Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

23.  Second supplementary memorandum submitted by the Home Office

  During my appearance before the Home Affairs Committee on 20 February I undertook to write with some additional information on a number of queries raised by the Committee in the context of its inquiry into JHA in the EU.

The possibility of a central UK police body to deal with EU functions and issues

  The Government is aware that this issue was raised by members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) when they gave evidence to your Committee on 9 January. There is already good co-operation between UK police forces and counterparts in the EU, in part facilitated by ACPO, liaison officer networks and Europol, but it is true that the structures in place at EU level tend to concentrate on supporting co-operation in tackling organised crime because this has been identified as the EU level priority. However, the Government takes seriously the views expressed by ACPO and SOCA and is committed to improving police co-operation with other Member States, whether it is serious or not. We will therefore consider jointly with ACPO and SOCA what improvements could be made to current arrangements, including at a planned Law Enforcement Forum in April.

Would the Government financially support a British citizen in challenging another EU State to establish their human rights?

  The Government has a clear policy in respect of allegations of torture or ill-treatment made by British nationals detained overseas. We take all such allegations seriously and will, if appropriate, raise our concerns with the governments concerned. We may also request that a prompt impartial investigation be carried out into the allegations and that we are informed of the result of that investigation.

  Practical assistance in cases of alleged mistreatment will be determined on a case by case basis. If a British national makes allegations of abuse or mistreatment, and they are still detained they will usually receive a consular visit. Our main consular function in relation to British nationals detained overseas is in relation to their welfare. As part of that, if the person concerned has not received the appropriate medical care for any injuries, we may ask the relevant authorities (police or prison) to ensure that they receive the appropriate healthcare. We can also pass information on to family and friends in the UK and put them in contact with organisations such as Prisoners Abroad and Fair Trials Abroad. In addition, the assistance that we provide to British nationals overseas is detailed in the Consular Guide which can be found at: Prison Abroad FINAL layout1.pdf

  If the British national concerned wished to take action against the relevant authorities, we would advise them to appoint a local lawyer and provide them with a copy of our local lawyers list. We would not provide any financial support for their case but we could appoint a lawyer from our pro bono lawyers panel to assist them with their case free of charge and refer them to organisations that may be able to assist them.

  There are also two systems in operation which enable UK citizens to apply for legal aid abroad:

    —  the European Legal Aid Directive, which applies to civil and commercial disputes. Its aim is to improve access to justice by facilitating the transfer of legal aid applications where an applicant who is resident in one member state needs to apply for legal aid in a different member state.

    —  the European Agreement for the Transmission of Applications for Legal Aid (also known as the Strasbourg Agreement).

  Legal aid is available to assist in completing an application form for legal aid abroad, including obtaining any necessary translations, under both the Directive and the Strasbourg Agreement. For further information on the legal aid system adopted in each of the ratifying countries, see the Europa website at It should be noted however that legal aid systems in many other countries are less comprehensive than in the UK.

  Applications may be sent to the Legal Services Commission to be forwarded to the relevant foreign authority. The LSC will monitor and keep applicants informed of any developments.

Why internationally is the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) considered adequate but nationally we require parliamentary legislation and the ECHR to protect our rights?

  We expect all States to comply with their international obligations, including in respect of the treatment of British nationals in their territory. This includes human rights conventions such as the ECHR or ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) to which they are party. It is up to each State to decide how they wish to give effect to these international obligations through their domestic law.

  Human rights conventions such as the ECHR only lay down minimum standards. Many States, including the UK, provide a greater degree of protection under their domestic law. In addition to international standards, we expect British nationals overseas to be treated in accordance with the domestic law of the State concerned.

  The ECHR provides a full enforceable set of rights for all EU citizens and underpins procedural rights throughout (and beyond) the EU. It does not include a right to legal aid for persons who wish to purse civil actions, but it's Articles 5 and 6 provide rights for persons detained and charged (respectively). Any person whose Convention rights are infringed has a right to an effective remedy before a national authority under Article 13.

  It is a matter for each national government to determine how to give effect to the ECHR. In some jurisdictions it has direct applicability. That is not the case in the UK, where the rights of suspects are set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (which applies in England and Wales) and in broadly equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

  We are keen to enhance compliance with ECHR standards throughout Europe, but in our view that is not best achieved by establishing a new EU legal framework for procedural rights. Rather, we need to focus on practical measures, and that is the purpose of the Resolution we have put forward, with five other States. It refers in particular to the tape-recording of police interrogations, which provides a very effective safeguard against abuse, both for the citizen and the police. Nevertheless, even the best-regulated police forces face allegations of improper conduct at times and we believe each country needs a system to ensure that allegations can be independently investigated, as they are in this country by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

How many operations in the last year or investigations took place through Eurojust in which the UK participated? How many and what type of investigations have gone through Eurojust?

