We should celebrate Magna Carta by abolishing the European Arrest Warrant

The European Arrest Warrant is incompatible with our traditions. If the only way to abolish it is to leave the EU, let’s leave

13 June 2015

9:00 AM

13 June 2015

9:00 AM

On the 12th of January, 500 of the great and good, or at any rate the well-heeled, sat down to a sumptuous dinner at the Guildhall at a cost of £500 a head. This was to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, widely regarded as one of the most important documents in the world.

Celebrate? A funeral procession would have been more appropriate. Clause 38 provided,

‘No judicial officer shall initiate legal proceedings against anyone on his own mere say-so, without reliable witnesses brought for that purpose.’

Yet the British government had given away, less than three months earlier, the protection provided by that clause. It voluntarily ‘opted in’ to the European Arrest Warrant. This is the legislation about which David Cameron, back when he was in opposition, said,

‘Let us be clear about what it means. One of our constituents goes to Spain on holiday, commits an alleged offence, and returns home. All that is necessary is that the warrant is correctly filled out.’

So there is no requirement for any evidence that he committed a crime. This is quite extraordinary.

Any member state of the EU may demand, without any evidence, that our government arrest a UK citizen and hand him over to await possible trial for a crime he is suspected of having committed. I must be exaggerating? That could not possibly be true? Well, I am not and it is.

The UK was under no obligation to opt in. Cameron chose to. As Christopher Gill, one-time Maastricht rebel, says, ‘All this from the very man who wants to see powers repatriated back to the UK!’ Or Torquil Dick-Erikson, ‘The European Arrest Warrant is unjust and oppressive, and tramples on our historic rights and freedoms.’

At the dinner, speeches were given by the Foreign Secretary and the Master of the Rolls in praise of Magna Carta, but not a word was said about this voluntary surrender of Magna Carta’s guarantee to UK citizens. This is typical of the way the ‘establishment’ happily ignores what does not suit it. Another example: I was honoured to be invited to the main celebration to be held on 15 June at Runnymede, and delighted to discover there would be debates. At last, I thought, an opportunity to discuss the arrest warrant. No: ‘The debate sessions will be a series of short recorded talking head commentaries….’ Some debates! I shall not go.

Late last year, 38 Tory MPs voted against the government on the European Arrest Warrant. That a legal challenge soon followed cannot have been a surprise. I tried to get a High Court injunction against Britain opting in, as it would make Magna Carta almost irrelevant.

Yet a large group of top lawyers, including a former president of the Supreme Court and the current president of the Law Society, wrote to the Daily Telegraph (just before the challenge had been initiated), saying that unless the government did opt in, the UK would be more at risk from foreign criminals. It is hard to think of anything which could have put more pressure on a court than a letter from such an impressive group of legal luminaries. In my view, those who signed the letter should — in spite of, indeed partly because of, their distinction — be ashamed of themselves. In a criminal case their intervention might have been contempt of court.

Two QCs had advised me that I had, at the very least, an arguable case that the government could not legally opt in. So, in spite of the Telegraph letter, I proceeded. I lost. I do not say the decision was wrong. Nor do I say that the court was biased. But if justice is not merely to be done but to be seen to be done, the lawyers have failed.

But does the European Arrest Warrant matter? Yes it does. In the past year nearly 8000 of these warrants were received by the UK, and presumably the great majority of our citizens involved were indeed sent to the requesting state. There have been serious injustices. I have space for only one.

Keith Hainsworth, 64, a tutor in Ancient Greek returning from a weekend in Paris, was handed over by British Customs in Calais to the French, on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Greece. He was thrown into a French police cell, banned from speaking to his wife or a lawyer, accused of ‘malicious arson’ in Greece, and finally flown to Greece from France under armed guard. He was thrown into a notorious Athens jail and then transported, together with menacing Greek criminals, on a nine-hour journey by prison transfer wagon.

One might think that this constituted ‘degrading treatment’, danger of which has the result, according to the ‘Framework Decision’ governing European Arrest Warrants, that the person concerned should not be extradited. But I suspect that argument would not get far. He was finally freed and returned home when it turned out that the only evidence against him was given by a mischief-maker so notorious that when his name was disclosed in the Greek court, there was giggling. Mr Hainsworth now faces a legal bill of £40,000. This is intolerable. If a British court had had a chance to call evidence, it would have been obvious that there was no case for extradition.

There is other important EU legislation to which we ought not to have agreed, especially to do with ‘dual criminality’, which means that a UK citizen may be extradited for an action which is no crime in this country. The European Arrest Warrant is, however, the crucial one.

As Christopher Gill put it in a recent speech,

‘What an irony it is that in this very year in which we might well have been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the defeat of the 19th-century manifestation of continental totalitarianism, the focus will instead be upon the 800th anniversary of “Magna Carta”, the fundamental tenets of which this government has so recently, deliberately and gratuitously trashed!’

