The European Arrest Warrant – further reasons for pulling out

My speech on the subject of “European Law – will it go away with Brexit?” was delivered at a CIB-organised meeting at the House of Lords on 15th March 2017. You can download the full text here.

For those who wish to know more, I made a submission to the House of Lords in 2013-4 as a contribution to the debate at that time on whether to opt back into the EAW or not. This was posted on the CIB website a while ago and can be downloaded here. However, there were three appendices to the submission which were not previously available. They now can also be downloaded.

Appendix A shows the article I published in the New Law Journal in 1990. Readers may recall the famous miscarriages of British justice – the Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4 – some Irishmen wrongly convicted of placing bombs in pubs for the IRA. After 15 years while these innocents languished in prison, the British system did acknowledge that this had been due to the investigators (the police) beating confessions out of them and then lying on oath in court. As a result of this, a well-known campaigner called Ludovic Kennedy then campaigned, with the support of barrister Michael Mansfield, to introduce elements of the French inquisitorial system, where investigations are conducted by, or under strict supervision of, a judge, not the police. My article served to show that this solution would not give the desired results, on the contrary.

Appendix B reproduces two pages from the official programme distributed to the participants at the seminar I attended in Spain in April 1997 where the Commission unveiled its Corpus Juris project for a single criminal code for all Europe. They serve to dispel and disprove the myth put about at the time by the Europhiles that  was NOT anything out of the EU institutions, just a “thinkpiece” dreamed up by some unaffiliated academics (untrue – see page B1); and the other myth that its scope was limited only to the defence of the financial interests of the EU, with no intention to expand it later to cover all other forms of criminal law and justice (again, untrue, see page B2 – where they openly call it an “embryo criminal code for Europe”).

Appendix C, taken from Hansard, gives the briefing paper I wrote which was read aloud in the Commons by Nick Hawkins MP in 2003. I think it is necessary to put this on the record because it shows that the government had done no research whatsoever into the continental criminal law system to which they were recklessly exposing British people in Britain; in fact, they did not bother to discuss and refute what I said, but simply disregarded my analysis completely. All that the government spokesman Bob Ainslie MP could say at the time was “Well, we see that the Italian justice system is very different from ours”. My main point was to show that the Italian system makes no hard and fast distinction between an investigation phase and a prosecution phase – an investigation is always “against” a suspect – so the government’s pretence that a case had to be “prosecution-ready” was meaningless.

New Government position paper – the exchange and protection of personal data

This is the final of the five position papers released by the Department for Exiting the European Union in advance of the next round of talks between David Davis and Michel Barnier, which are due to begin next week.

It is highly unlikely that this particular subject will be up for discussion any time soon. The EU is keen to see progress on the Brexit bill, the Irish border and  the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK before widening the scope of negotiations to include issues like these.

Once again, we are informed that the Government is keen to build a “new, deep and special” relationship with the EU – an unfortunate phrase which fails to reflect the reality of Brexit, as we have already pointed out.

This study paper falls into the common trap of some earlier position papers in assuming that because our procedures are aligned with the EU at the moment by virtue of being a member state, an agreement will be straightforward. This represents a failure to appreciate that being a Third Country for EU purposes is radically different from being an EU member state. The Treaties no longer apply (to quote Article 50, Paragraph 3) and just because there has been  – and indeed, will be – conformity in a number of areas up to Brexit day, this in no way obliges the EU to carry on as normal once we leave. As far as data sharing is concerned, this remains true even though the latest EU legislation on data sharing,  General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be incorporated into UK law next year.

Furthermore, the whole point of Brexit is divergence. We voted no longer to be ruled by the EU and for our own Parliament and our own laws to be supreme. In this area and many others, we will not want to incorporate subsequent EU laws into UK law lock, stock and barrel once we leave or else it means Brexit isn’t Brexit. Maintaining the balance between independence and cooperation is the biggest challenge our negotiators will have to face and this paper, along with others which have recently appeared, has stated the issues and the desired outcome without providing any detail about how it is to be reached.

The paper is nonetheless correct in stating that with data flows being important both for trade and for dealing with crime, some form of arrangement must be sought. However, we will have to agree with the European Commission that the UK provides an adequate level of data protection before any formal agreement can be made. This may not be straightforward at all. As this article points out, the UK government has been far too keen to grant excessive surveillance powers to its security services. In an understandable desire to keep tabs on terrorism, the powers sought by the UK government under the Investigatory Powers Act to interfere in the communications of innocent men and women earned it a rebuke from the European Court of Justice to which, whether we like it or not, we are subservient until March 2019.

