Following the tabloid feeding frenzy over the Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest case, senior police officers are applying huge political pressure in order to fight more than 100 Tory MPs planning to pull Britain out of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) arrangements.
Mr Forrest was arrested on an EAW and police are scared that in future cases they would no longer be able to circumvent British courts and would instead have to produce real evidence in order to start extradition proceedings in similar cases.
At present, the police or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can apply for the warrant themselves without going before a judge and with alone the belief that a prosecution would be successful. The alleged offence also has to be an offence in both member states.
Police argue that without the EAW and because British laws are often out of step with those in European countries, it would be much more difficult for them to “bring alleged offenders to justice”.
Children’s charities are also putting significant pressure on the government not to pull out of EU police co-operation, including the EAW. One source told TheOpinionSite.org that the child protection organisations will argue – rather dramatically and wholly inaccurately – that “Paedophiles and rapists would be able to roam free in Europe if the measures were scrapped.”
Such statements are of course total nonsense as extradition would still be possible but only if the alleged UK offence was also an offence in the relevant EU country and only if sufficient hard evidence had been produced.
The main problem for the UK and the police in cases where under 16s are involved, which is what the Megan Stammers case is all about, is that very few other EU countries agree with the British view of ‘child protection’.
Many EU states have the age of consent set lower than in the UK – France being one of them – and none have the kind of American style, politically powerful child protection “industry” that exists in Britain today.
Jeremy Forrest and Megan Stammers would not have been apprehended in France if the EAW had not been issued as the couple (“couple” being a word that no newspaper or official body has dared to use) were not committing any offence under French law.
For the same reason, they would not have been stopped in Spain, Greece, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland or most other EU states.
The EAW enables people to be brought back from another EU country on the flimsiest of excuses, be that supported by evidence or not. More importantly for the British establishment, it provides a means of spreading British law beyond the shores of Dover and of imposing those laws on British citizens that have left the UK.
TheOpinionSite.org must point out however that it is not this aspect of the EAW that is troubling the rebel Conservative MPs that want David Cameron to pull out of the pan-European arrangements.
What they are concerned about is the possibility that EU prosecutors may be trying to do to Britain what Britain is already doing to other EU states.
“We do not wish to subordinate UK authorities to a pan-European public prosecutor. We do not want to see British police forces subjected to mandatory demands by European police under the European Investigation Order. We have deep concerns about the operation of the European Arrest Warrant for our citizens. We want the UK supreme court to have the last word on UK crime and policing, not the European Court of Justice,” they said.
The MPs concerned want Cameron to use his right to “opt out” of the EU policing arrangements but also want to be able to “opt in” again if it is convenient or politically expedient to do so.
They do not quite put it that way of course but that is what they mean. They believe that scrapping Britain’s involvement in the EAW would prevent further loss of sovereignty to Brussels.
Although not for the same reasons, TheOpinionSite.org too believes that the UK should pull out of the EAW but we also believe that the European Arrest Warrant should be scrapped in its entirety.
We do not believe that it is correct that one country’s laws should be enforceable in another country, whether that be British law being applied in France or American law being applied in Britain.
Nor is the EAW strictly necessary. Interpol has existed for years and has enabled cooperation between national police forces where appropriate. It all worked well before the EAW so why is it so necessary now?
It also has to be said, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Britain has been dishonest in its use of the EAW and in efforts to expand British influence across Europe. The old British Empire that enabled British wealth on the back of slavery and the persecution of others has long since been consigned to the dustbin thank God but MPs especially find this hard to accept.
The European Arrest Warrant was brought in originally to allow EU member states to respond to threats of terrorism. It is Britain that has corrupted that principal and British police and prosecutors within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in particular that have instigated “mission creep” in order to use the EAW for as many offences as possible, especially those that are populist or paint the police in a good light.
Naturally, like their British counterparts, EU politicians were pleased to support anything that would give them more power over others.
