A 23-year-old Briton facing extradition to America on copyright charges has spoken out about his fears in a rare interview, saying he could spend months waiting for trial in a high-security jail.
Student Richard O’Dwyer, who is appealing against being sent to the US, told The Huffington Post UK he was scared he would end up in a maximum-security institution with no bail, and said he didn't deserve to be imprisoned.
“Yes, I am scared, I have seen in the media what they did to Chris Tappin [the 65-year-old British busisnessman recently extradited to the US] and how he has been put straight into jail with no bail,” Richard said.
Tappin is currently in prison in New Mexico, America, waiting for trial over allegations he plotted to sell arms to Iran.
"I have no criminal record and don't think I deserve to be imprisoned for what should be a civil matter if anything. In the UK if I was charged with any offence I would not be put in jail for such a matter," O'Dwyer said, via email.
"I am trying to stay positive and most importantly I want to complete my university degree."
Richard’s mother Julia, who is appealing after Home Secretary Theresa May signed his extradition order this month, said she was in a “state of panic” when she heard her son could be put on trial in the states.
The mother-of-two has become an “accidental campaigner” against the controversial UK-US extradition treaty since Richard faced extradition to America over claims his website TVShack.net linked to pirated material.
“You’re not fighting any crime here, you’re fighting the law, the extradition law. You don’t get a chance to fight the allegation,” she told The Huffington Post UK.
However Julia - who still does her son’s washing when he returns from university in Sheffield to report for bail - is not angry at Richard: “I’m angry at the government.
"The police are just doing their job, they were just told to do that when it all came from America. I’m not at all angry at Richard, I’m even less angry than I might have been [if he had not been facing extradition] because I am more angry at the government.
“Maybe we’re closer together, a little bit. He doesn’t want to bother about it, you see, much. It’s just a major inconvenience to him,” she said.
“I see him every week. I usually bring his laundry back, I usually do it on the day he goes to bail so I can give him a lift for that. Sometimes he comes home for the weekend anyway. He has to report to a police station every week, whenever I see him I will take away his laundry and next time I’ll see him I will take a bit back. That’s what you do when your kids are at uni, you know.”
Richard O'Dwyer with his mother, Julia
O’Dwyer has received support from the families of two other British men facing extradition, Tappin and computer hacker Gary McKinnon.
Julia is now calling for action on the “flawed” legislation, rather than more reform.
“Our government has failed to make a difference to a law that was pushed through the backdoor with no parliamentary scrutiny. Now we’re living with the consequences.
The government has sold him down the river. They’re doing it to other people. This law was put in place by the Labour government in the Queen’s prerogative with no parliamentary scrutiny. This government has promised to look at it and amend it before they came into power and they have done nothing about it except talk about it.”
Timeline - The Richard O’Dwyer case
November 2010 - Richard is arrested over his website. His laptop is taken and he is bailed to return to a police station in London in six months.
May 2011 - O’Dwyer returns for bail and is informed the US want to extradite him on two charges which each carry a maximum five years in jail, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyrigh.
January 2012 - A judge rules he can be extradited
March 2012 - Home Secretary Theresa May signs the extradition order. Just under two weeks later, his family launch a fresh appeal.