It would have been helpful if the Government  paper had fleshed out the rather broad concepts it discusses with some everyday examples by way of illustration. The article mentioned above does provide some useful clarification on the type of personal data which is currently shared across national borders. UK companies with customers, users or employees in the EU currently transfer personal data like family pictures, banking details and employee payslips across national boundaries. This is the nature of the globalised world in which we live.

So the aim of the Government is understandable – it would like the transfer of information to carry on much as before when we finally leave. Reality could turn out to be rather different.

New government position paper – Enforcement and dispute resolution

This latest Government position paper begins with a phrase we have heard time after time “new deep and special relationship.” This is a most unfortunate term, although at least it makes the point that we don’t want to make enemies of EU-27. Our relationship will certainly be “new” as we will no longer be a member state but “deep and special”? We voted for a looser relationship to enable us to be closer to the rest of the world. It is hard to imagine that in a decade or so, if Brexit is managed successfully we will be any closer to the EU than to our friends in the Commonwealth, for instance. The EU, in other words, will not be particularly special even if we naturally want to work closely with it.

The paper attracted much comment over the future role of the European Court of Justice. Upon its publication, the Government was accused of back-tracking over its commitment to end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice upon  Brexit. Even the Prime Minister felt obliged to make a statement confirming that this was still the Government’s intention.

The paper says little about one contentious issue – the desire of the EU that its citizens resident in the UK will remain subject to EU law after Brexit. This is a most unreasonable request and flies in the face of our Common Law principle – that the law is the law for everyone from the monarch downwards. Historically, the scope of our Common Law has applied to non-nationals either resident in or visiting the country. We do not hear of the governments of, for example, India, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland or the USA wanting an arrangement whereby their citizens remain subject to the laws of their home country while they reside in the UK, nor would these countries grant UK citizens living abroad the right to be governed by UK law. The EU’s claim to “extra-territoriality” is exactly the same as that which the nineteenth century Imperial powers imposed on China. Under their terms, Citizens of the European states could not be tried by Chinese courts but only in the courts established by the European powers in China. Given that the UK’s legal systems are better than those found in much  of Continental Europe, the EU’s demand should be resisted


As an aside, if the UK rebuffs the EU on the grounds that the same legal system applies to everyone resident in the country,* it does pose the question about the legitimacy of the Sharia courts operating in the UK, which do not have any formal legal status but in reality, make decisions which have a profound impact on the lives of women and children in particular.

The paper leaves open the nature of cooperation between the legal authorities in the UK and the EU in the event of international disputes. It quotes examples of international legal bodies already in existence, including the EFTA court, interestingly enough. The UK government has thus far shown no inclination that it wants to re-join EFTA, but such a move could be helpful in enabling us to take advantage of an existing body which works closely with the ECJ while remaining independent of it.

Like the previous papers, detail is rather limited and although these papers have been produced in theory to guide the next round of Brexit talks which are due to start next week, this topic isn’t going to be discussed any time soon. We need not have agreed with the EU’s demand for progress on the rights of EU citizens living within the EU, the exit fee and the Irish border issues before moving onto discussing the wider Brexit settlement, but David Davis did so. Consequentially, as has been pointed out elsewhere, this paper is really only for domestic consumption only.

 * Obviously, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems to England and Wales

 

New government position paper – cross-border civil judicial cooperation framework

The title of the latest government position paper is a bit of a mouthful. Importantly, it deals specifically with civil, not criminal law, so it does not touch on the contentious issue of the European Arrest Warrant.

The paper confirms that we will leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, on the basis that its jurisdiction over the UK will terminate because the EU treaties will cease to apply.

This makes perfect sense as far as internal legal issues are concerned, but what of disputes which cross national boundaries? A consumer resident in the UK may wish to take a German company to court. Actually, at the moment, even with the UK still a member of the EU,  Our  courts are already used for 40% of global commercial arbitrations, often involving companies from countries outside the EU.

The paper does not go into detail as to how judicial cooperation will be maintained between the EU and a newly-independent UK, it merely states the benefit of maintaining such cooperation. It does list a number of international agreements on civil judicial cooperation to which the UK is a signatory, no doubt  in the hope that these international agreements will smooth the way for ongoing cooperation after Brexit.  It does suggest, however, than an interim period may be necessary before the final model (whatever this might be) comes into operation.

