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Briton loses Australia murder extradition fight

A British man accused of strangling his lover to death more than 23 years ago is set to be extradited to Australia after losing a High Court battle.

world Updated: Mar 20, 2009 20:56 IST

A British man accused of strangling his lover to death more than 23 years ago is set to be extradited to Australia after losing a High Court battle on Friday.

Steven Hutton, 54, is wanted for trial in Australia over the death of Sandra White, a 34-year-old mother of one.

Hutton is accused of strangling her and setting fire to her body in a caravan in rural Victoria, southeastern Australia. Her charred remains were discovered on August 12, 1985.

Hutton suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He is alleged to have confessed to the killing after being detained in a London psychiatric hospital following a road accident in 1990.

His lawyers argued that extraditing him to Australia could cause a 60 to 65 percent chance of a relapse in his condition.

The risk made it "unjust or oppressive" to send him back to face trial after so many years on, they argued.

At the High Court in London, judges Lord Thomas Scott Baker and Stephen Silber rejected Hutton's challenge.

"Murder is one of the gravest offences in the criminal calendar," they said in a joint ruling.

"There is a very strong public interest -- an interest shared by the deceased's family -- in a trial taking place even after this length of time.

"It is true that there is a risk -- indeed it is described as almost a certainty -- that extradition will cause some deterioration in the appellant's mental health, but the extent and permanence of that deterioration are matters of speculation."

Their reasons for their decision were the gravity of the offence, Hutton's alleged confessions and their belief that he would have a fair trial and appropriate medical treatment in Victoria.