The Court considered that the diplomatic assurances, provided by the US to the British Government - that the death penalty would not be sought in respect of Mr Harkins or Mr Edwards - were clear and sufficient to remove any risk that either of the applicants could be sentenced to death if extradited, particularly as the US had a long history of respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Therefore, the Court rejected the applicants’ related complaints as inadmissible.
In Mr Harkins’ case, the Court was not persuaded that it would be grossly disproportionate for Mr Harkins to be given a mandatory life sentence in the US. He had been over 18 at the time of his alleged crime, had not been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, and the killing had been part of an armed robbery attempt - an aggravating factor. Further, he had not yet been convicted, and – even if he were convicted and given a mandatory life sentence - keeping him in prison might continue to be justified throughout his life time. And if that were not the case, the Governor of Florida and the Florida Board of Executive Clemency could, in principle, decide to reduce his sentence.
As regards Mr Edwards, he faced - at most - a discretionary life sentence without parole.
Given that it could only be imposed after consideration by the trial judge of all relevant factors and only if Mr Edwards were convicted for a pre-meditated murder, the Court concluded that such a sentence would not be grossly disproportionate.
Consequently, there would be no violation of Article 3 if either Mr Harkins or Mr Edwards were extradited.
The Court rejected Mr Edwards’ related complaint under Article 5 as inadmissible.
The Court held that the indication it had given to the British Government not to extradite the applicants until further notice had to remain in force until today’ judgment became final or until the Court decided to accept a potential request by either or both parties for referral of the case to the Court’s Grand Chamber.
Separate opinion Judge Garlicki and judge Kalaydjieva expressed concurring opinions which are annexed to the judgment.