Giving an answer to a question in Parliament on Monday, the Home Secretary stated that she sees it as a priority for the UK to remain part of the European Arrest Warrant scheme after we leave the European Union. Citing it as ‘essential to the delivery of effective judgment on murderers, rapists and paedophiles’, she assured the House that ‘our European partners’ want to achieve this as well.
Except we know that the EAW is not simply used in cases of the most serious crime. The list of trivial uses is endless: chicken rustling, possession of piffling quantities of cannabis. Then we come to mistaken identity, as in the case of Andrew Symeou, confined to a Greek prison for over a year before being released, and whose case prompted even ardent Europhile Nick Clegg to admit that there are severe problems with the EAW system.
There’s the case of Ashya King, the child suffering from a brain tumour, whose parents had a warrant issued against them because they made the choice to seek last-chance medical treatment overseas since it couldn’t be provided by the NHS, with the Assistant Chief Constable of Hampshire even admitting in that case that they were not necessarily looking to press charges but simply speak to the parents.
And then there’s the use of the EAW by countries where corruption is rife, as a means to pursue political opponents; Conservatives for Liberty has been campaigning for Alexander Adamescu, hosting a parliamentary event only last week to draw attention to the injustice in his case. In many cases, the warrants are issued not by an impartial judicial office-holder, as arrest warrants here must be, but by a public prosecutor, owing to fundamental differences in the legal systems across EU member states.
The UK has extradition treaties with over 90 countries outside of the EU. This includes the four other countries forming part of the Anglosphere’s Five Eyes intelligence sharing scheme, our closest allies with whom we share not only a common language, but similar legal systems as well.
Yet even in these cases there are some essential hurdles over which these most trusted friends must pass before we will consider extradition: consider the cases of Gary McKinnon, the UFO enthusiast who allegedly hacked the Pentagon in what the US prosecutor described as “the biggest military computer hack of all time”, or Navinder Sarao, accused of using ‘spoofing’ whilst trading to cause a 1,000 point crash on the Dow Jones index.
Theresa May ultimately decided to quash the extradition order for McKinnon; it may not have panned out the same way if he had hacked the German defence ministry instead. And while Sarao ultimately lost his fight against extradition, it was only at the end of a lengthy legal process in which the Americans’ case against him was put under serious scrutiny.
There is no meaningful sense in which we can be said to have left the European Union if the inhabitants of these islands are not afforded judicial protection against the governments of EU member states, especially when the EU itself has raised grave concerns about the integrity of the justice systems in some of those countries, and there is no requirement for them to even present a UK court with prima facie evidence against their target.
Information sharing with our friends in Europe is important, and something we should look to continue, within reason. But this can be achieved with the UK outside EU structures. And the hyperbolic suggestion made in the House that we will become ‘a honeypot for Europe’s criminals on the run from justice’ is not an argument for the EAW, it is an argument for meaningful border control.
When habeas corpus was incorporated into Magna Carta, this was not the creation of a new right, but an affirmation of an existing right that dates back to the Assize of Clarendon and beyond. For too long, we have ceded ancient freedoms when threatened with the spectre of terrorists and paedophiles. Inevitably, we find that the reality is different: that the powers given are used for trifling matters, and that these liberties, once lost, are nigh impossible to get back.
This must end. Our security as a nation is paramount, but there are other ways to achieve this end that do not result in such egregious travesties of justice as does the EAW, and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
Benjamin Franklin was right when he wrote that ‘those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety’. The UK is deserving of both, and so the Government must rethink its position and withdraw from the EAW.
Stephen is a writer and researcher, drawing on his experience as a former Army officer with a background in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. A pragmatic minarchist and instinctual conservative, he likes free speech, free markets, and free people. Follow him on Twitter: @
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty