Follow follow up to this question. I got reminded today somehow that this actually happened in my life, and to date nothing has happened. I gave into their request and deleted the review so that they'd stop spam calling me.

Anyhow, I want to ask: is it even possible to file a criminal case on someone who doesn't live in your country? What if they came to your country as a tourist?

  • Criminal cases held in absentia is certainly a thing.
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 10, 2023 at 12:25

2 Answers 2


Individually don't generally issue arrest warrants (and most jurisdictions don't allow individuals to initiate criminal prosecutions for serious crimes). And, most civilized countries don't allow criminal defendants to be tried in absentia (apart from very extreme circumstances like a defendant's flight in the middle of a trial) so you need either the criminal defendant's consent or an arrest warrant to try someone for a crime. This said, Abu Dhabi, referenced in the linked question, isn't really a civilized country as far as its legal system goes, because it is basically an absolute monarchy.

A country can request extradition from another country and if there is an extradition treaty in place, an arrest warrant for someone whose location is known in a foreign country for a serious crime will usually be authorized by a government if an arrest warrant has been issued for that crime. Extradition is usually only allowed when the crime in question is a serious crime in both the country issuing the extradition request and the country where the suspect is located.

An arrest warrant that is outstanding can also be used to arrest a tourist.

But usually countries only prosecute crimes committed in their own territory or directed at their territory that cause harm in their territory to a victim in their territory.

If someone commits a crime in another country, usually that crime has to be prosecuted in that country.


In the , a private prosecution is possible - although very unlikely in the case of Scotland. But extradition at the behest of a private party is not possible: only certain agents of the Crown are empowered to request it. Without the cooperation of the Crown, the most a private person could do is obtain a domestic summons or warrant. If the person named in the warrant is not in the UK then this piece of paper is not worth much. It can still be issued for a person who lives abroad, or at an unknown address, but the UK police have no authority to enforce it in another country, and it is meaningless on its own to the police of that country.

The extradition processes differ depending on the foreign country in question, but the common fact is that making an extradition request is an act of sovereign character, not something which a normal person can do on their own. Even when the UK participated in the European Arrest Warrant system, a request for a warrant could only be made by certain officials such as a Crown Prosecutor or a procurator fiscal. If they are involved in the case at all then they are likely to take it over anyway, either to proceed with it or to discontinue it.

Judicial supervision of the extradition process, or prosecution in general, also limits the extent to which a private party could use it to harrass somebody. For example, it is not a crime in the UK for someone to say they didn't like your hotel, so an aggrieved hotel owner will not get very far in their private criminal prosecution.

In a scenario where an irregular extradition had taken place - say, if the foreign police had bundled somebody onto a UK-bound plane without having gone through the proper channels - any subsequent prosecution would almost certainly be barred as an abuse of process. We know this because it has happened; see R v Horseferry Road Magistrates Court (ex parte Bennett) [1994] 1 AC 42.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .