European Arrest Warrant: A Blunt and Sinister Instrument that Hurts Us All

Prosecutors have gone to the High Court to withdraw the arrest warrant that enabled Spanish police to hold Brett and Naghemeh King in custody. I am very pleased that this family, at a time of great distress has been reunited. It was disgraceful that the parents of this poor child were dragged into police custody while he was suffering.

The deployment of a European Arrest Warrant involving Ashya King is a clear cut case of state over-reach into family life. I would argue the European Arrest Warrant is not only a blunt instrument but also one which is ultimately dangerous to our entire legal system.

A European Arrest Warrant (EAW) can be issued for a wide variety of offences, without the ‘crime’ cited being an offence under the law of the state asked to carry out the arrest. There is also no exception for political, military or revenue offences, and a state cannot refuse to surrender its own nationals even if it sees no crime under the scope of its own law.

A British citizen who may have an alibi, but who is accused of committing a crime in another EU state, could still have to be handed over to foreign authorities, potentially to spend months or years imprisoned whilst being questioned before charge, even if the acts complained about are not regarded as an offence under UK law.

Under the EAW, pushed through in 2005 by a Lib Dem MEP, you can now be arrested and deported to any EU country without evidence.

It removes the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

It is an abuse of Habeas Corpus by allowing British citizens to be imprisoned for years abroad without trial.

The EAW has removed many of the traditional safeguards in the extradition process. If a court in one country demands a person’s arrest and extradition, courts and police in other countries must act on it. In 2009, 700 people were extradited from the UK.

It means Britons in receipt of a EAW could be sent for trial anywhere else in the EU for minor crimes such as driving offences.

For example, Andrew Symeou was jailed for 10 months in a high security prison and lost four years of his life as he awaited trial, all because of a EAW charge involving mistaken identity and police brutality of witnesses.

When it was introduced, we were told the EAW was for terrorist offences, rape, murder, drug dealing and the like. Now it is used to pursue those who – perhaps misguidedly – are acting out of conscience. The slippery slope is before us.

On top of the EAW there is also the European Investigation order. Passed in the European Parliament in February this year, under this directive foreign judicial authorities will be empowered to require British police forces to conduct enquiries and gather evidence on behalf of foreign prosecutors. And we will have the privilege of paying for it all.

This is another undermining of our traditional protections and freedoms under our own British legal system.

In just a couple more months, the UK, with the backing of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government, will opt fully into the European Arrest Warrant, alongside 34 other equally pernicious EU legal schemes, without any recourse to the general public. The usual ominous silence from the Labour party, who yet again demonstrate their support for continued transfer of powers to a European superstate.

For a Government talking tough on reforming Europe, this is one of the biggest and most worrying transfers of your freedoms and your protections, and it is about to happen under their watch.

As the King case demonstrates, we need to fully extricate ourselves from this dangerous system that the EAW engenders.

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