LONDON - Plans to extradite a former Catholic priest to New Zealand to face child sex assault charges from the 1980s are a "fundamental incursion" into his rights, a London court was told yesterday.

Alan John Woodcock, 54, formerly of Upper Hutt, is appealing against a British court order backing his extradition to New Zealand.

He is accused of indecently assaulting 11 teenage boys at Silverstream and Palmerston North between 1982 and 1985, while working as a teacher.

After an hour-long hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Lord Justice Sir Simon Brown and Justice Sir Roger Royce reserved their decision and are expected to make a ruling next week.

Woodcock was arrested in London last year and has been required to surrender his passport as part of his bail conditions.

He was not required in court yesterday and did not make an appearance.

Woodcock's counsel, Clair Dobbin, told the court that his appeal against extradition should be granted, as forcing him to move from his home country to face trial was a "fundamental incursion" into his rights.

"The claimant left [New Zealand] in 1987 as a free man, he was not a fugitive," Ms Dobbin said.

Woodcock had lived in Britain since then and had settled down.

Ms Dobbin said the length of time between the alleged offences and the laying of charges was unfair on Woodcock and she questioned whether it would affect his chances of a fair trial.

Counsel for the New Zealand Government, James Lewis, QC, said the effect of the time delay on the case needed to be clearly demonstrated.

If the appeal is dismissed, the extradition request will then be considered by Britain's Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

However, Woodcock could still take his case to the House of Lords, although such an appeal is thought to be unlikely.

- NZPA