Oct 26, 2018

A no-deal Brexit could leave Britain unable to extradite criminals back to EU states, the Law Society of England and Wales warned today.

Currently – under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) – criminals can easily be repatriated to their home state, but if the UK exits without a deal, it may end up relying on a treaty from the 1950s.

“The British people may not be forgiving if the UK becomes a safe haven for criminals from across the EU27,” Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said.

“Even where the 1957 European Extradition Convention is still in place, the process is lengthy, costly and taxpayers will end up footing the bill – Switzerland still uses it so the evidence of the system’s defects are there for all to see.”

The EAW brought in a speedier system with safeguards for individuals’ rights. All current EU member states have signed and ratified the Extradition Convention 1957, but several EU member states have repealed provisions implementing the convention to replace these with the EAW.

Under the convention, extradition arrangements with the EU would again become a political decision, with the involvement of the British Home Office. It would also create problems with Ireland as that’s one of the countries which has repealed legislation – they would have to amend their domestic law as would a string of other EU27 countries, which might not be a political priority for them in the wake of an ill-tempered exit.

A number of EU states including Germany, France, Czech, the Netherlands, Solvenia and Slovakia would have to change their constitutions in order to extradite one of their citizens to a non-EU country. For example, Roman Polanksi is a French citizen and has therefore avoided extradition to the US for sexual offences against a 13-year-old girl.

And, of course, negotiating new arrangements takes time. Iceland and Norway have a surrender agreement with the EU but that took 13 years to negotiate and has still not entered into force.

“Losing the EAW when we leave the EU would also make it more difficult to apprehend people who have committed a crime in the UK and fled abroad,” added Christina Blacklaws. The most recent case is the EAW issued for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the Russians accused of the Salisbury poisoning: if found in any country of the EU, they will be arrested and sent to Britain. This would not be possible under the 1957 Extradition Convention and in any case, the time it takes to extradite under the Convention is 20 times longer than under the EAW.

Many countries, like Estonia and France, refuse to extradite their own citizens; so no citizen who has committed a crime in the UK and has gone back to their own country could be extradited. Some countries, like Germany, have the prohibition in their constitution.

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