Gales View – 24th October 2012
I have had two constituents who have recently been held in foreign prisons, one in France and one in Malta, for more than two years without trial. One of these men has belatedly been tried, sentenced and subsequently allowed to return to the United Kingdom. The other has been released on bail but is not permitted to return home without making excessive and unaffordable payments under bail conditions. Neither faced extradition because they were both arrested in the respective countries where offences were alleged to have been committed but had they been in England they might well have faced extradition under the European Arrest Warrant.
Both France and Malta are, like many other European” countries, currently holding prisoners for long periods of time without trial or, in some cases even without charge, signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 5 of the convention makes specific provision to seek to prevent detention without trial and all of these countries are in clear breach of the convention. (Worth remembering that fact, perhaps, when Britain`s position on Prisoners` Voting Rights is called into question by the European Court of Human Rights!)
The European Arrest Warrant was designed to facilitate justice throughout the European Union and to seek to ensure that refugees from jurisdictions where they might face charges relating to, for example, terrorism. We do, of course, want to bring to the UK such people to face trial and, equally, we wish to deport to face justice, those who are alleged to have committed serious crimes in other countries. The difficulty is that what was set out to deal with serious issues has become used to deal with trivia in countries whose judicial systems leave a very great deal to be desired.
That is why I, in the House of Commons last week, asked the Home Secretary to seek to ensure that no citizen of the United Kingdom (foreign nationals are another matter) should be allowed to be deported to any country in which the period of detention without trial is appreciably longer than in the UK. The Home Secretary has acknowledged that Across a number of member states there are concerns about the way that the EAW has been operating” and has indicated that this is one of a number of issues that, having exercised our right to opt out of a large number of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, will be considered when we decide whether or not there are a handful of those provisions that we may wish to opt back into.
I have no desire whatsoever to seek to prevent fugitives from justice from being compelled to face trial and from being held to account for their crimes. I do not, though, wish to see any more of my constituents locked up overseas without trial and I believe that the Home Secretary is right to propose to ensure that, as she has announced in her Commons statement, where appropriate UK citizens will face trial in Britain and not in European or American courts.