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Extradition delayed after Polish man refused to board plane due to ‘fear of flying’

Piotr Skiba who was due to be extradited refused to board the plane because he has a fear of flying. The Polish man was due to leave Ireland and return to Poland on Thursday 22nd December 2016.  The High court heard that the State Solicitor had been given notice about Piotr Skiba’s condition weeks before the scheduled flight. The High Court judge presiding over the case has granted a ten-day extension to the Irish state to present Piotr Skiba to Turkey. They now have until he 5th of January.  The state is currently looking into alternative options to transport Piotr Skiba to Poland. If not delivered by the 5th of January, Irish authorities will be required to release him.

Piotr Skiba, who is married with four children and living in Ireland, arrived at the airport on Thursday 22nd December. According to Piotr Skiba’s top extradition lawyer they had not been asked to provide evidence that Piotr Skiba was scared of flying. They continue to argue that they gave the State solicitor ample notice of the condition but nothing was done to confirm this.

Aerophobia (fear of flying) supposedly affects one person in every ten of the population. Some studies have even indicated that the amount of people affected by Aerophobia is substantially higher. It is an excessive worry of flying on an aeroplane, helicopter etc. Individuals who suffer from a fear of flying often suffer from increased anxiety or even will have a panic attack at the mere thought of flying. Due to this many with the affliction avoid air travel. Individuals who suffer from a fear of flying are usually separated into two categories. The first group usually are anxious about flying because of internal factors, their own emotions and fears that they will have a panic attacks and fear others witnessing this. The second group fear flying because of the external factors associated with flying such as turbulence, aeroplane faults and bad weather.

Piotr Skiba, the Polish national, was due to be extradited to Poland to serve two prison sentences. It has been confirmed that whilst at Dublin Airport waiting to board the flight Piotr Skiba informed the officials he would not be getting on to the flight because he had a fear of flying. The High Court heard that when Gardaí, the police force in Ireland, brought Piotr Skiba to the boarding gate, he refused to board the plane and informed the flight attendants and the authorities that he had fear of flying that inhibits him from boarding the aircraft.

Mr. Lynam, the top extradition lawyer working for Piotr Skiba told the High Court that the State Solicitor had been informed on the 9th December 2016, by Skiba’s solicitor, of his fear of flying. Mr. Lynam holds that he, nor Piotr Skiba, have received any request for proof of the fear of flying, he held that they did not receive any contact about from the State Solicitor and assumed that alternative arrangements were being discussed.

Piotr Skiba is to be imprisoned for two separate offences, both are for burglaries committed in Poland. Piotr Skiba has been sentenced to a nine-month sentence for one offence and an 18-month sentence for the other.

Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan of the Garda Extradition Unit said that they were not informed of Piotr Skiba’s fear of flying until the 12th December 2016. He went on to comment that

he was skeptical of Piotr Skiba’s sincerity because his “fear of flying” had been introduced to the proceedings at such a late stage.

Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan went on to highlight that once a court has issued as extradition order, the authorities have ten days in which they must deliver the individual of the extradition request to the country which requested them.  In this case the ten-day period expired on Christmas Day.

Kathleen Leader, a top extradition lawyer for the Irish State, said that if the High Court does not grant the State an extension of ten days, during which the extradition could be carried out, the Irish authorities would legally be bound to release Piotr Skiba from detention.

Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan stated that if the State were to extradite Piotr Skiba by land and sea, the Irish authorities would be required to notify the security services of each and every country Piotr Skiba would enter and travel though in order arrive in Poland. The Irish authorities would require the approval of each of these countries for Piotr Skiba to be able to travel through them. The process unfortunately is more complicated than a simple flight, it is more expensive, the journey time is longer and the authorities may encounter problems on the way. The main issue is that if one country does not consent to Piotr Skiba travelling through their country the extradition may not be possible.

Mr. Lynam, the top extradition lawyer working for Piotr Skiba, told the court that no medical evidence had been requested to prove that Piotr Skiba had a fear of flying. He went on to say that they had not been asked whether or not the fear was legitimate until after they had arrived at the airport. Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan stated that Piotr Skiba was far from what one would consider a happy man, when he was asked to accompany the Gardaí onto the airplane.

Mr. Justice Humphreys the High Court judge presiding over the case, granted the State solicitor an extension of ten days. The extradition is now set for the 5th January 2017. Mr. Justice Humphreys directed the authorities that Piotr Skiba be detained at Mountjoy Prison until the commencement of his extradition. Ms. Leader went on to tell the court that any time Piotr Skiba spends in the Irish prison would be credited to him as time served when serving his sentences in Poland.

There has been no new report released about whether the extradition has been successful. Ireland have a further three days to produce Piotr Skiba to Poland or he will be released.