What is done is done. There is only one way now to get rid of the European Arrest Warrant and I welcome it. We must leave the EU.

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Show comments
  • Rik

    Given the “flexibility” of the justice system of some member states such as Romania i am thinking of starting a cloud fund to pay a magistrate to issue an EAW for a Mr D Cameron of 10 Downing street on charges of malfeasance in public office.5000 euros should do it.See how much he enjoys illegal curtailment of his civil liberties

    • Mr TaxPayer

      There’s got to be something that can be trumped up against Antony Linton Blair of Connaught Square, London.

      • Lady Magdalene

        No need to trump it up.

      • MildredCLewis



    • Gilbert White

      This should be more than tongue in cheek but it needs a mass uprising!

  • George McCarthy

    Tell me, if we can’t ‘deport’ a criminal because of ECHR, how does EAW work?

    I have noticed this from day one, I also notice that Cameron’s attempt to introduce a new Bill of Rights, is merely his attempt at scrapping Magna Carta, because with Magna Carta, TTIP will be inoperable! TTIP is really a Slave Charter in disguise, which is why the EU insist on Free Movement!

    • Sleazy Boat on the Bayou

      Many foreign criminals are ordered to be deported. Some appeal against deportion. Some of those appeals are heard. A few criminals succeed in their appeals. Many more criminals lose their appeals.

      • Gilbert White

        Fair enough point Sleaze some people get their legs blown off by imports most of us do not, point taken!

    • Hamburger

      Explain please. I thought TTIP was a free trade agreement.

    • Dominic Stockford

      because us Brits are no longer wanted in our own country. Much better to get us all into foreign jails so they can fill the country with a new breed of cap-doffers from abroad to keep the politicos in power.

  • Gilbert White

    Is this the Document that gave us the peasants, twenty robber barons to contend with , a bit like today’s corporate entities instead of just one big johnny or cnut on our backs?

  • The Magna Carta is no more than a totem. It means nothing. No more than The Bill of Rights or the idea we had a constitution prior to th Human Rights Act 1998 creating one. It just so happens the actual constitution is regulated and interpreted by a court that is not controlled by the executive or parliament. In other words a true separation of powers. The fact that the executive and the legislature bleat about it means it is working for the people it is for: everyone.

    To the extent that it requires that all are equal before the law is a new concept for English jurisprudence. Even now the police and courts keep “forgetting” that worthiness and justice are not coterminus. Pedigree is actually not relevant, even though pedigree has now been expanded to include “who your friends are” worthiness, Nigella Lawson and Jeremy Clarkson refers.

    But the fact that this is the case shows the need for Magna carta and the Bill of Rights to be seen as what they are: pretty pieces of toilet paper. They have even less purpose than toilet roll as judges never actually use them for anything at all. they aren’t even pretty and come to think of it have never, ever meant anything. It is as if Hitler had been asked to sign a letter saying he’d be nice from now on and then carried on regardless.

    • Ivan Ewan

      It was signed into law. The fact that it is ignored means that the rule of law is being eroded, not the Magna Carta itself.

      The human rights act did not create a constitution either.

  • sir_graphus

    I was puzzled why we opted back into the EAW. Dave said he was looking to repatriate powers from Brussels; here was one he could have had for free, probably the most absurd infringement of our basic rights in the whole EU; the thing we’d most like to be freed from. But he just gave it back. Don’t get it.

    • Ivan Ewan

      It just means he’s a complete thicko, or that he is actually a EUrophile.

      It’s a difficult choice but I’m leaning toward the latter explanation.

    • hugh_36

      Because getting criminals back to the UK when they have fled is massively useful. In the vast majority of cases fleeing from the UK. Just ask the police.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Agreed. The EAW is abhorrent to British citizens and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and Habeas Corpus.

    Cameron deliberately destroyed legal protections the British people have had for centuries. He is an appalling PM.

    • fox holes

      Cameron is not the only one. Major, Thatcher and Heath join him in the club of Tory traitors.

      • Dominic Stockford

        As did Blair, Falconer, and Brown.

  • Mary Ann

    The EAW works both ways. Do we want our criminals living it up on the Costas.

    • wycombewanderer

      I dont think there is a problem with providing evidence of a primae facie case to a Spanish court o decide zhether to extradite, do you.

      • Mary Ann

        Easier with the EAW as it is the other way.

        • Damaris Tighe

          Of course it’s ‘easier’ to just pick someone up on the basis of a signature, than all that boring, troublesome due process of habeous corpus.

