Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 14:00 UK

UK grandmother 'wanted' by France

Deborah Dark
Deborah Dark has faced extradition proceedings in the UK and Spain

A British grandmother is being pursued by France for a crime she was convicted of in her absence 20 years ago.

Deborah Dark, 45, from London, was acquitted of a drugs offence in 1989 - but found guilty and sentenced to six years on appeal without being told.

France issued a European Arrest Warrant in 2005 but recent extradition attempts have failed in both the UK and Spain.

UK charity Fair Trials International said the warrant system was creating a "blatant injustice" against her.

'Never forget'

Ms Dark, from Richmond in south-west London, was arrested in France in 1989 in a car containing several kilos of cannabis.

A French court believed her defence that she been set up by an abusive boyfriend and was acquitted.

A person's life can be turned upside down for an event alleged to have happened 20 years ago
Jago Russell
Fair Trials International

But she was unaware the prosecution appealed without telling her after she returned to the UK and she was found guilty and sentenced in 1990.

A European Arrest Warrant was issued by the French authorities for Ms Dark to be returned to France to serve her jail term.

Ms Dark told the BBC of the effect that still being officially wanted in France had had on her.

She said: "It's destroyed me, and to see my daughter to go through all that pain again. I just will never forget it.

"I can't leave the country. If I leave the country I will be arrested because I'm still on the European Arrest Warrant."

'Shocking example'

In 2007 she was arrested on a package holiday at a Turkish airport but the authorities were unable to give her a reason.

On her return to the UK the British police could not find any warrants against her.

When Ms Dark travelled to visit her retired father in Spain in 2008 she was arrested and spent one month in custody.

But a Spanish court refused to extradite her on the grounds of unreasonable delay and the significant passage of time.

When she returned to the UK she was arrested by British police at Gatwick airport and released on bail pending an extradition hearing. Magistrates refused extradition in April this year.

Fair Trials International said Ms Dark was effectively being "imprisoned in the UK".

Chief executive Jago Russell said: "Deborah's case is a shocking example of the way a system intended to deliver justice has created a blatant injustice.

"The European Arrest Warrant should have been designed with a time-limit built in but it wasn't.

"The result - a person's life can be turned upside down for an event alleged to have happened 20 years ago."

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