As with the previous position papers, the objectives are set forth in a reasonably straightforward way, but little is given away about the means by which they can be achieved.

 

The proposed alternative to the European Arrest Warrant is not satisfactory

I am afraid that David Davis’s scheme for a new European Arrest Warrant is not at all satisfactory as it stands. Here is the essence of it:

__________

Under the proposal a new “ad hoc” legal commission would replace the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which currently rules on extraditions.

The new panel would have a Supreme Court judge, an ECJ judge and one from a third neutral country to rule on each extradition.

__________

This proposal as it stands is merely cosmetic, and here is why:

Any oversight by a superior body, whether our own Supreme Court or even more so by a new ad hoc mixed legal commission can only see and ensure that the current EAW legislation is applied by the lower courts.

And the main problem is that it is not proposed here to alter the current EAW legislation, which says that prisoners must be surrendered at a bald, unsupported, demand from the requesting State, with no examination by a court of the requested State of evidence of whether there is a serious case to answer or not.

It is – wrongly and wrongfully – ASSUMED by many in Britain that the EU states will all have assembled evidence of guilt and will be “prosecution-ready” before they issue an EAW (as is the normal practice in Britain). Indeed according to the Treaty we are bound to trust them blindly to have done so, under the doctrine of “mutual confidence and recognition”.

Our politicos and legal eagles, not to mention pundits, are still – willfully? – ignoring the fact that the practice in States ruled under the Napoleonic-inquisitorial dispensation is to arrest a suspect FIRST, and only AFTER they have him under lock and key, do they try to build a case and seek evidence against him. This often takes months, while the unfortunate rots in duress vile with no public hearing, as we have seen happen all too often.

This is not – as our own people assume – due to the sloppiness of continentals in applying standards that we in Britain consider to be right and normal; it is the way their system functions normally, and is supposed to function. They do not work to our standards,  but to their own, which are completely different from, indeed alien to, ours.

I have been through the historic reasons, going back 800 years, for this profound difference elsewhere and shall not do so again here.

Whether the grounds for suspecting, and for arresting, a particular person amount to serious evidence of a case to answer, or flimsy evidence that would not stand up to serious scrutiny, or no evidence at all but merely clues, or just a hunch, or even a prejudice, on the part of the investigators, is sorted out in Britain by our Habeas Corpus.

This provides a right for a prisoner to be brought into a public hearing in open court within HOURS or at most a few days after arrest. And there he can demand to be shown the evidence on which he was arrested. He must there be “charged”, and in Britain and other English-speaking nations a charge must be based on hard evidence, already collected, of a case to answer. No right to any such speedy public hearing exists in continental States, where six months, extensible, in prison “pending investigaton” with no public hearing, is considered a normal limit (for many categories of cases, not only extreme terrorism cases), as per the Corpus Juris proposal for a single unified criminal code for all Europe.

Some years ago an attempt by our own government to introduce 42-day detention without charge nor public hearing in terrorist cases was resisted and opposed on principle by none other than David Davis himself, who nobly resigned his seat and stood for re-election on this very point, and was returned again by his electorate who clearly shared his concern to keep our traditional safeguards of the liberty of the subject. Has he forgotten this? How can it have escaped his notice that the EAW as it stands brings in not just six weeks, but six months, in the case of Andrew Symeou eleven months, detention without charge or public hearing?

The European Convention on Human Rights provides no remedy. Its article 6 merely says that a prisoner must have a public hearing within a “reasonable” time after arrest, and the continentals will say that it is “reasonable” for them to take six months to investigate a person and assemble evidence against him of a case to answer.

One solution could be to force the continental States to hold a Habeas Corpus public hearing within hours of receiving a prisoner to show that there is a case to answer, or to release him. We have already seen that this would not be accepted by them for it goes against their whole legal culture. Indeed in 2002 the late Neil McCormick QC MEP presented a motion to the EU Parliament to set up a “Euro-Habeas Corpus” to go with the EAW, but it was overwhelmingly voted down.

