Key obstacles in Toyah murder suspect extradition
A LONG and agonising wait likely lies ahead for family members desperate to see Toyah Cordingley's accused killer brought to justice in Australia.
An Attorney-General's Department decision to issue an extradition order to India is the first step in bringing suspect Rajwinder Singh to face the Australian justice system.
However, former Queensland Law Society president and criminal lawyer Bill Potts warned there was still a long road ahead.
"I would urge patience and caution from those who think this will be a swift process. It simply will not be," he said.
Australia has an extradition agreement with India but the process is notoriously difficult to negotiate with legal appeals and a massive administrative backlog likely to draw out any result.
Then there is the matter of finding the fugitive.
"While India is a sovereign nation with a functioning judicial system, it is very difficult and sometimes nigh on impossible to extradite someone from India to Australia," Mr Potts said.
"Firstly, India is a very large place with a huge population, and it is very easy for people to change their names and hide within the country.
"Secondly, the judicial system, whilst functioning, is massively overcrowded and we can expect there will be significant delays even if they can find him. The third issue is that, more often than not … (accused parties) use various delaying tactics."
The extradition of another Indian national, Puneet Puneet, accused of fleeing while awaiting sentence after killing Dean Hofstee in a hit-and-run in Melbourne in 2008, has hit multiple roadblocks.
Puneet's lawyer has claimed he would not be safe in Australia and that Australians are racist, based on alleged recent slurs made against Indian cricketers.
Mr Potts said others facing extradition orders had claimed mental health problems and other issues to further impede the process.
The inability for Australian police officers to travel overseas due to COVID-19 is just another glaring obstacle.
"It is often subject to what we in Australia would judge to be spurious claims of racism and a lack of ability to get a fair trial in Australia as a means of delaying or preventing the extradition," Mr Potts said.
It will be difficult, but that is no reason to give up hope.
"It is enormously difficult but not impossible. There have been a number of major league drug dealers, sex traffickers and human traffickers who have been able to be brought across," Mr Potts said.
EXTRADITION EFFORT TIMELINE
October 21, 2018
Toyah Cordingley reported missing after taking her dog for a walk at Wangetti Beach. Her accused killer Rajwinder Singh is believed to have fled to India on the same day.
October 22, 2018
Troy Cordingley finds his daughter's body and a murder investigation begins.
An awareness campaign with thousands of bumper stickers launches across Cairns and Australia at large.
September 18, 2019
Queensland Police Service quietly issues a warrant for Singh's arrest - but the decision is not made public to protect the case.
October 19, 2019
A permanent memorial for Toyah is unveiled at Wangetti Beach with more than a hundred people, many arriving on Harley Davidsons, gathering for the emotional public ceremony.
December 3, 2019
The Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions gives an undertaking to prosecute Mr Singh on December 3, 2019. This kicks off the process for the federal Attorney-General's department to start its extradition effort.
Queensland Police coordinate a massive effort to gather evidence from witnesses across Australia. This evidence will later form a significant part of the extradition request.
March 19, 2021
Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker confirms she has signed a request but warns extraditions can vary wildly in complexity.
She said the government did not generally comment on steps along the extradition process but "given the intense community and media interest … I am publicly confirming that a formal extradition request has been approved by me … "
Originally published as 'Delaying tactic': Key obstacles in Toyah murder suspect extradition