As New Zealand agrees to accept 150 refugees from Australia's controversial detention centres, the High Court has blocked the extradition to Australia of a suspected people smuggler allegedly responsible for the deaths of 353 people.
Crown lawyer Christine Gordon, QC, told NBR ONLINE it is too early to say whether the Crown will appeal the High Court's decision.
According to Australian police, Iraqi-born Maythem Radhi was involved in trying to smuggle hundreds of asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia in 2001 aboard the Siev X.
The boat sank, killing 146 children, 142 women and 65 men, while 45 were rescued by Indonesian fishermen.
Radhi was granted refugee status and has been living in New Zealand since 2009.
An arrest warrant was issued from Australia alleging attempted people smuggling.
In July 2011 he was arrested at his house in Auckland.
Judge Jonathan Moses in the District Court initially decided to extradite him to Australia, but Radhi appealed.
Now, the High Court in Auckland has reversed that decision, with Justice Ed Wylie saying Radhi could not be extradited to Australia because if his alleged offence had occurred within New Zealand jurisdiction it would not have been punishable by more than a year's imprisonment.
Radhi's lawyer Roger Chambers argued there is no evidence the Siev X entered Australian waters, and no illegal immigrants arrived in Australia.
He also argued Rahdi had not actually committed an offence in Australia and therefore could not be extradited.
Ms Gordon argued it was enough that Radhi had been accused of an extraditable offence.
The decision comes as Prime Minister John Key makes a deal with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for New Zealand to take 150 refugees from Australia's controversial asylum centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.