European Arrest Warrants

House of Lords written question – answered on 8th December 2014.

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Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they agree with the proposals by Fair Trials International for reform of the European Arrest Warrant; and what is their assessment of the prospect for reaching agreement on those reforms in Brussels.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government agrees with the proposals of Fair Trials International (FTI) in their May 2011 report on the Arrest Warrant insofar as it agrees that appropriate safeguards should be in place for those subject to extradition proceedings.

In particular, the Government agrees with FTI that both the issuing and the executing authorities should consider seriously the question of proportionality as it relates to the Arrest Warrant. That is why this year the Government made significant reforms to the Extradition Act 2003 in the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 to ensure that a UK judge must consider whether the alleged conduct and likely sentence a person will receive if extradited and convicted is sufficiently serious to make the person’s extradition proportionate. This is complemented by an administrative proportionality check, undertaken by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which identifies the most trivial requests when they are first received and refuses to certify them.

Since the measures were commenced on 21 July 2014, 21 Arrest Warrants have been refused by the NCA on proportionality grounds.

These changes are all designed to ensure that UK citizens benefit from adequate protections whilst allowing our police and prosecutors to benefit from the Arrest Warrant in the fight against crime.

It should also be noted that the Second Generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) requires Member States to consider the question of proportionality before uploading an Arrest Warrant to that system for transmission. Therefore, when the UK connects to SIS II there will be a legal requirement on all other Member States operating SIS II to consider proportionality before transmitting an Arrest Warrant to the UK. The Government expects to connect to SIS II in the coming months.

The Government also agrees with FTI that, in general, where an executing authority has refused an Arrest Warrant the issuing authority should withdraw the Arrest Warrant if it has also been sent to other Member States. SIS II will allow refused Arrest Warrants to be ‘flagged’ on this system, notifying other Member States that a case has been refused. Thus, if a UK court refuses an Arrest Warrant all other Member States using SIS II will be made aware of this fact.

The Government also agrees with FTI that the executing States should seek from issuing States further information and guarantees, before deciding whether to execute Arrest Warrants in cases where evidence has been adduced of a serious risk of infringement of fundamental rights. UK courts can and do seek such guarantees (e.g. assurances as to prison conditions).

The Government also agrees with FTI that those subject to Arrest Warrants should receive legal representation in the executing State, if they so wish. Where the individual concerned seeks legal advice and representation for proceedings in the issuing State, any application should be made in accordance with the rules governing the provision of such services in the issuing State.

On 6 October 2014, new EU Justice Commissioner, Vera Jourová, said, “re-opening the [Arrest Warrant] at this point in time could be counter-productive, given the divergent views which could be expressed in the Council. I am of the opinion that we should focus on implementing already adopted legislation, on getting the instruments still on the table adopted as soon as possible and on improving cooperation between national authorities”. As such, it seems unlikely the Commission intends to bring forward any proposals in the short-term.

That is why we have put in place new safeguards in UK law.

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