  The Government attaches considerable importance to the work carried out by Eurojust in supporting and facilitating cross-border co-operation in relation to national investigations and prosecutions. Its annual report for 2005 (the latest figures available for the information sought by the Committee) demonstrates the progress it has made in developing a significant role in assisting Member States to tackle cross-border crime.

  In 2005 Eurojust registered 588 cases, of which 39 involved requests from the UK and 82 involved requests to the UK. These concerned the following offences:

    —  Drug trafficking—135

    —  Swindling and Fraud—120

    —  Crime against property/public good (including fraud)—92

    —  Money laundering—48

    —  Crime against life, limb or personal freedom—45

    —  Murder—43

    —  Tax Fraud—42

    —  Other Offences—39

    —  Participation in a Criminal Organisation—35

    —  Human Trafficking—33

    —  Organised Robbery—27

    —  Forgery of Administrative Documents—26

    —  Terrorism—25

    —  VAT Fraud—24

  In the Annex attached to this letter we also provide some examples of specific cases demonstrating in particular how Eurojust has assisted the UK in successfully prosecuting serious and organised crime.

When do the Home Office expect to make the results of the European Arrest Warrant review available, and can the Committee have advance sighting of them?

  The report on the UK's implementation and operation of the European Arrest Warrant is currently being drafted by the evaluation team who visited the UK at the end of 2006. We hope to receive an informal draft of that report in the coming weeks, on which we will be invited to offer comments and in particular correct any factual inaccuracies. It will then be presented formally to an expert meeting in Brussels for discussion by delegations from all Member States before a final version is submitted to Ministers in the JHA Council. We will submit the first formal version of the report to your Committee as soon as it is published and at the same time that it is deposited in the usual way for parliamentary scrutiny.

The Committee asked about the Government's position on the conclusions of the European Parliament report last week on the use by the US of European air flight facilities to transport prisoners or terror suspects from one country to another

  The position of the UK Government on rendition is clear. We have not approved and will not approve a policy of facilitating the transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe they would face a real risk of torture. If we were requested to assist another State in a rendition operation, and our assistance would be lawful, we would decide whether or not to assist taking into account all the circumstances. We would not assist in any case if to do so would put us in breach of UK law or our international obligations, including under the UN Convention Against Torture.

  We have found no evidence of detainees being rendered through the UK or Overseas Territories since 1997 where there were substantial grounds to believe there was a real risk of torture. The then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, set out in his Written Ministerial Statement of 20 January 2006 the results of the extensive review of official records back to May 1997.

  There were four cases in 1998 where the US requested permission to render one or more detainees through the UK or Overseas Territories. In two of these cases, records show the Government granted the US request, and refused two others. We have no evidence that the US Government has rendered any detainee through UK territory or airspace (including Overseas Territories) during the present US Administration, ie since January 2001.

  We have addressed the issue of rendition with the US government. As part of our close co-operation with them we have made clear to them:

    —  that we expect them to seek permission to render detainees via UK territory and airspace (including Overseas Territories),

    —  that we will grant permission only if we are satisfied that the rendition would accord with UK law and our international obligations, and

    —  how we understand our obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.

  The European Parliament report on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners provides no new evidence in respect of the UK.

The Committee asked what discussions there had been with the German Presidency on plans to resurrect the Constitutional Treaty (and therefore move JHA to QMV)

  During my appearance I indicated that there had been no discussion of this topic in Ministerial meetings of the JHA Council. As I explained the debate in the Council on the use of the passerelle clause in Article 42 TEU was concluded at the end of 2005. However, Government Ministers meet regularly with their EU counterparts, including the German Presidency, not least in the various formations of the Council of Ministers. Senior officials also meet their EU counterparts on a regular basis. Their discussions cover the whole range of EU issues, including climate change, energy security, economic reform and the future of Europe. The Presidency will present a report to the European Council in June on the future of Europe, based on extensive consultations with the Member States.

Joan Ryan MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

27 February 2007



Trafficking in Human Beings—Three Jurisdictions

  Considerable value and undoubted benefit were added to a series of cases involving trafficking in human beings referred to Eurojust by the UK. It is significant to note that these cases, although they emanated from different parts of the UK, namely London, South Yorkshire and Scotland, were clearly linked to one another in that they centred on investigations into the trafficking activities of a network of Albanian organised crime groups. The UK and Lithuanian desks at Eurojust, in dealing with these cases, were involved in all aspects of the services offered to national authorities by Eurojust, the facilitation of UK and Lithuanian mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests, the initiation and subsequent co-ordination of linked investigations and prosecutions and the planning and arranging for the execution of an urgent European Arrest Warrant within a short space of time and under complicated circumstances.

  The cases concerned the trafficking of women and girls, some as young as 14, from Lithuania to the UK. On arrival in the UK, the women were sold to Albanian organised crime groups for the purpose of prostitution. The initial reason for the referral to Eurojust was to facilitate MLA requests for evidence to be used in forthcoming trials of the Albanian defendants in England. On a review of the cases at Eurojust it became apparent that there was a need to initiate investigations in Lithuania against the organisers, who were engaged in recruiting the victims and transporting them to the UK. Both of these objectives were achieved at a successful co-ordination meeting held at Eurojust in January 2005. Information and intelligence were shared with the Lithuanian prosecutors and police, who thereafter agreed to commence investigations. This resulted in arrests in Lithuania and the commencement of investigations, the merger of existing investigations and co-ordination of UK and Lithuanian investigations. Europol also participated in this meeting, providing an insight into intelligence collected on the activities of Albanian organised crime groups.

  At the same time, in the UK, further arrests were also made, in particular in the Sussex area, when one of the alleged Lithuanian couriers arrived at Gatwick Airport. Due to problems in establishing jurisdiction in England and Wales, no prosecution resulted. After further discussions conducted through Eurojust, the Lithuanian authorities confirmed that they were able to establish jurisdiction and could prosecute and, in furtherance of this, agreed to issue a European Arrest Warrant. The preparation, issuance and execution of this warrant were co-ordinated through Eurojust. The entire process, which included re-issue of the EAW, due to the requirement by the UK authorities of additional essential information, took only four days to complete and resulted in the Lithuanian suspect being transferred to Lithuania for trial.

  During the same period, the International Co-operation Unit at Crown Office in Scotland also referred a trafficking case to Eurojust. This case was referred for facilitation of mutual legal assistance and involved very similar circumstances—the trafficking of women and girls from Lithuania to the UK, the sale on arrival in the UK to Albanians and the women thereafter being put to work in the UK's sex trade. An assessment of the Scottish investigation at Eurojust revealed common factors and links to both the ongoing English cases and the investigations in Lithuania. The Lithuanian National Member at Eurojust advised his domestic authorities of these links and the Lithuanian side of the investigations was combined and would be dealt with as one case. It is hoped that this will strengthen the Lithuanian case and when this ultimately proceeds to trial, it will incorporate the trafficking to both Scotland and England.

  The cases, referred to Eurojust by the Crown Prosecution Service in South Yorkshire, have now been brought to trial and have resulted, not only in convictions, but also in lengthy custodial sentences, including 18 and 21 years' imprisonment. Co-operation between both Scottish and English authorities and their Lithuanian counterparts is ongoing to progress and prepare for the Lithuanian prosecutions. Eurojust continues to play a significant part in this collaboration. These cases both individually and cumulatively are excellent examples of how Eurojust can make a difference as it facilitates and co-ordinates necessary actions between individual national authorities and agencies.

Serious Fraud—Urgent Multilateral Assistance

  On 8 and 15 April and 3 May 2005 the General Prosecution Office of the Slovak Republic asked for mutual legal assistance from the competent authorities of the UK, Germany and Austria in the investigation and prosecution of a serious fraud case. This crime was alleged to have been committed by persons acting as representatives of a joint stock company. Each of these persons had issued and signed four insurance guarantee bonds, each with the value of US$ 5 million, in total amounting to US$ 20 million, without meeting the legal requirements prescribed by the special Act on Bonds. All of the bonds were due and payable on 30 September 2006. These bonds went into circulation through certain persons with the view to obtaining financial benefit from the sale for the perpetrators or for others in the amount of US$ 20 million.

  The Slovak authorities asked for the hearing of witnesses and submission of the securities. The requests for MLA were fully met and executed by the UK and Austrian authorities in August and September 2005 and the German authorities, who could not meet the request fully due to a procedural obstacle, also replied in August 2005. This case is proof of very quick and effective assistance by Eurojust and the competent authorities in certain Member States. The results helped the competent authorities in the Slovak Republic to make a quick decision to charge the suspects. The investigation is still ongoing.

Illegal Immigration Crime

  Eurojust made a significant contribution to an illegal immigration crime case referred by the UK. It involved Turkish organised crime groups allegedly engaged in the smuggling of large numbers of Turkish Kurds into the UK. This group was under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in London.

