Notorious on-the-run conwoman Farah Damji arrested in Galway and remanded in custody

Ugandan-born Farah Damji is wanted in the UK to serve out the remainder of her prison sentence for stalking and breaching a restraining order

Farah Damji (Photo: Met Police)

Aodhan O FaolainSunday World

The High Court has remanded in custody a woman who is wanted in the UK to serve out the remainder of her prison sentence for stalking and breaching a restraining order.

55-year-old Ugandan-born Farah Damji was arrested on Wednesday by members of An Garda Siochana at a property in rural Co Galway before being brought before the vacation sitting of the High Court in Dublin.

The British-raised Ms Damji, who has several fraud convictions in a number of jurisdictions, was arrested on foot of a bench warrant issued over her alleged failure to appear before courts that were considering the extradition request.

She had claimed she should not be surrendered due to inadequacies of the UK prison system’s mental health services would have an impact on her fundamental rights.

In June the Supreme Court dismissed her arguments and upheld an earlier decision by the High Court to order her surrender to the UK.

A stay was placed on the order for her extradition pending the final determination on when her surrender should take place.

She had been on bail while her appeal was being considered.

However, a bench warrant seeking her arrest was issued after she breached the terms of her bail.

It was claimed that in breach of one of the terms of her bail she had failed to appear before the Supreme or High Courts when they were considering her case.

Farah Damji (55) Photograph: Collins Courts

On Wednesday afternoon Damji appeared before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds following her arrest by Detective Garda Eoin Kane of the Garda Extradition Unit at an address outside Ballinasloe, in Co Galway.

Following an application by Alison Fynes Bl for the Minister the judge agreed to remand Ms Damji in custody pending her extradition.

The Judge, after considering the Supreme Court's decision, also lifted the stay on the extradition order that had previously been granted by the courts.

The Judge said it appeared that Ms Damji had "exhausted every avenue" available to her regarding the extradition request.

In reply, solicitor Elise Martin Vignerte for Damji said that their client may bring other proceedings, including seeking an inquiry into the legality of her detention, aimed at preventing the extradition from taking and asked the court not to lift the stay and simply to adjourn the proceedings.

The judge said that she was not prepared to leave the stay in place and cleared the way for Ms Damji's surrender to take place.

The issue of bringing of any further proceedings was a matter for Ms Damji, the judge added.

Previously the Courts had heard that Ms Damji came to Ireland having absconded during her trial in London in February 2020.

She was convicted in her absence by a London Court of twice breaching a restraining order in April and June 2018 and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.

She was arrested in Dublin in August 2020 and detained in custody in this State for seven months, before being granted bail.

Damji, who was living at an address in Dublin, also has a criminal record for fraud and theft reaching back to the 1990s.

Giving the Supreme Court's decision, which was reached unanimously by the five judges that consider the appeal, Mr Justice John MacMenamin said there was no basis for concluding High Court judge erred in his findings that led to him ordering Damji’s extradition.

Ms Damji submitted that she has significant psychological vulnerabilities because of a history of experiencing abuse as a child and an adult, along with other traumatic events.

She contended that her condition would likely deteriorate further if she was obliged to serve the balance of her sentence, expected to be relatively short, in the UK.

Any order for her surrender to the UK would contravene her rights under the 2003 European Arrest Warrant Act which prohibits such orders from being made in situations where they would be incompatible with the State's obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights or the Constitution, she also claimed.

However, the Supreme Court found the evidence did not establish that Damji would be denied reasonable and required treatment while serving the short remainder of her sentence.

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