Stephen Hoffman is Parliamentary Intern at The Freedom Association.
During the previous Labour Government’s period in power, we had the twin horrors of ancient British liberties being torn up in the name of counter-terrorism and further transfers of power to the EU. This both hit UK taxpayers in the pocket and undermined national sovereignty. These horrors combined to create one of the most sinister pieces of legislation. Its name is the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).
The importance of the EAW cannot be overstated. Whilst our extradition treaty with the USA captures most of the headlines, the extradition legislation that has the most effect on the UK is the European Arrest Warrant. Although between 2003 and 2009, 69 British citizens were extradited to the USA, this number pales in comparison to the number extradited through the European Arrest Warrant.
According to Fair Trials International, from 2009 to 2010 alone, 699 people were extradited to other EU member states. According to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, these numbers are set to rise by up to 250% in future. The numbers suggest that concerns about human rights have been abandoned to fast-track procedures for extradition across the EU.
It is not surprising that, due to the amount the European Arrest Warrant is used, it is often abused for the most trivial of cases. Recent examples include the theft of a pig, stealing chocolate bars and exceeding a bank overdraft limit. These examples demonstrate the disproportionate use of a power which should not have been available in the first place.
Additionally, many of the new member states, such as Bulgaria, are not known for fair treatment of their own citizens, let alone those of other nations. The irony of this is that the European Arrest Warrant was supposedly created to ensure justice across the EU. However, in many cases, extradited citizens have had to await trail for lengthy periods and often in terrible conditions.