The Sun Gets Jack Shepherd’s Last Georgia-Based Interview


"Thank you, Georgia, love you Georgia, see you Georgia," said Jack Shepherd, the fugitive Brit, as he was escorted to the airport by Georgian penitentiary services officers to be handed over to the representatives of the British police ahead of his looming extradition.

Shepherd, who was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in 2018, fled to Georgia and, after spending nearly 10 months on the run, handed himself over to Georgian police in January. After initially turning down the simplified extradition procedure, he consented to an extradition request from the UK, citing his motivation to “participate in the appeal court process and be close to his son and family.”

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani signed his extradition, although it emerged in the media that the flight arrangements for Shepherd’s departure were made even before the Minister gave her official consent to extradition, something that left Shepherd’s defense team disappointed with how the Georgian justice system handled matters, as his Georgian lawyer claimed: “the case acquired a distinctly political character.” The day after his arrival in the UK, Shepherd faced the UK court, to be slapped with an additional 6-month sentence for skipping bail and was told it would be served consecutively to his 6-year sentence for manslaughter.

According to the passengers on the Tbilisi-London flight, the British media had a field day with Shepherd on the plane, incessantly quizzing him ahead of his unclear future in his home country. However, it was Britain’s largest paper, The Sun, that got most out of him, including perhaps the most comprehensive interview that he gave during his stay in Georgia, one day before leaving the country and while still in his cell. Shepherd answered each and every question aimed at him and, as his Georgian adventure nears its end, GEORGIA TODAY is publishing the full version of The Sun’s interview for its readers.

If your appeal is unsuccessful, would you be prepared to take your case to a higher court? For example, ECHR?

I’m not a legal expert, but my understanding is that it’s not really a European or human rights issue; the question arises in British law and I think the judges and appeal court are best placed to answer questions about my case.

Once your case is resolved, or your appeal is successful, what will you do next? Will you stay in Britain?

I haven't decided. My son is in Britain. I’ve always worked in Britain. I think it may be difficult for me to find work there given the media coverage that I experienced. Having said that, I do have obligations, debts, I want to provide for my son, so I’ll try to find decent work somewhere, be that Britain or someplace else, another European country perhaps, or even Georgia – I’m not sure at this point.

Would that mean you take your family with you?

Wherever I end up working, I would like to always spend a good amount of the year with my son. I’m not with him now. Ideally, it would be him spending some of the year with me or me spending some of the year in the UK.

Have you given up your career of web developer?

I’m up for trying something else. If the opportunity arises in prison to learn new things, like carpentry, I would give it a go, but I think in reality, considering I want to pay off my debts and provide for my family, I think I’m best off sticking to the trade I know.

Do you plan at any stage of your life to go into politics?

No, I really don’t have such plans.

You firmly believe you are innocent of manslaughter but do you take any responsibility for Charlotte’s death? People who blame you for what happened say it was your boat, so it was morally if not legally your responsibility to ensure her safety.

Obviously, this is something I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about. To a certain extent, I agree with that; I do clearly bear some of the moral responsibility for Charlotte’s death; I don’t deny that. Further, I can understand why some people, including Charlotte’s family, apportion the entire blame to me. I think it’s understandable, but from my perspective the reality is not quite so simple. There were a number of factors that led to the accident, some external ones, some being my decisions, some being Charlotte’s decisions too.

Could you elaborate on those decisions?

For example, it was our joint decision to go out on the boat that night, Charlotte’s desire to drive it, my decision to permit her to drive it. Perhaps I ought to have instructed her more than I did. But then again, it was openly Charlotte’s decision to accelerate in the manner that she did and I failed to prevent her. In the end I survived, Charlotte lost her life. You see, it’s a shared [responsibility]. And there are matters of luck or fate — an unseen log in the path of the boat. In the end, I survived while Charlotte lost her life. These things could have been very different.

Regarding her parents, when I read the comments, a recurring phrase is that he never said that he was sorry; they believe you never apologized. Would you be ready to apologize? That would probably mean a lot to them; if not, why not?

Absolutely, unreservedly. I apologise for the role I played, and undeniably I did play a part. They have my sincere sympathies and condolences and I understand why they apportion the blame as they do. If I was in the same situation, I would probably feel the same way. I am very sorry for what happened. It was a tragedy and if I could do anything to change what happened, I really would.

Do YOU regret running away?

Yes. It was the consequences; it upset people and it was against my own interests. I truly believe my being there in the court to explain my case might have made the jury give a different conclusion. At the same time, the choice I felt I faced at that time really was between running and committing suicide and so in a way I am not entirely regretful; I am glad I didn’t choose the other option.

Do you believe in the British justice system?

I think by and large it is fair. I think on occasions it makes mistakes, but I do have respect for the institution and people who work there. The fact that I ran away, that happened not because I had doubts about the British justice system, it was a decision made out of fear, based on emotions.

What reasonable request you will make in the prison? Access to books, tv, video games?

I don’t know. I hope, you know in Georgia I luckily had books which were greatly helpful in my state; I don’t know how it will be in British prison.

By Vazha Tavberidze

11 April 2019 18:38