Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Christopher Gill, Chairman of The Freedom Association


  Are you aware that acceptance of the European Union arrest warrant will expose the people you are elected to represent to 14 foreign systems of criminal justice? How much is known about those foreign systems and, more particularly, do any of them provide the equivalent safeguard of Habeas Corpus?

  As you know every British subject currently enjoys the protection of Habeas Corpus which ensures that all arrested persons have the absolute right to a public hearing within 24 hours where they can oblige the prosecution to exhibit evidence it has already gathered against them. If it has none the prisoner goes free. Please ascertain what the equivalent provisions are in each of the other member states before casting your vote on the Extradition Bill.

  Does Her Majesty's Government in fact know what provisions apply in all other EU countries? Has HMG collected any facts and figures as to how the law is actually applied in other EU countries? Is it aware that in Italy, for example, of the 56,002 people currently in prison less than half (21,705) are convicted and serving sentences and that the balance (34,297), against whom evidence may or may not have been laid, languish in custody pending trial at some indeterminate date in the future?

  Do you know how many prisoners are currently detained in other EU member states before trial with no right to an immediate public hearing and with no obligation on the part of the prosecution to exhibit any evidence against them during their enforced incarceration? How long, on average, do those apprehended spend in that situation? What is the maximum duration of pre-trial detention in those countries? The European Convention on Human Rights provides for a public hearing in a "reasonable time". In the UK a "reasonable time" is, by statute, limited to 24 hours which may, at the discretion of magistrates be extended, but not, even where murder is suspected, beyond 96 hours without charges being proffered. In other member states a "reasonable time" is open to interpretation and, as evidenced by the so-called "plane spotters" in Greece, can be and often is, quite arbitrary.

  For the people you represent who currently enjoy absolute freedom against arbitrary arrest and wrongful imprisonment the European Arrest Warrant will mean deportation to continental jurisdictions where they can expect a very much longer period of detention with no right to a public hearing and no obligation on the part of the prosecution to exhibit any evidence against them or even a prima facie case.

  Other aspects of the European Arrest Warrant, too numerous to mention in a brief letter, are cause for alarm. The fact that people can be apprehended upon the assumption that an arrest warrant will be forthcoming without it actually being in the hands of the arresting officer at the time of the arrest; the fact that the person carrying out the arrest can be any person designated by the Home Secretary as an "appropriate person" for that purpose and that the arrest warrant itself need not describe the actual offence that the arrestee is supposed to have committed are all highly dangerous and sinister developments, not least when, in the case of Europol, its officers are themselves "immune from prosecution".

  Are you sure, beyond all doubt, that it is wise to vote for a proposition that will expose your constituents to a system of criminal justice which is so totally alien to our own system of jurisprudence and of which they are, as yet, so blissfully ignorant?

  Only if you are perfectly satisfied that you could stand up in front of your constituents in a public meeting and, say that you have honestly and diligently obtained satisfactory answers to these and other relevant questions should you give your support to these illiberal and tyrannous measures.

  I look forward to your early response.

November 2002

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