European Arrest Warrant? Let's arrest Brussels instead

The European Arrest Warrant could have you extradited on trumped up charges of stealing a wheelbarrow or an apple -- it's happened. Britain should get out of it and arrest Brussels instead

I never stole that apple...
Robin Mitchinson
On 10 November 2014 12:59

Let’s take a look at another EU ruckus, apart from the smash-and-grab raid for €2 billion.This is the wretched European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which Parliament must decide today whether to opt back into. Kitten-heels May is wedded to it, as befits her authoritarian nature.

A couple of years ago she was talking about leaving, possibly before her ambitions had No 10 in their cross-hairs. Between 80 and 100 Tory MPs are not. The Tory Party was agin it when it was introduced 10 years ago.

It was brought in as an anti-terrorist measure. It has never been used for this as far as one can tell from the typically scant records, despite Mrs May’s assertion that it is essential. Instead it has been used to collar ordinary offenders for such trivia as not paying the carpenter for fitting a new door or not paying for desert in a restaurant. It is frequently used for minor offences, such as the theft of a bicycle, an apple, or, in one case, a wheelbarrow.

When it was introduced, there was no entitlement to legal representation at the surrender proceedings or interpretation services at the trial. The Assange case decide that the EAW could be issued by a civil servant, not necessarily by a judge or magistrate.

At a different level, English judges have been outspoken in their view that the judicial system, the judiciary and the courts in a number of EU countries do not meet ‘acceptable standards’. Courts in Eastern Europe are often Cold War remnants, notoriously incompetent and often corrupt. There is a distinct prosecution bias.

There is no obligation to carry out a ‘proportionality’ check to determine whether the offence is sufficiently serious to warrant extradition. Lengthy pre-trial detention in abysmal conditions are far from uncommon.

Over 1,000 EAWs are issued every month. In a typical year, the UK will make about 200 requests; by contrast about 700 people are extradited to Europe from the UK compared with about 20 to the US. The system is clogged by trivia. And, of course, there is considerable expense, around £30  million.

There have been some staggering miscarriages of justice.

Andrew Symeou, a London student, was accused of the murder of a fellow-Briton in Greece. The prosecution was thrown out for lack of evidence.

Nearly three years later the prosecution appealed, unknown to the accused. He was hauled back to Greece under an EAW. He was in jail for11 months, then held under house arrest. At the end of four years of torment, Andrew was released when the court ruled that there was no case to answer and it became obvious that he had been fitted-up by the police.

Then there was Graham Mitchell. He was hauled back to Portugal on a charge of attempted murder 18 years after being acquitted. The case was then dropped. A retired school-teacher in fragile health faced a Polish EAW for exceeding his bank overdraft 10 years previously.

You can be prosecuted for an offence  in another country which you have never visited, and for something that is not a crime in English law. Take the disgraceful case of the Australian academic who was arrested on a German EAW at Heathrow Airport in transit from the USA to Australia for holocaust-denial, a crime that does not  exist in English law. He had never been to Germany.

He was released after a couple of days in jail.

All extradition proceedings, not just EAW should meet at least three basic criteria.

The alleged offence must be a crime in English law. There must be evidence that a crime has actually been committed. There must be evidence that the accused committed the offence.

The Netherlands does not accept the EAW unless for a crime under Dutch law. Typically, the French simply ignore it. The UK must dump it.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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