Over the years, one of the many issues that constituents have raised with me has been their frustration about the justice system’s seeming inability to bring to account those foreign criminals who hide in this country and British criminals who have fled overseas to avoid justice.
When you look back over parliamentary debates about this issue, you find that the loudest voices (across the political spectrum) have regularly been from those who point to unfairness compared to, or a lack of consistency with, UK law which, by facilitating extradition, would result in some injustice to the individual. However, the failure to act has led to many injustices with criminals escaping scot-free.
Measures to try to harmonise extradition procedures across Europe started in the mid-1990s. The 2001 September 11th attacks provided some impetus for change. The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was finally implemented in 2004, with more states joining the arrangements since then.
The EAW is now seen as absolutely vital for ensuring fast and effective cross-border crime and justice measures. Since 2004, the EAW has meant that more than 7,000 people have been extradited from the UK to face trial or serve a sentence abroad; it has also resulted in more than 1,000 people being returned to the UK to face justice.
An excellent example of the success of the EAW was in apprehending and bringing to justice Sheffield criminal Craig Allen, who was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for supplying Class A drugs in the UK – bringing death and destruction to many local communities – but orchestrating the criminality from Thailand and Holland. Allen was the first fugitive to be captured abroad after the launch of the National Crime Agency.
Without EAW it could take years to extradite dangerous criminals to and from Europe. However, the Government have given no commitment on their plans for crime and justice measures post Brexit.
It’s nonsense to suggest that a continuing commitment to the EAW or membership of Europol should be part of the Brexit negotiations.
My constituents want criminals to be brought to justice. It’s time to end the uncertainty now.