Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 15:37 GMT
Nail-biter in the Lords
The Lords await five minutes of high drama
The decision to permit extradition procedures to be started against former Chilean leader General Pinochet could not have been delivered in a more dramatic fashion.
Five Law Lords gave their verdicts in turn, but the order in which the split decision was given meant that supporters of the 83-year-old may have been celebrating prematurely.
But just when preparations for his flight home might have been starting, the next two gave their verdicts, and they disagreed.
With what was effectively a 2-2 draw, it was left to the last man to sit in judgment, Lord Hoffman.
This is what each Law Lord said, in turn.
Lord Slynn: "For the reasons set out in the speech which I have prepared and which is available in print, I would hold that the respondent, as a former head of state, is immune from arrest in respect of the matters alleged in the warrant of October 22 1998, and I would dismiss the appeal."
Lord Nicholls: "For the reasons set out in a speech which I have prepared in draft, and of which copies are available in print, I would reverse the decision of the Divisional Court, allow this appeal and hold that the respondent Senator Pinochet is not immune from the criminal process of this country, of which extradition forms part."
Lord Steyn: "For the reasons contained in my speech, copies of which are available to the parties, I would allow the appeal. The effect of my speech is that, in a correct interpretation of the law, General Pinochet has no immunity whatever."
His announcement was met with gasps around the chamber, and the Lord gave a glance towards the public gallery as he made the historic judgment.