting Bowen would breach his right to a fair trial or his freedom of expression. Nonetheless she sided with the defence, ruling that “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.”
The American authorities are expected to lodge an immediate appeal, and Bowen was remanded in custody. If he is bailed, it is expected to be set at £10,000, and place conditions including the loss of access to his passport, no international travel and a 12 hour electronic curfew, plus daily reports to a police station.