After 20 days on the road, through six countries and with almost 20,000 miles covered, it was a joy to end my journey in Dresden – the “Florence of the Elbe”
From the opulent Baroque style Zwinger, dubbed one of the greatest “complete works of art” ever created, to the Frauenkirche church, all but destroyed during World War II, and for decades left as a vivid reminder of the destruction of war – this is a magnificent city.
I was in Germany for specialised training of prosecutors, from five Member States, on EU and international legal instruments to advance mutual legal assistance and extradition. The workshop aims to demonstrate how the European Arrest Warrant, European Investigation Order, mutual recognition of asset recovery orders and use of Joint Investigation Teams has rapidly improved the ability to investigate and prosecute trans-border crimes.
In the week that the U.K. government’s Brexit department warned of an impact on both the U.K. and EU’s “ability to bring criminals to justice” if full co-operation ended – the reality is clear – following Brexit the most significant of these EU instruments, the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) will be consigned to history for the U.K.
As Helen Ball, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Senior National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Policing, said to the House of Lords European Committee in 2016, the U.K., “Must not be in a position where a terrorist can think, ‘Okay, there is a safe haven where it is going to take a very long time for me to be extradited and come to justice’”.
With the EAW no longer available, Helen Ball added, “We would want something that meant that we could bring people to justice swiftly”.
The statistics on the impact of the EAW are clear. As the same House of Lord’s Committee confirmed, in its report on the future of U.K.-EU security and police cooperation, prior to 2004, fewer than 60 individuals a year were extradited from the U.K., whereas since 2004 the EAW had enabled the U.K. to extradite over 7,000 individual accused or convicted of a criminal offence to other EU Member States. Over 95% of these were extraditions of foreign nationals. Over the same period, the EAW had been used to extradite over 1,000 individuals to the U.K. Surely, whichever view you take on leaving the EU, the EAW has been a success.
What is a replacement extradition arrangement going to look like with the EU? An equivalent of the surrender procedures between the EU Member States and Norway and Iceland – with a list of offences similar to the EAW? Although, that agreement took a decade to implement and has a nationality exemption. Or without an agreement, do we revert to the 1957 EU Convention on Extradition – which is a huge backward step for swift justice.
When I attend EU workshops the first question is often about our post-Brexit position, especially the process for extradition.
Time is getting short and the impact on judicial cooperation will be a painful cost of Brexit. I hope a sensible course is taken and we maintain a just and efficient process in our mutual interests.
This could be an agreement that allows for mutual recognition, and a concession that the European Court of Justice has oversight in this discrete area. Without this, I fear we step back in time and the consequences contemplated by Helen Ball become reality
For this reason, those practitioners involved in international cooperation must do all they can to ensure the tools they need to protect citizens from harm are intact post- Brexit – otherwise we will be on that road less travelled….