THE BLOG

Why We Need the European Arrest Warrant

10/11/2014 01:25 GMT | Updated 09/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Significant reforms were introduced in July to the procedure in respect of European Arrest Warrants.

There is now clearly a test for proportionality so that UK Police Forces are not going to execute European Arrest Warrants for trivial or minor crimes that wouldn't receive a custodial sentence here.

It is also necessary to be able to demonstrate dual criminality - in other words the European Arrest Warrant won't be executed if the offence is not also a crime in the United Kingdom.

The Judge being requested to issue the European Arrest Warrant also has to be satisfied as to the readiness of the case - in other words that the case is ready to go to trial and that the European Arrest Warrant isn't simply being used as a means of detaining people indefinitely or going on some "fishing expedition".

In other words, people are only going to be extradited if the offences are serious, where the authorities elsewhere are ready to proceed and where the matters are also crimes here in the UK.

Since 2009, 221 people have been extradited by the Thames Valley Police under a European Arrest Warrant and this year the Thames Valley Police have extradited five high-risk offenders from the United Kingdom, i.e. someone who is wanted for the most serious of offences, including murder, terrorism offences, armed robbery, serious assault and firearms' offences.

Significant extraditions in 2014 by the Thames Valley Police include a Polish individual wanted for GBH and aggravated burglary in Poland. This individual had numerous convictions for violent offences. Assessed as high-risk, the Warrant was received, processed and executed within 24 hours, removing a potential offender and providing reassurance to the community. Indeed, clearly our local community in the Thames Valley has been safeguarded by this person's removal from the UK.

Equally an individual wanted for taking part in the murder of two youths in Milton Keynes was arrested in Holland under the provisions of a European Arrest Warrant. He was extradited back to the UK where he now awaits trial.

Since July, Thames Valley Police has also collected one suspect under the provision of a European Arrest Warrant for fraud offences which had a criminal benefit of £150,000.

So the European Arrest Warrant is being used to help keep us safe by removing foreign criminals from our communities.

I think the House also has to remember that of those extradited from the UK under the European Arrest Warrant, the overall majority are foreign nationals.

So the Metropolitan Police show that 95% of the nearly 1,500 criminal suspects including murderers and rapists who fled to London to avoid facing justice overseas but have been extradited over the past five years under the European Arrest Warrant were foreign nationals.

So of those 1,500 criminal suspects in the Met Police area - which included 45 alleged killers, 35 men wanted for rape, 25 accused of child sex offences and 30 suspected armed robbers, 2 alleged terrorists, 130 people wanted for drug trafficking and 252 accused of fraud - only 67 - less than 5% of the total were Britons.

This is largely about ensuring that people cannot flee to the United Kingdom as some sort of safe haven from crime.

As Lord Howard of Lympne, a former Home Secretary, has observed very clearly (and Lord Howard has not be known for being a great supporter of the European Union) when he made these comments:

"I hope that Parliament will endorse the Government's sensible approach ... justice delayed, too often is justice denied"

Lord Howard then went on to say:

"I have seen the benefits of the Arrest Warrant and expressed concerns about its shortcomings. Now that this Government has acted to address those shortcomings, it should continue to be a tool at the disposal of our Law Enforcement Agencies".

The Arrest Warrant enabled Hussain Osman, one of the failed London bombers of July 2012, who fled to Italy, to be brought back to Britain for trial in just 56 days.

By contrast, the man who masterminded the Paris Metro attack in 1995 which killed eight people, was able to shelter in London for ten years before he could be extradited because the Warrant wasn't in force at the time.

I don't think that any Member of this House wants any part of the UK to be some sort of safe haven for foreign criminals.

I can remember prior to the European Arrest Warrant spending hours and hours and hours at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court and elsewhere arguing whilst defendants delayed their extradition because there needed to be individual extradition treaties with individual countries,

So we now have a proportionality filter which is working - a UK Judge is required to consider whether extradition would be disproportionate - where the person is wanted for prosecution, the Judge has to take into account the seriousness of the conduct, the likely penalty and the possibility of the relevant foreign authorities taking less coercive measures and extradition.

The Government sought to curb any lengthy pre-trial detention so in cases where someone is wanted to stand trial abroad, extradition can only go ahead where the issuing State has made a decision to charge that person and the decision to try them.

The Government's decision to push ahead with this vote over the European Arrest Warrant is the right one.

My Right Honourable Friend the home secretary has quite rightly warned that abandoning the Arrest Warrant would undermine the fight against crime and risk turning Britain into a haven for fugitives.

I hope the whole House on Monday will vote on the pragmatic grounds of public safety rather than playing politics.

The well-being safety of our constituents is too important.