By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish government says that reports that senior Scottish police officers are deeply concerned by moves from the Westminster Government to withdraw from European Arrest Warrants shows why Scotland needs its own, independent voice in Europe.
Home Secretary Theresa May recently announced that the UK would withdraw from many aspects of EU justice agreements – including the European Arrest Warrant – in a move believed to be aimed at shoring up support for the Coalition government amongst Tory backbench Eurosceptics.
The SNP have sharply criticised the proposal to scrap the EAW, claiming that it demonstrates how the Conservatives put their own party political needs ahead of the broader public good, and how Scottish interests are held hostage by the need to appease the right wing of the Conservative party.
Senior police officers are alarmed by the UK government’s plan to withdraw from the European Arrest Warrant, speaking to the Herald newspaper with the backing of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, an anonymous senior detective said:
“This will have very considerable implications for law enforcement in Scotland. It will not alter the fact we would continue to track people down overseas, but it could make it more and more difficult to extradite them to Scotland for offences they have committed here because we will have lost one of our main tools.”
Speaking to the Observer newspaper last month, Commander Allan Gibson, director of professional standards at the Metropolitan police and spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers on extradition and mutual legal assistance, said:
“There can be little doubt that the European Arrest Warrant is much quicker, simpler and cheaper and the exercise of justice is more efficient and effective with forces in several countries co-operating.
“Previously, extradition from countries like Poland, Germany and France could be very slow and bureaucratic. The EAW is the most effective of the instruments that would be potentially affected by the 2014 decision.”
The EU arrest warrant was introduced in 2004, and has been used with increasing regularity in a variety of cases, allowing for the quick extradition of suspects to their home countries.
Even the Eurosceptic Conservative MP Dominic Raab was forced to admit that at least half of the European justice co-operation measures were of “practical law enforcement merit”. However Mr Raab insists that the measures must be scrapped as they imply a loss of UK democratic control over the EU, and this democratic deficit is injust.
It is argued by the Scottish independence campaign that Scotland faces a similar democratic deficit vis a vis Westminster, which is further compounded by Westminster’s total control of UK relations with the EU.
SNP MSP Colin Keir raised the matter in the Scottish Parliament last week, where it was revealed that since the warrants were first introduced, between 60 and 70 people wanted by courts in Scotland were captured using a European Arrest Warrant.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Keir said:
“It is absolutely ludicrous that the Tories are prepared to assist criminals in fleeing from justice merely in order to appease their own backbenchers. And how can Willie Rennie possibly justify the Lib Dems being dragged along with it in the Tory-led coalition?
“What sort of message does it send out when the Westminster Government thinks it is acceptable for people to be able escape from the law simply by visiting one of our neighbouring countries?
“It’s no wonder that senior police officers are aghast at these plans, which could see their efforts to bring wrongdoers to justice completely undermined.
“It is clearer than ever that the biggest threat to Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the EU is the Tory-led coalition’s isolationism.
“These disreputable plans simply show why Scotland needs its own voice in Europe as an independent country.
“Only a Yes vote in 2014 will ensure that Scotland is not cut adrift from the rest of the EU by a Tory party that seems increasingly determined to rip the UK out of Europe.”