So it will have to be our own courts who demand that an EAW, or indeed a warrant received from any foreign State, must be accompanied by evidence of a case to answer which can be examined by a UK court with the power to reject it if considered insufficient. This is what happened before the European Extradition Act of 1989. The delays complained about were largely due to the foreign authorities, who are quite unaccustomed to having to investigate first and arrest after. They prefer to do it the other way round. Under our previous legislation, they had to do it our way. Now we have to do it their way.

At present the UK is forced to conform to the continentals’ yardstick. This flies in the face of Magna Carta (clause 38).  But people on British soil (even if not British citizens) must be entitled to the protection of British laws. This always used to be the case, and it must be restored.

The renewal of border checks will enable the UK to keep out known foreign criminals whose identities have been flagged up to us by foreign authorities. So the garish scare-mongering about “Britain becoming the Costa del crime” and the “honeypot for criminals” argument can be laid to rest.

The practical argument that supporters of the EAW cannot answer is: if no substantial evidence of guilt is collected BEFORE arrest, how can the authorities know that they have got the right person to accuse? Indeed the record of the EAW’s application shows many cases where perfectly innocent people (including even a British judge – Colin Dines!!) were targeted and made to suffer forced transportation and often lengthy imprisonment, thus allowing the truly guilty parties to escape scot-free.

Even if we had our own Supreme Court to oversee the application of the EAW, it can only do so on the basis of the legislation as it stands. However sympathetic it might be towards an obviously innocent victim of a monstrous judicial muddle, or even of persecution on a trumped-up charge, as long as the doctrine of “mutual recognition” remains on our Statute book, the Supreme Court cannot do anything other than apply it. Willy-nilly. Judges in our lower courts have even been embarassed about EAW cases like this, but have been powerless to do anything other than apply the law as it stands. The Supreme Court would be in a like position.

So a reform of the EAW needs to insist that when foreign authorities send us a warrant to arrest someone on British soil, they must also send an indication of the evidence of a prima facie case to answer. Otherwise we cannot prevent them from using the EAW as a tool for fishing expeditions.

Is David Davis going to set us free from the EAW?

It is very good to see that David Davis, by raising the point about the supremacy of the ECJ’s jurisdiction over the EAW, has taken a first step to breaking us free from the shackles of the continental inquisitorial justice system, so alien from ours. I am hoping that he might now take a second step, viz, as follows:

In my speech on Alien Legal Systems, at the CIB event in the House of Lords on March 15th this year, I mentioned David Davis. Here is an extract from that speech, with my personal challenge to him which he might now answer, and indeed perhaps he will answer it:

 “For us in Britain, the preliminary public hearing in open court,  where the prisoner is formally charged, must take place within hours, or at the most a few days, after his arrest and detention.

Some years ago there was an attempt to extend this, in serious terrorist cases, to three months, then reduced to six weeks. An MP called David Davis fought a noble battle of principle against this – he resigned his seat and stood again for Parliament on this very point – Habeas Corpus. He won and was returned to his seat. In the end, Parliament fixed a maximum limit of 28 days of detention without charge, and only in exceptional cases of terrorism. This is what we in Britain consider to be “reasonable”.

But for many EU states, under their Napoleonic-inquisitorial jurisdictions, it is considered “reasonable” to keep a prisoner under lock and key with no public hearing for six months, extensible by three months at a time. These are the terms of the Commission’s Corpus Juris proposal for an embryo single uniform criminal code to cover the whole of Europe, including the British Isles. This is what is may be faced by anyone in Britain who is targeted by a European Arrest Warrant. And on a long list of crimes, not just terrorist cases.

Now is the David Davis who resigned his seat to stop the six weeks’  detention bill on no evidence, the same David Davis now in charge of the government’s Brexit department? If so, does he share Ms Rudd’s wish to keep us subject to, not six weeks, but six months and, in the case of Andrew Symeou, nearly a whole year’s detention with no public hearing? If he opposes it, will he please say so openly?

This is no marginal matter. As I have shown, whoever controls criminal justice, controls the police and prisons, and thus holds the  ace of trumps in the struggle for power over a country. And that is precisely what Brexit is really about – who shall hold power in this land? Shall it be the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels? Or shall it be the people of Britain?

So we see that the European Convention is a very thin blanket,  designed to cover systems with Habeas Corpus as well as those without. It can only work if the woolly ambiguity of its use of words like “reasonable” [in article 6, referring to a prisoner’s right to a public hearing within a “reasonable time”] remains unchallenged.”

[For your ease of reference, the whole speech is here (7 pages)]