Duchess of York may face police quiz over undercover TV documentary highlighting 'plight' of Turkish orphans

By Rebecca English and Stephen Wright

September 16, 2009 / dailymail.co.uk

The Duchess of York faces arrest and questioning over claims she broke the law by taking part in an undercover television documentary on the plight of Turkish orphans.

The programme, which was aired on ITV last year, claimed to expose the 'appalling' conditions facing youngsters living in state-run institutions and showed footage in which a number of severely disabled inmates appeared to have been tied to their beds by staff.

The Duchess's youngest daughter, Princess Eugenie, accompanied her mother in the trip and wept when she saw the conditions some children lived in.

The documentary has outraged the Turkish authorities, however, who have accused Prince Andrew's former wife and her daughter of breaking privacy laws by going undercover.

Police quiz: The Duchess of York and her daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie travel to Romania and Turkey with an undercover reporting team to expose the shocking conditions inside state-run institutions for orphans and disabled children.

Last night it emerged that a request has now been made to the Home Office for Sarah to be formally questioned over the allegations. There is no indication yet as to whether the Queen's grand-daughter would be interviewed as well.

Sources say it is too early to say whether the Duchess would be arrested but confirmed that both the Home Office and Scotland Yard were discussing the issue and may well need to speak to her in due course.

It is unlikely that any attempt to extradite her would be successful, however, on legal grounds - encouraging news for the Duchess as Turkish jails are renowned for their harsh conditions, as depicted in the Hollywood movie Midnight Express.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman declined to comment yesterday, saying: 'As a matter of course we do not discuss requests for mutual legal assistance that we may or may not have had from foreign authorities unless assistance has already been given.'

The Home Office added: 'We would not confirm or deny any individual mutual legal assistance request or extradition requests.'

But a source said: 'A request has been received from the Turkish Government for this matter to be looked into on a formal footing. It is not clear yet how this would take place and enquiries are in their very early stages. Discussions are taking place about how matters should proceed.'

The Duchess is currently at a film festival in Canada and was not available for comment last night.

In a statement issued at the time the programme was broadcast, her spokesman said: 'The Duchess of York has no political motivation. This is all about the welfare of children. She is apolitical.'

Tonight have always maintained their covert filming was 'in the public interest.'

However the Turkish authorities firmly believe that the programme was part of a wide-spread smear campaign to derail their bid for membership of the European Union. The country has already been warned that their application is in part dependent on cleaning up their human rights record.

Social Affairs Minister Nimet Cubukcu said recently: 'It is very clear that Mrs Sarah Ferguson has bad intentions . She is obviously in a campaign to blacken Turkey's name.'

Britain has an extradition deal with Turkey under the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition.

Under the convention a suspect can be extradited if they are accused of an offence which is punishable in both Turkey and Britain by at least one year in prison.

Last night it was still unclear exactly what offence the Turks are accusing Sarah Ferguson of, or whether an equivalent crime under UK law would qualify. Royal insiders have voiced doubts as to whether Turkey could meet this test.

If Turkey does push ahead with an extradition bid, it will submit a draft request to the Crown Prosecution Service for discussion followed by a formal request to Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

Turkey is on a list of countries which does not have to provide any evidence against a suspect when lodging a request.

The Home Secretary would then pass the matter to the courts for an extradition hearing, where a judge must decide whether the request ticks various legal boxes, including the 'dual criminality' test and a double jeopardy safeguard, and whether Sarah Ferguson's human rights would be in danger in Turkey.

If a judge approved a bid it would then pass back to the Home Secretary to decide whether any legal grounds to block the request applied in this case.

If an extradition were then approved, Sarah Ferguson could potentially appeal to the High Court and then the Supreme Court.

During the documentary, entitled: Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission, Sarah disguised herself with a black wig and a headscarf during a visit to the Saray orphanage near the Turkish capital of Ankara, where more than 700 disabled children are housed.

Their film purported to show children tied to their beds or left in cots all day, not even being taken out to be fed, leading the Duchess to rage:: 'It made me so angry. My eyes have been opened.'

Sarah, who divorced the Queen's son, Prince Andrew in 1996, has made a series of television documentaries of late, some better received than others.

Her most recent effort, in which she travelled to a run-down Manchester estate to help build a community centre, was lambasted by locals as 'patronising'.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment last night. However it is understood that official were unhappy at Eugenie's involvement in the documentary at the time.


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