Britain's High Court blocked a U.S. government bid to extradite a sex criminal to Minnesota on Thursday, saying the state's restrictive treatment program for sex offenders was far too draconian.
Judges Alan Moses and David Eady endorsed 43-year-old Shawn Sullivan's appeal against extradition after U.S. authorities refused to guarantee that Sullivan wouldn't be placed in Minnesota's civil commitment program, which provides for the indefinite detention of people found to be "sexually dangerous."
Sullivan is accused of raping a 14-year-old girl and sexually molesting two 11-year-olds in Minnesota in the 1990s. He escaped to Ireland as prosecutors prepared to file charges, and while staying there was convicted of sexually assaulting two 12-year-old girls.
Authorities finally caught up with him two years ago in London, where he'd moved using an Irish passport that spelled his last name in Gaelic as "O'Suilleabhain."
The High Court judges made clear in an earlier decision that they would have supported Sullivan's extradition had it not been for the sex treatment program, which they described as among the toughest the United States. The justices outlined a litany of concerns, noting that offenders don't have to be mentally ill to be committed; their offenses don't have to be recent, and in some cases, those placed in the program don't even have to have been convicted of any crime.
The judges added they'd seen no evidence that anyone had ever been released from the program since it began in its current form in 1988.
"There is a real risk that if returned, Mr. Sullivan will be the subject of an order of civil commitment," the judges said in the June 20 decision, adding that placing him in the program would be a flagrant denial of his rights.
They gave U.S. officials a week to guarantee that Sullivan wouldn't be enrolled the program, but when no assurances were made, the extradition proceedings were dropped.
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