Stephen Pollard

Warrant for alarm

Unless Brexit means Brexit on this one, good people could be imprisoned by bad regimes

A concerted effort is under way to make sure that, when it comes to the European Arrest Warrant, Brexit does not mean Brexit. The Police Federation, for example, will hear no ill spoken of the system. And the same might be said of the Prime Minister, who as home secretary praised it to the skies. As she put it in October 2014, without the European Arrest Warrant, ‘British criminals would be able to hop on to the Eurostar or fly to Spain, safe in the knowledge we wouldn’t be able to get them back to prosecute them.’ Without it, the UK would become ‘a honeypot for all of Europe’s criminals on the run from justice’. The statistics appear to back her.

Between 2010 and 2015, the UK extradited 796 criminals from other countries back here for trial under the European Arrest Warrant. In the same period, 6,514 foreign criminals have, thanks to the European Arrest Warrant, been removed from the UK to face trial abroad.

When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The European Arrest Warrant clearly has benefits. But it has a fundamental flaw. It can lead to the incarceration of good people who fall foul of bad regimes.

The key problem with this agreement is the premise on which it is built — that all 28 EU member states have equally robust legal systems and independent judiciaries. They do not. And the consequences of that imbalance are becoming clear.

Last month, the award-winning chief correspondent of Sky News, Stuart Ramsay, reported on alleged gun-running in Romania. It was a shocking story and received much attention.

The details need not concern us. What matters for the purposes of the European Arrest Warrant is that the Romanian government’s response was to say his story was a lie.

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