The European Parliament today overwhelmingly backed a report by Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford calling for major reforms to the European Arrest Warrant, including a human rights safeguard clause to help avoid miscarriages of justice and a proportionality check to prevent it being used for minor offences.
The report calls on the European Commission to table proposals for reform within the next year. One key demand is for the introduction of an explicit clause that would empower EU member states to refuse extradition requests if there are substantial grounds to believe that the human rights of the accused person would be breached. This would help to avoid the repeat of notorious cases such as that of Andrew Symeou, who was detained in poor conditions in a Greek prison for almost a year after being wrongfully accused of manslaughter.
In addition, it calls for a proportionality check that would look at the trial-readiness of the case, the seriousness of the offence and whether a less intrusive measure is available. This is to prevent the Euro-warrant being issued for petty crimes, which in the past have included cases such as the theft of two tyres and the stealing of piglets.
Commenting, Sarah Ludford said:
“Given that my report received explicit backing from Conservative MEPs, I hope that Tory backbenchers now close ranks and support reform of the European Arrest Warrant rather than insisting that the UK abandons it altogether.
“In the ten years since it came into force the warrant has become a vital tool in the fight against crime, enabling hundreds of Britain’s most-wanted criminals to be brought to justice. To abandon it would be would be a gift to criminals and a slap in the face for their victims.
“However, there remain serious concerns over a number of cases that have led to serious miscarriages of justice, and the warrant is sometimes used disproportionately to extradite suspects for petty crimes or as an investigative fishing tool for cases that are not ready for trial.
“The reforms I am proposing would address these flaws and help to prevent misuse of the European Arrest Warrant in future so that confidence in its fairness and effectiveness can be restored.
“Significantly, these reforms have received the support of MEPs from across the EU and across the political spectrum. It is now up to the European Commission to build on this consensus and come up with a legislative proposal within the next year.”
Notes to Editors
Sarah Ludford’s full report can be found here.
Since 2009, hundreds of suspects have been extradited back to the UK to face charges using the European Arrest Warrant, including 63 for child sex offences, 105 for drug trafficking, 27 for rape and 44 for murder. London bomber Hussain Osman and school teacher Jeremy Forrest are among those who have been brought to justice to the UK thanks to the warrant.
MPs in the House of Commons are due to vote on whether to retain 30 EU justice and home affairs measures including the European Arrest Warrant