Officially, an EAW can only be issued for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution (not merely an investigation) or enforcing a custodial sentence.It can only be issued for offences carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months or more – which covers most arrestable offences in the UK.
The introduction of the EAW system was intended to increase the speed and ease of extradition throughout EU countries by removing the political and administrative phases of decision-making which had characterised the previous system of extradition in Europe, and converting the process into a system run entirely by the judiciary.
Since it was first implemented in 2004 the use of the EAW has steadily risen. Member state country evaluation reports suggest that the number of EAWs issued has increased from approximately 3,000 in 2004 to 13,500 in 2008.
Whether one feels sorry for or condemns Jeremy Forrest for his actions is irrelevant with regard to the European Arrest Warrant. The device has been misused by the British since its inception and British law has removed the need for the police or CPS to go to court in order to secure an EAW.
Under the Extradition Act 2003, an application for a European Arrest Warrant can be made by either the police or the Crown Prosecution Service. There is no need to consult a British judge.
The EAW is a dangerous instrument in the hands of the British and one or two other member states, such as Poland for example.
Double criminality is a feature of international extradition law by which states may refuse to extradite fugitives if the conduct which is alleged to have constituted a criminal offence in the state requesting extradition would not have resulted in the commission of a criminal offence in the state being asked to effect the extradition.
Under the EAW Framework Decision, the requirement for double criminality is removed for a wide range of categories of crimes, and made a discretionary rather than a compulsory ground for a refusal to extradite for offences not falling within those categories.
The categories within which are as follows:
- participation in a criminal organisation,
- trafficking in human beings,
- sexual exploitation of children and child pornography,
- illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,
- illicit trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives,
- fraud, including fraud affecting the financial interests of the European Union,
- laundering of the proceeds of crime,
- counterfeiting currency,
- computer-related crime,
- environmental crime, including illicit trafficking in endangered animal species and in endangered plant species and varieties,
- facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence,
- murder, grievous bodily injury,
- illicit trade in human organs and tissue,
- kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage-taking,
- racism and xenophobia,
- organised or armed robbery,
- illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including antiques and works of art,
- racketeering and extortion,
- counterfeiting and piracy of products,
- forgery of administrative documents and trafficking therein,
- forgery of means of payment,
- illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters,
- illicit trafficking in nuclear or radioactive materials,
- trafficking in stolen vehicles,
- crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,
- unlawful seizure of aircraft or ships, and
Much of the above expanded list was the result of British insistence when the EAW was originally negotiated and, because of the unique manner in which British prosecutors can frame their charges, there is virtually no area of British law which is not covered.
The fact that the UK has no Statute of Limitation on any criminal offence means for example that an ex-pat who has been living a blameless life in Spain for the last 20 years can, without any warning at all, be served with an EAW requested by British police.
Nick Clegg supports the EAW (rather surprisingly in the view of TheOpinionSite.org) and Cameron doesn’t really know what to do about it. At least they are discussing it though, unlike Tony Blair who was a supporter of anything at all that enabled him to put more people in prison.
As for the police, the CPS and their efforts to safeguard one of their favourite tools for getting easy convictions, one can only say that like Tony Blair, they are always in favour of anything that allows them to lock up more and more people.
The European Arrest Warrant does not offer justice to anyone but it is a gift for politicians who want easy votes from popular convictions. For this reason alone, the police and CPS are likely to get their way yet again if significant back bench pressure is not applied to David Cameron.
Although we are not supporters of mainstream Conservative politicians and much as we are supporters of the EU, we sincerely hope that the rebel Tory MPs succeed in their attempts to force the weakening of the EAW and more especially that they persuade the prime minister to pull out of the scheme.
The EAW is completely flawed, completely corrupt in its usage and has no place in a society that allegedly supports justice over state power. The sooner Britain pulls out of the EAW the better; so for once – and possibly the only time – TheOpinionSite.org cheers those Tory rebels on their way and supports them in their objective.
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