  • Ivan Ewan


    It’s a shame that things like the European Arrest Warrant, once disregarded as a conspiracy fantasy that could never possibly happen, is now just something mundane to be disregarded.

    You go on holiday to a charmingly cruddy country, someone doesn’t like your face, and there’s nothing to say you definitely won’t end up like poor old Keith.

    • hugh_36

      A altar more common scenario is criminal activity in the UK, perpetrator flees back home but can be brought back to face justice quickly and easily. The vast majority of cases are this way round. Not Brits who do stuff abroad.

      • Wilky1

        Whether this is altogether more common or not, just 1 case of the suspension of the rights of a UK citizen isn’t worth the “speedy return” to the UK of a criminal who’s fled.

        British law, an example that has spread throughout the world as a shining example of the way to do it is now subservient to the EU & an law which suspends the basic rights of the accused has been enshrined in Law so politicians can secure other supposed concessions – it isn’t worth the erosion of rights!

      • Mary Ann

        So you think that Brits. are better behaved than people from other countries, I don’t think so. How long did the great train robbers live a life of luxury on the Costas, the EAW would have enabled the British courts to get them back.

    • Mary Ann

      Do you often go on holiday to charmingly cruddy countries. It doesn’t sound very wise.

      • Ivan Ewan

        Thankfully I do not.

    • Jay Igaboo

      Does your principle of dissent to the EAW apply across the board, for example, to the arrest of historian David Irving at Heathrow for his historical revision of WW 2 concentration camps?
      Just curious, and to pre-empt your likely reply, I am 100% against anyone being arrested under EAW, as only Scots and English laws should apply to anyone arrested in Great Britain.
      Including Jews in breach of laws extant elsewhere in Europe.
      The EAW is a catch all that brings anyone anywhere in the EU in breach of some law somewhere in the EU.

      • Ivan Ewan

        Yes it applies across the board. There must be a better way.

        • Jay Igaboo

          Fair enough. I have the same attitude to free speech, I believe that no matter how much I may be offended by another expressing themselves, that is between me and the speaker, and no business at all of the State.

          With freedom of speech, there is always the possibility of a rapprochement through having learned the other sides concerns, when one side is gagged it is the perfect soil for tyranny and resentments fester silently until they explode.

          As a matter of information, prior to the first vote on the EAW, I protested the EAW to the fat liebore hack (John Robertson) who was then my MP.

          He was, as I wrote, a party hack, according to the workforyou.com he never went against the party line http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?id=uk.org.publicwhip/member/40275&showall=yes#divisions
          It is not merely freedom of speech that conerns me about the EAW, it is ANY citizen being subject to so many laws (which are often contradictory) prosecuting authorites can persecute at will, especially if the first form had gone through, where habeaus corpus was completely removed.
          Did YOU visit your MP, or even write?
          This is a genuine “just asking” query.
          Liberties are stolen when enough are asleep.

          • Ivan Ewan

            I have sometimes written to my MP, who is a Labour hack. The response is always a condescending non-answer written by a civil servant. It’s a waste of time, so I just vote against him instead.

            The only thing we can currently do to fight the ‘tyranny by overcomplication’ you describe is to try to get out of the European Union. It’s the most overcomplicated thing I know of.

          • Jay Igaboo

            Voting is pretty much a waste of time, due to the uniformity of the political class and the electoral system.
            I’m going to start a campaign for a Swiss-style system ( with some modifications) with the people having a right to binding referenda, recall of representatives, and, also like the Swiss, “Mandat” the right to block new statures.
            No one political party have, or possibly can have, a series of policies that give the majority of the people to decide what they want on individual issues- referenda can.

          • Ivan Ewan

            At some point people are going to have to vote on whether they want that though. Voting might be a bit of a fix but it’s either ballots or bullets.

            I would advocate a compromise. Give the Monarch the power to issue a referendum for laws deemed to be contentious by the general public, and to set the terms of such a referendum. That way the balance of power is nicely redressed.

          • Jay Igaboo

            I wouldn’t consider that a compromise. The monarch is from the elite class, and although Liz had done a good job, I consider she failed the people when it mattered most- when she gave Royal Assent to the surrender of OUR sovereignity to Brussels.
            Her defenders s ay it would have risked a constitutional crisis that may have brought the monarchy down.
            So what?
            I took her shilling, served 11 years, thereby honouring MY obligations to the British people, Some of my comrades who also took the shilling gave their lives according to their oaths, “obeying her Minsters and Officers set over me”, in the belief that we were serving the British people by so doing.
            She had only to run the risk ( in my view slight) of living in reduced but still luxurious circumstances.
            The system works for the Swiss, It would have worked very well for us, but six decades of mass immigration and what, three? of multi-kulti will make it work less well, but better than the joke shamocracy of deciding EVERY issue by gambling every five years in a two- horse race where there is little difference between the runners.

