The Constitutional Court has reserved judgment on the protracted legal battle against Lee Nigel Tucker, a fugitive from the United Kingdom accused of a host of child sex crimes.

Tucker, who has been living in South Africa for the last 20 years, is wanted by UK authorities on more than 40 counts. Charges against him include the sexual assault of two teenage boys in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was convicted in the UK in 2000 and fled to South Africa while on appeal.

Despite being on the run, he was able to successfully appeal his conviction, which was overturned in 2002 by the Court of Appeal.  A retrial was ordered.  Further investigations conducted by police into his offences resulted in him being charged with a total of 49 sexual offences committed against eight complainants aged between 12 and 15 years at the time of the alleged offences, between 1983 and 1993.

After 15 years, the UK government uncovered that Tucker was hiding in South Africa. He was arrested in Cape Town in 2016, and a subsequent extradition enquiry found sufficient evidence for prosecution.

During a 2017 hearing, Tucker’s lawyer argued that his client could only be retried on the original charges and not extradited to stand trial on any of the new ones. He further argued that Tucker would not receive a fair trial in the UK because he had allegedly been targeted by British media and discriminated against for being gay.

A Cape magistrate ordered Tucker be remanded into custody at Pollsmoor pending a final decision by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola on whether to return him to the UK.

In 2019, Western Cape High Court Judge Mark Sher ruled that the matter should be remitted to the Magistrate’s Court to hear Tucker’s evidence on why he would not get a fair trail in the UK, which the previous minister did not allow.

Now in 2020, the possibility of reopening his extradition enquiry has resurfaced. Earlier in the year, the state launched an application for leave to appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision, arguing the case is being drawn out even further. Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Christopher Burke is pushing for the matter to be transferred to Lamola. The matter came before the court on Wednesday, November 4.

“Two-and-a-half years after the magistrate’s order, Tucker remains in custody, the minister remains barred from making his decision, and there is no indication of when or how this state of affairs will come to an end,” said Burke.

“The Western Cape High Court judgment paves the way for extradition inquiries to be complicated and prolonged, sometimes indefinitely,” he said.

Picture: UK database

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