Today in the House of Commons David Cameron again lied through his teeth in a desperate attempt to counter the UKIP electoral threat.
He has promised a vote on the European Arrest Warrant in the House of Commons before the Rochester and Strood by-election. In his speech to the House he said that there had been a ‘massive transfer of powers back the UK’ (re police and criminal justice measures); that someone ‘cannot be extradited for something that is not a crime in the UK’; that British Judges ‘can reject EAW requests’; and that no one will be extradited ‘for long periods of detention’. The truth is very different. Let’s take it one by one.
1. The Government has announced its decision to ‘opt out’ of 100 EU police and criminal justice measures and ‘opt in’ 35 others. The 100 “powers” in question are in fact non-powers: minor, ineffective, duplicative, or redundant. By contrast, the 35 ‘opt-ins’ proposed by the Government are very significant and dangerous. As the House of Commons Select Committee on Hone Affairs has concluded, the combination of ‘opt outs’ and ‘opt ins’ proposed by the Government “will not result in any repatriation of powers” and “may result in the net flow of powers in the opposite direction” from the UK to the EU. There is no repatriation of powers.
2. Extradition can be refused if ‘the crime or part of the crime were committed in the UK and if it is not a crime in the UK’. But this does not apply to crimes committed outside the UK but which are crimes in the EU country concerned. Since the categories of crime listed in the EAW are often vague, and no prima facie evidence is provided, it will be extremely difficult for the accused person to prove this point in the extradition court.
3. Judges have very limited power to refuse extradition, but one of these is ‘proportionality’; e.g. that the crime is considered too petty to warrant extradition, e.g. stealing a bicycle. All well and good, but this does not apply to serious crimes like assault, manslaughter or murder accusations where a suspect can still be extradited on the basis on no evidence whatsoever being presented to the British extradition court. Why is it good to protect a suspect accused of a petty crime but not someone accused of a serious crime?
4. ‘People will not be detained for long periods of time’. This is impossible to know or enforce. Continental judicial systems are different to the English system whereby the police arrest after they have gathered evidence. Under many continental systems the investigative system means that suspects can imprisoned for months or years while the crime is investigated by a presiding Magistrate. Once on foreign soil we have no influence over how long or not a suspect may be detained before charge or trial.
Opposition to the European Arrest Warrant , and the other 34 measures to be adopted, is not about protecting criminals – it is about protecting the rights of British citizens against unjust arrest and imprisonment. We need a fair and just extradition system that does two things: brings criminals to justice, and protects the rights of the innocent.
Parliament should reject the EAW when the vote comes. Existing international conventions on extradition can be invoked until we have replaced the EAW with a fair and just Extradition Act.