  The UK operation had links to a number of other countries, primarily Belgium, but also Italy, France and Denmark. The UK had made a large number of MLA requests for evidence from these countries and the swift execution and facilitation of these was one of the reasons for the referral of the case to Eurojust. Moreover, as the UK operation was moving towards an enforcement phase, the UK investigators and prosecutors were keen to ensure that any arrests they carried out in the UK were co-ordinated with the arrests of the suspects in the other involved countries, not only to maximise the effect but also in an effort to dismantle the entire organised people-smuggling network across all the countries in which it existed and operated. After arrest, exchange of information and evidence would be required in preparation for prosecution and, therefore, for all of these reasons, the case was referred to Eurojust.

  A co-ordination meeting was held at Eurojust in May 2005. The UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Europol were represented. Amongst other things, a common enforcement date for arrests was discussed and agreed in principle. Ancillary issues, such as liaison with the Turkish authorities and a media strategy following the arrests, were also explored.

  A follow-up meeting was held at Eurojust in September 2005, essentially to plan and co-ordinate the joint arrests due to take place at the beginning of October. A total of 26 arrests were made, 19 in the UK and seven in Belgium, during the joint action which ensued in both countries on 11 and 13 October. Clearly, this success is partially a product of the co-ordinated approach to crossborder cases brokered at Eurojust. Eurojust continues to be involved in this case. A further meeting at Eurojust is proposed for early 2006 both for debriefing purposes and also to discuss the gathering of evidence in preparation for trials.

Large-Scale Investment Fraud

  In this case, a number of Member States were involved: Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Spain, the UK and a third country, Switzerland.

  A Luxembourg investigating magistrate dealing with a complex cross-border case of large-scale investment fraud, with hundreds of victims and huge financial losses of between €30 million and €50 million, requested Eurojust to facilitate the execution of urgent MLA requests and to help co-ordinate further judicial action in this case.

  The principal suspect was in pre-trial custody in Luxembourg. The MLA requests were aimed mainly at freezing bank accounts and recovering criminal assets. A co-ordination meeting between Luxembourg, Belgium, France and Spain was organised by Eurojust in November 2005. The authorities involved found practical solutions to problems encountered in the execution of various MLA requests. Some new areas for further investigations were also identified. Moreover, it was confirmed that Luxembourg and France were conducting parallel investigations of the same case.

  The two countries had powerful reasons to take on the entire case:

    —  for France, due to the overwhelming number of French victims, the need to ensure full protection of these victims' rights; and

    —  for Luxembourg, the equally important need to counter the damage done by such criminal activities to its financial institutions.

  Following fruitful discussions, under Eurojust's guidance, the participants reached an agreement that the proceedings might be transferred from Luxembourg to France, in order to avoid any overlapping of investigations.

  At a later stage, this arrangement was confirmed by the prosecuting authorities of both countries, who decided that the French judiciary should take over the entire file. Thanks to the intervention of Eurojust, a possible conflict of jurisdiction was thus avoided. This case clearly illustrates the benefit of co-ordination arranged by Eurojust at an early stage, notably when the execution of urgent MLA requests appears to be particularly difficult and there are on-going parallel investigations in different countries.

Illegal Immigration—Pachtou

  Operation Pachtou was a case which brought together a series of investigations involving four EU Member States and Turkey. Investigations in France and the UK showed that a sophisticated network was moving people from the Kurdish areas of Turkey through Greece into Italy and from there to France and the UK. Eurojust made enquiries which revealed that separate investigations into the same network, which were not so far advanced, were also taking place in Italy, Greece and Turkey. Eurojust arranged a co-ordination meeting in October which was attended by police, investigators, judges and prosecutors from each of the five states involved. A good deal of information was exchanged and the links between the different parts of the network become much clearer. The French and UK representatives were keen to act quickly and make a series of arrests in their countries. However after discussions and agreement to provide further information to the Italian, Greek and Turkish authorities it was agreed that the French and UK agencies would delay any action so that a series of arrests and house and other searches could take place on the same day in all five countries in December. On 14 December the network was dismantled when 82 arrests took place across Europe: in Turkey (3), in Greece (2), in Italy (21), in France (49), and in the UK (7).

  This case illustrates benefits that a multinational multi-functional approach through Eurojust can offer. It also demonstrates the point that a case which was initially a bilateral matter introduced by France and the UK can be effectively expanded at Eurojust to involve several other Member States and ensure work is done together to produce a very successful outcome.

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