A man suspected of killing a young woman on a secluded Queensland beach before fleeing abroad just hours later has agreed to return to potentially face charges of murder.
38-year old nurse Rajwinder Singh is suspected of murdering Toya Cordingley at a beach near Cairns in 2018 while the 24-year old was alone walking her dog.
Mr Singh was arrested in the northern Indian state of Punjab just weeks after Queensland police announced a $1 million reward last November for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
A win/win for both nations
Mr Singh’s agreement to be extradited from India is considered a win/win for both Australian and Indian authorities, as it means he will be here sooner rather than later to face the allegations without wasting resources in either nation. In that regard, it has been reported that years could have been spent resisting extradition, with India currently having over 50 million cases awaiting finalisation.
Presumption of innocence
It is important to note that while he has been arrested, Mr Singh has not been charged with any offence and is presumed to be innocent until and unless he is ultimately found otherwise in a court of law.
And, in India, cases such as this can take years to reach the courts – according to statistics, last year there were more than 50 million pending cases before the courts.
Mr Singh is an Australian citizen of Indian origin, and his wife and adult children live here.
Now that he has agreed to be extradited to Australia, the Indian Government must also give its consent, but it has promised to expedite the case, which means Mr Singh is expected to be back in Australia within the next few weeks.
He has been detained for now in Tihar maximum security prison, which incarcerates around 17,000 inmates.
Reports from abroad
Indian media has reported that Mr Singh told Delhi police he got into an argument with Ms Cordingley over her dog barking at him and has denied murdering her.
It has further been reported that Mr Singh witnessed her killing, but was not a party to it.
Ms Cordingley’s father found her daughter’s body half-buried in the sand, and the dog was found tied up to a tree, unharmed.
What is extradition?
Extradition is the name given to the process enabling a country to request that another apprehend a person for the purposes of sending them to the requesting country to face investigation, prosecution or to serve a sentence.
Australia’s agreement extends to many countries around the globe, although we have a similar, but separate, extradition arrangement with New Zealand.
The process of extradition in Australia is managed by the Attorney-General’s Department. In most cases, a provisional arrest request is made to the other nation. This is an urgent request to arrest the person pending receipt and processing of a formal extradition request.
Each country has a different process and, in many cases, it can several take months or even longer for an extradition request to be processed.
But once extradition is ordered, the person subject to the order must be given the opportunity to seek legal advice and brought before a court of the jurisdiction in which they are arrested as soon as possible.
There are a number of countries that have bilateral extradition arrangements with Australia. These are:
- Hong Kong
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
- United States of America
Specific information is available online about the individual treaties with each country.
What factors will be taken into consideration when deciding whether to extradite?
Although requests for extradition from the above countries will be considered, they are not automatically granted.
There are a number of exemptions that can lead to extradition being denied and the alleged offender remaining in Australia and either facing the legal system here, or if their offence is not considered a crime under Australian law (dual criminality), potentially being released.
The factors that can potentially lead to extradition being denied include:
- If the alleged offence was political or military in nature.
- If the person being held has already been acquitted, punished or pardoned for behaviour that constitutes the same offence.
- If extradition is sought for the purposes of punishing the person on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or political opinion.
- If the person is likely to face prejudice or be detained on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or political opinion.
If it is decided that a person is to be extradited from Australia, they will be required to remain in custody while they are here unless there are special circumstances that would allow for bail to be granted.