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Law Society enters debate on European Arrest Warrant

EAW an essential weapon for ensuring alleged criminals face justice

10 November 2014

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The Law Society has called on parliament to opt back into the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), to ensure justice for UK citizens.

The society's call comes ahead of a vote in the House of Commons later today on the government's 2014 opt-out decision. Some Tory backbenchers are expected to argue the scheme is unnecessary and can cause miscarriages of justice.

Though it acknowledges the concerns raised by some Conservative MPs, the Law Society has argued that these fears should be addressed by discussion and negotiation rather than by opting out of the scheme altogether.

The government opted out of all 133 EU police and criminal justice measures last year, in a decision that will take effect on 1 December 2014. However, government ministers want to re-join 35 of the measures, including the EAW, before that deadline.

Significant danger

Commenting on the importance of the EAW, Law Society president Andrew Caplen said the warrant is an essential weapon in fighting crime and for ensuring alleged criminals face justice.

"EU criminal justice measures enable EU member states to co-operate in fighting crime," said Caplen. "By not participating in such measures, there is a significant danger that the UK would become a haven for criminals and would be unable to get extradition for those people it wanted to bring to justice."

Caplen continued: "This important decision should not be used as a pro/anti EU issue. It should be taken on its own merits. A decision to remove the UK from this justice measure would have far-reaching implications which would lead to complexity and cost and have a detrimental effect on obtaining justice for victims.

"The EAW has reduced the length of extradition proceedings by imposing strict time limits for acting on requests. By speeding up the extradition process, the EAW scheme benefits both the requesting and requested States, as well as the accused - who should spend less time in pre-trial detention as a result."

Streamlined extradition

The Law Society has declared that it agrees with a statement made by the European Scrutiny Committee's that, "the European Arrest Warrant has been successful in streamlining extradition processes and returning serious criminals".

Caplen added: "Proceedings under the European Arrest Warrant are more efficient and pre-trial detention periods tend to be significantly shorter than under the previous 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition."

Last week, chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC, lent his weight to the debate claiming the UK risks becoming a 'safe harbour' for criminals if it does not opt back into the EAW.

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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