Poland are abusing Euro warrants We'd better invade
The number of extradition cases being dealt with in the UK courts has reached record levels, fuelled by a number of "trivial" requests from Europe that have exasperated the police and clogged up the system, the Guardian has learned.
Up to 1,000 extradition cases are expected to have been dealt with by the end of the year, more than double the number last year, and four times the number in 2006 according to figures from the City of Westminster magistrates court, which handles all extradition hearings.
The increase is largely down to the volume of European arrest warrants (EAWs), many of them issued by Poland.
EAWs, requiring the arrest and extradition of suspects from one EU country to another, are being used by Poland for a large
volume of trivial extradition requests , according to Detective Sergeant Gary Flood of Scotland Yard's extradition unit.
He estimated that 40% of all extradition cases dealt with by the Metropolitan police originated in Poland, adding that
many of the offences were so minor they would lead to either a caution or no investigation at all in England and Wales.
In one case, according to Flood, a carpenter who fitted wardrobe doors and then removed them when the client refused to pay
him, was subject to an extradition request by Poland so that they could try him for theft. In another case, the Polish authorities requested the extradition of a suspect for theft of a dessert. The European arrest warrant contained a list of the
ingredients, Flood said.
Although Poland is not the only culprit - a Lithuanian was extradited last year on a charge of piglet-rustling - it has made the most requests by far.
According to Flood the volume of cases from Poland
has forced the Metropolitan police to start chartering special planes to return suspects to Poland. We now arrange for a Polish military flight every three weeks, he said.
The number of requests from Poland and other eastern European
countries is due to the absence of a filtering process to weed out cases that are not worth prosecuting.
Britain slavishly implements foreign extradition requests while other countries are protecting their citizens with opt-outs.
Anger at Britain's gold-plating of the controversial European Arrest Warrant is growing after it emerged that other
EU countries have secured significant safeguards for their citizens that are not available to British nationals.
More than 1,000 people in Britain last year were seized by police on the orders of European prosecutors, a 51% rise in 12 months.
Many are accused of trivial crimes overseas such as possessing cannabis or leaving petrol stations without paying. No evidence need be presented in British courts of the alleged offence and judges have few powers to resist the person's extradition.
Those affected can spend long periods in jail here and abroad for crimes which might not even be prosecuted in this country. They can also be seized for offences which are not even crimes in Britain.
The Sunday Telegraph has established
that many other European countries have given themselves opt-outs or conditions to protect their citizens.
Holland will not extradite Dutch nationals under the EAW unless the accusing state agrees that they can serve any prison sentence in
a Dutch jail. The Belgians have opt-outs so that the warrant does not cover abortion. France appears reluctant to extradite its own nationals under the EAW and has stated in the past that they will not be extradited.
Europe's largest country,
Germany, has imposed a proportionality rule stating that only those accused of serious crimes can be seized under a warrant. The definition of serious is not given, but it would exclude large numbers of the trivial charges dealt with by the
British extradition courts.
Karen Todner, one of Britain's leading extradition lawyers, said: It is typical of us not to have given ourselves proper protection. British judges apply the EAW treaty to the letter and these massive injustices come
about because the Government hasn't thought this through. There are a lot of quite simple things we could do now to mitigate the harm done to British citizens, which could be done quite quickly through a simple administrative decision.
Russell, the chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: The human impact of an extradition is crazy. In its forthcoming review of extradition law, Britain needs to learn lessons from the likes of Germany, which have put much-needed safeguards
in place to protect their citizens.