National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK – its equivalent of the FBI – has admitted it acted unlawfully when it passed on information to Thai police regarding the murder of two of its nationals in Thailand. Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were murdered on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand, where they were backpacking.
Two Burmese nationals, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, were convicted for these murders after a trial in 2015 and face death by lethal injection. Reprieve, the anti-death penalty group, claims the trial was unfair.
The high court in London, on Tuesday, found against the NCA, in a case brought by the lawyers of the murder convicts, Lin and Phyo.
The British government opposes death penalty overseas, and there are severe restrictions on the help that British law enforcement could provide where the suspect(s) may be awarded death sentence.
In the course of its investigation, the high court found five instances of breach of government rules by the NCA. These rules were framed to mitigate UK law enforcement agencies from inadvertently aiding human rights abuse overseas. These rules are called Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance (OSJG).
After the murders, NCA shared Miller’s phone location data, among other material, with Thai police, which the NCA now admits was unlawful. In court, the NCA accepted that it was required to consult departmental ministers before sharing any such information, but it has misinterpreted the guidance issued.
The lawyers for Lin and Phyo declared in the court that “the only data that was used as evidence by the prosecution at [the murder] trial”, was the phone data records shared by NCA.
The NCA refused to comment on the case “until the court has sealed the order, which is a formality of settlement”.