Controversy abounds concerning our continued membership of the EU and with it our commitment to the EAW. Anti-EAW campaigners who believe that the UK should rescind it’s membership of the framework want UK courts to have greater flexibility to refuse to extradite to countries where fundamental rights cannot be guaranteed than the present law allows. They claim that some EAW countries do not uphold the same standards of justice that we take for granted in the UK and cite evidence of a lack of judicial transparency or independence or doubts over the right to call evidence in many EU countries.
A number of recent cases do indeed show just how badly things can wrong with the EAW – for example;
· Andrew Symeou, extradited to Greece, remanded in custody for two years before all charges were dropped
· Michael Shields – incorrectly identified following an identity parade process that would not have been admissible in our system, Shields was wanted for extradition to Bulgaria but allowed to serve four years of his sentence in the UK before he was pardoned by the Home Secretary;
· Michael Turner, extradited to Hungary on the basis his case was ready to go to trial only to be released without charge after a long period in detention only to be sent back to prison in Budapest to answer charges for an offence of fraud which carried a non-imprisonable penalty;
Uproar over the Shields case was in part responsible for the Government changing the law recently to add two new grounds for refusal – the over use of the EAW in trivial cases (see BSQ briefing) and its employment in cases where there was likely to be a long delay before trial in the requesting state. These changes came into effect in 2015 when the relevant amendments to the Extradition Act 2003 in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (ASBCPA) took effect.
What the future holds for the EAW is uncertain but this debate is unlikely to go away whatever the result of the EU referendum.