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Irishman faces UK extradition after allegedly assaulting British cop 40 years ago

Rory McGrath is accused of breaking a West Yorkshire Police officer’s nose during a brawl outside of a pub in Leeds in 1980
Rory McGrath in 1980

Rory McGrath in 1980

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

An Irishman is facing extradition to the UK from New York where he has lived for more than 40 years on a charge of assaulting a British police officer back in 1980.

Rory McGrath, a 62-year-old dual citizen of Ireland and the United States, is accused of breaking a West Yorkshire Police officer’s nose during a brawl outside of a pub in Leeds.

Federal magistrate Judge Paul E Davison said Justice Department attorneys had met their burden of probable cause in their case to extradite McGrath who was arrested in May.

However, he can remain free on bail pending his extradition, Davison added in the order.

According to court documents, the melee in Leeds that night kicked off when one of McGrath’s friends, Leslie Swithenbank, allegedly punched another youth outside of a pub in the Garforth section of the city.

“They were giving us a load of lip, so I went and cracked one everybody joined in and we knacked ’em,” Swithenbank later told police.

When a local police officer intervened to break up the fight, a group of Swithenbank’s friends, including McGrath, ran over and allegedly began assaulting the officer.

After being thrown off Swithenbank, the police officer chased down the gang and grabbed hold of McGrath in a nearby car park.

“The silly c—t got hold of Rory this time,” one of the youths involved in the fight later told police, according to the documents.

McGrath then allegedly “booted the cop” and punched him in the face, breaking his nose. The officer, who is still alive, needed surgery to repair the injury.

McGrath and several of his friends were arrested shortly after the brawl broke out, but rather than face court he fled to New York, where he has lived ever since.

In 2018, UK authorities suddenly filed an extradition request with the US State Department, asking for him to be transferred to their custody.

McGrath told Magistrate Judge Paul Davis that he was shocked by his arrest, while the judge acknowledged that McGrath clearly did not view himself as a fugitive.

"On the one hand, Mr McGrath has apparently been a fugitive from justice for most of his adult life. On the other hand, I am told that he attended a wedding in the United Kingdom during the intervening years, which suggests to me that he did not view himself as a fugitive," Davis told the hearing on May 18.

He agreed to release McGrath on bail after his lawyer highlighted his client's health issues, which are reportedly linked to volunteering at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11.

The judge warned McGrath not to skip bail.

"You know, this has been hanging over your head all your life, and you need to get it behind you. But really, really bad things will happen to you and your family if you violate the terms of this bond," Davis told McGrath.

In an effort to beat the extradition, McGrath’s attorney, James Kousouros, said the request was defective in part because it was made based on a 2004 agreement that he argued was not applicable after the UK separated from the European Union.

Judge Davison shot down the argument, highlighting that two other federal courts in Florida ruled in similar cases that Brexit did not affect what was agreed on in 2004.

“We continue to maintain that the extradition is procedural defective, however we are most gratified that the court ruled in Mr McGrath’s favor on the issue of detention,” Kousouros told The Post on Wednesday.

In his decision to keep him free on bail, Davison noted the relatively minor punishment McGrath will face in the UK if he’s convicted of the crime.

“He faces limited penalties if convicted in the United Kingdom and would certainly be eligible for bail if charged with similar offenses in the United States,” he wrote.

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