Response to the Scott-Baker Review Panel Report on the European Arrest Warrant by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten. • Introduction: In better ages of its legal history than the one we are living through, Britain developed a uniquely fair system of criminal justice. Our achievements on this field have excelled those of Ancient Rome and remain unparalleled in the history of civilisation. Throughout the world, our common law system became an ideal which other nations strove to copy.
Yet, the very excellence of British justice produced some new dilemmas - such as the extradition of suspects to other countries. We do not want to become safe havens for foreign fugitive criminals; on the other hand, how can we hand over suspects to the countries where the system of criminal justice is so different from – and inferior to – our own?
This has been resolved by a number of safeguards which evolved over centuries to protect the liberties of the suspects whilst enabling extradition of genuine fugitives. Thus, we would not extradite people to countries where they would be tortured of subjected to unfair trial. The so-called 'dual criminality' requirement bars extradition where a person is wanted for actions which would not be considered a crime in this country. Above all, a country requesting extradition first had to prove to a British judge that they had a prima facie case for the suspect to answer.
As the government working party which reviewed our extradition arrangements reported in 1974, “the requirement of prima facie evidence remains the only real safeguard against the trumped up case, and we venture to think that it must serve to deter some applications for extradition where a warrant of arrest has been issued in a foreign State on largely unsupported suspicion of guilt.” The report further pointed out that the requirement of a prima facie case was also the only effective guarantee that judges have enough information to establish dual criminality and that the suspect is not wanted for political reasons. Without the prima facie case safeguard, the other safeguards would also effectively go by the board.
Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened since then. Under the EU's
'European Arrest Warrant' system, extradition has been replaced with 'judicial surrender' – a mere bureaucratic formality. Where there is an EAW, our judges are now forced to extradite people on the strength of a piece of paper. In practice, all they have to check is that the brief form has been filled correctly (admittedly, even that sometimes becomes a difficulty for our EU partners, but the judges are obliged to take a generous cosmopolitan view of their efforts).
No doubt, the EAW became the most disastrous result of the removal of the prima
facie case requirement; but it is not the only one. The extradition to the United States is only slightly better. Worse still, under the Council of Europe's European Convention on Extradition, the requirement is also removed for some countries where the very idea of rule of law remains a utopian dream of a few troublemaking dissidents – such as Russia and Azerbaijan.
Lord Baker’s Review Panel Report
For a few years now, it has been universally recognised that this country's extradition arrangements must be urgently reformed; especially the most dangerous aspect of them – the European Arrest Warrant. Both Government parties have solemnly promised to do that when they come to power. To review the existing system and make recommendations, the government appointed an 'independent panel' led by Lord Baker – a retired top judge best known for his inquest into the death of Princess Diana. Having spent over a year on this work, having traveled extensively to Brussels, Hague, and Washington, the panel has now produced its 488-pages long report – only to endorse the present system and to recommend no change.