Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Developments in law

Today's newspapers are full of this story. "EU approves proposal to try Britons in their absence in foreign courts". There are one or two problems with the headline. It is not, as yet, the EU that has approved the proposal but merely the European Parliament that is not the legislator in the EU. Of course, one cannot expect Frances Gibb, Legal Editor of the Times, to know such things. I suppose, one ought to be fair, and assume that the headline was created by a sub-editor, except that, judging by the number of typos and other errors I see day in, day out, I am no longer sure newspapers emply such people.

Anyway, the point is that, if the proposal goes through, it "allow citizens to be extradited automatically under fast-track procedures at the request of another European Union country on the basis of a decision by the foreign court". That, of course, was the whole point of the European Arrest Warrant, which was pushed into British law some time ago. Why the wailing and gnashing of teeth now?

In any case, the point of any extradition is that it is done at the request of a country because of a court decision in absentia. If it were not in absentia, there would be no point in asking for extradition. The problem seems to be that this will now extend to all sorts of minor misdemeanours and, one could argue, that people should not commit them in other countries any more than they do in their own. Furthermore, the whole extradition process is to be speeded up. But that, as I said before, was the point of the European Arrest Warrant, supposedly brought in to help us fight terrorism but really aimed at a harmonization of judicial processes.

It is worth pointing out that Britain was one of the countries that sponsored this proposal, so this is not a question of evil foreigners imposing their will on us but the usual rather muddled notion that we can somehow use the EU for our own purposes - get various miscreants back to this country and put them on trial.

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