Off the Fence: George Hollingbery

Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery
Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery

COMMENT: Bandstand event is a victim of its own success

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MP for Meon Valley

As the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, I was very much involved in this important issue and believe that continuing to have it has denied criminals a safe haven here in Britain.

For the uninitiated, the EAW allows police to extradite suspects quickly between EU countries and replaced separate extradition arrangements between those nations.

Any national judicial authority can issue an EAW to get a suspect extradited.

There was a vote about its continued use because we have effectively trialled this warrant for five years after we inserted a caveat in the Lisbon Treaty to be able to opt out of it and 132 other European justice powers.

We have decided to keep 35 of those powers including the EAW. Other justice measures we have left in place include sharing information with European police forces and prisoner transfers between countries.

Now, opponents say that if we continue with this warrant then the European Court of Justice will be the final appeal court, not our own court, for those who challenge the warrant and how it is used.

They say the ECJ is case-driven and it means that over time the court will impose its powers on the UK on the issue. Plus, there are fears that UK suspects are occasionally extradited on spurious grounds.

But if we had not continued this warrant then the UK would effectively have become a sanctuary or dumping ground, depending on how one sees it, for every European wanting to escape justice in their own country.

Remember, the EU allows the free movement of people and the unscrupulous would have taken full advantage of a very large loophole.

We would have had the situation of having criminals in the UK whose countries, in the short to medium term, would not have any legal basis to demand they be sent home to face trial.

Also, we would not be able to seek extradition for those people who were wanted in the UK, but had fled justice to other lands.

Now opponents have said we could ditch the arrest warrant, negotiate extradition treaties with the 27 countries and not have the interference of the ECJ.

That sounds plausible, but it would leave a huge legal hiatus while these deals were done with all the member states.