The European legal system is guilty of hindering British citizens’ rights

11 Jun 2016

 

 

@matthewjsnape

 

Two weeks ago, David Cameron and Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, shared a platform together to promote the five key pledges of the Remain campaign in the EU Referendum. One of the pledges they made was to protect the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Cameron then reiterated his support for the EAW after his excruciating grilling on Sky News.

 

 

But do we really need the European Union to deliver justice for victims of crime here in the UK? No support was offered for the Human Rights Act (HRA) due to the Government’s intent to scrap it, so why is Cameron eager to promote one aspect of European justice, and not another, when both the EAW and the HRA nosedive British justice?

 

 

It is common knowledge that the EAW mechanism supersedes the British legal system. Yet, Britain was one of the first countries to legislate an Extradition Act, in 1870. That act required prima facie evidence to be presented to the English extradition court for it to satisfy itself that there was sufficient evidence against the accused person to justify surrendering him or her to a foreign court. This Act worked well until the last Conservative government replaced it with the Extradition Act (1989), which allowed the European Convention on Extradition to be ratified in 1990. The small print of this Act allowed the government to remove the requirement for prima facie evidence to be presented in an English court.

 

 

Furthermore, the Extradition Act (2003), which introduced the notorious European Warrant, removed further safeguards for the accused person. Under this act, “extradition” became “judicial surrender”. It allowed a British citizen to be removed from any EU member state purely on the strength of a form completed by the relevant foreign authority (this can be purely on grounds of “suspicion”). No prima facie evidence is presented to the English court. In fact, English courts are powerless to halt the process of “judicial surrender”. This betrays the principle of Habeas Corpus, which is meant to prevent imprisonment without evidence and without a charge being laid for a specific offence under English law.

 

 

Therefore, British citizens can be sent abroad purely at the request of a foreign court official. British citizens can then ultimately be locked up for months, even years, while investigations are being conducted. In stark contrast, British police cannot request extradition of a suspect to the UK, unless and until they have fully investigated and amassed sufficient evidence for a charge to be laid.

 

 

This highlights the travesty of continental legal systems that enable people to be imprisoned for long periods purely because of suspicion. Under the English legal system, suspects are imprisoned after a specific criminal offence has been fully investigated and charges are laid. The principle of citizens being considered “innocent until proven guilty” is being sacrificed in the name of a “harmonised” European system of criminal law.

 

 

It seems illogical that the Government is willing, for understandable reasons, to exit the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), but wants to keep the EAW. In the case of Halil Adem Hasan, who claimed to be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment by Bulgarian prison authorities, it was quite clear that Hasan’s human rights had been breached. Yet, under the EAW, suspects here in Britain could be subject to prison conditions like those in Bulgaria, as the EAW ensures suspects are “judicially surrendered” to other member states.

 

 

If the Government finds the ECHR so incompatible with English judicial law, why is it intent upon promoting the EAW, which also allows such abuses of British people’s rights? It is clear this government is willing to pursue any fantasy argument to persuade Britain to vote to stay in the EU at the expense of saving David Cameron’s career and preventing Britain from becoming a free, fair and prosperous country. But most importantly, they are willing to do it at the expense of lying to people about the dangers of the European Arrest Warrant, whilst only campaigning against the Human Rights Act outside of the referendum debate.

 

 

Cameron has his priorities horribly wrong, at the expense of sacrificing British citizens’ rights.

 

Read more articles by this commentator

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Want to respond? Submit an article.

SUPPORT BACKBENCH

We provide a space for reasoned arguments and constructive disagreements.

Help to improve the quality of political debate – support our work today.