          • Ivan Ewan

            It could be argued quite easily that the main reason the Queen gave assent to joining the EU, is because for the Queen to refuse to pass a law would result in a constitutional crisis. The Monarchy of the UK is a rubber stamp, whereas it could be repurposed as a valuable check on parliamentary overreach.

  • Frank

    Stuart, all true and correct.
    The trouble is that the establishment won’t pay any attention until their son, or daughter is dragged off to Greece / Macedonia / etc under one of these EAW.
    As for Cameron, this will have beneath his attention span (he has also given convincing evidence that he had never heard of the Magna Carta), I assume that the Home Office decided that the EAW was the way ahead and sod any lessons from history.

  • Dominic Stockford

    None of the ‘major’ 5 parties really give a fig for what ‘ordinary Brits’ actually want, nor do they have any desire to do anything to benefit us. They simply want to chase power for the sake of having power (even though being so deeply into the EU means that they have no real power), and at the start of each enforced 5 year term (which we weren’t asked about, just dumped on with) they all being by setting out to get power next time.

    Something like the EAW is utterly incomprehensible as part of British Law, as the article says, yet because the parties care about power not people it is simply a discussion point or bargaining chip in their attempt for the next election. We’re up the creek without a paddle, and the politicos don’t care because they’re all on the gravy train.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “We should celebrate Magna Carta by abolishing the European Arrest Warrant”
    I’ll second that.

  • Bertie

    “What is done is done. There is only one way now to get rid of the
    European Arrest Warrant and I welcome it. We must leave the EU.”

    Yes, regardless of what big business wants, regardless of the pros and cons, ultimately it boils down to freedom – to have those of our fellow citizens we have elected to make the own rules by which we are governed.

    If you want to be ruled by an unelected third party keep beleiving the dream that is a United States of Europe – one bank, one government.For that is the plan.

  • Radford_NG

    There is another aspect of this and it is costing us a lot of time and money.Most of the 8000 warrants will not be for British citizens.Countries like Poland issue EAWs for petty offences such as motoring violations,and the British police and courts obediently follow them up;wasting time and money.

  • BlackArrow

    It is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Here is an article about that and here is my comment about Magna Carta vs. “exceptionalism,” underneath:

    Although originally only about King John agreeing to abide by understandings/laws only among noblemen, Magna Carta was/is the fundamental precedent for the primal principle of Western nations’ laws: equal justice under the rule of law. And that any government – monarchist or more democratic – must abide by the law … domestic or any law it has signed for, internationally … just like any individual citizen.

    And Britain was once great, as the progenitor and principal example/leader of the rule of law internationally. Some months ago, Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the importance of Magna Carta.

    Tragically – and even V.V. Putin has said (sincerely, apparently) how saddened he has been by this – our Western governments have defined themselves to be exceptional to this … to be above the law. The prime example of our “exceptionalism” recently was our obviously criminally fraudulent 2003 invasion of Iraq and then our corrupt inability to expose, indict, and punish our war criminals/leaders, in Britain or America. Even little Malaysia was outraged enough to provide a venue for the war crimes trial which did convict them … and 2 of its airliners have been crashed since.

    Many in the world have looked to Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq War Inquiry – even if not under oath – to finally report the incriminating evidence necessary for prosecution, truth, and justice, but Iraq War prime minister Tony Blair and David Cameron himself are blocking Sir John’s release of critical (and presumably incriminating) documents/evidence.

    Another example is Britain’s paedophile rape and murder rings scandal. By Magna Carta, there must be a real investigation, prosecutions, and punishments, no matter how high in British society they must go.

    As Malaysia showed, the East … and increasingly the rest of the world … is losing patience with our Western “exceptionalism” and wants us to live up to Magna Carta. If the West doesn’t, we cannot survive the collective wrath of the rest of the planet.


  • Perseus Slade

    Does the European Arrest Warrant mean that anyone in any EU country can be arrested and deported for breaking the law of any of the other EU countries?
    That a UK man could be tried for breaking a French law unwittingly and without leaving the UK? Say for making an politically-incorrect remark on Twitter.

    • Henry Hudson

      In effect, yes.

    • hugh_36

      That already happens. If say you threaten an American or the USA in general on Twitter you would be subject to extradition. Your question misinterprets where the crime has taken place. Online it is quite possible to commit a crime in one country without leaving another. The EAW allows such criminals to face justice.

  • Ron

    There is little publicity given to East European countries who don’t seem to want there criminal’s back.

  • hugh_36

    The campaign to abolish or withdraw from European Arrest Warrants is stupidity in the extreme. Any conversation with police dealing with transnational crime will reveal it is essential to combat criminals who commit crime in the UK and then flee or come from abroad.