EAW? What’s that then? Well typing it into Google shows that it could be Eastern Acoustic Works ( a loudspeaker manufacturer) or Extreme American Wrestling or the 904 Expeditionary Air Wing of the RAF.
No.. I’ve not gone mad. Read on.
On a relatively quiet day quite a few years ago a police officer came through the doors into custody. She stood the man in front of me and went on to explain that he couldn’t speak english and had been arrested on a European Arrest Warrant for offences in Poland.
Being a custody sgt of several years experience at this point I smiled and nodded knowingly as the officer outlined all the circumstances. I portrayed the persona of the ‘sarge knows and understands all of this’. Behind my ‘regal swan’ facade my mind was racing with questions like ‘What the bloody hell is a European Arrest Warrant?’ and ‘What do I have to do with this?’ and ‘Is it lawful?’, ‘Can I detain him?’ and many many more. I make no excuses.. I didn’t know. Many of you reading this who are cops will know that sometimes we miss something. We either didn’t read a specific edition of the Chiefs orders or we missed an email about an NCALT package. When law changes and updates at such regular intervals it can be very difficult to keep abreast of them all.
The police officer in question, fortunately, was very well briefed on this process. She outlined the processes we had to follow and some of the unique requirements of an EAW. I booked him in, practicing my basic Polish, before calling an interpreter and got him sat down.
This was the first EAW I and my colleagues had seen. Oddly having never seen one we then started to see quite a few of them. The officer became a regular visitor to custody and she was a fantastic source of information and guided me/us on the protocols and intricacies of the EAW. As with most things that become a relatively regular occurrence.. they became second nature.
However, I never saw the reverse. I never booked in someone who has been arrested on an EAW, extradited and landed at my charge desk.
Those who know police and the PNC will know that when someone is circulated for an assault nationally it generally says ‘Serious Assault’. It’s not very often that it will say S47, 20 or 18. The same often applies to an EAW. The paperwork is in its original language and a certified translation. The offence details and descriptions can be somewhat vague. My only fallback as the Sgt booking in is that this warrant, no matter the offence or seriousness of it, has been granted and authorised by a court in the home country. It has gone through the EAW process and been granted. I am personally, therefore, ok.
During my time in custody there was a sharp rise in the number that started to come in. This raised the question as to ‘how’ serious some of the offences were and was the process being abused by some countries. These concerns were being flagged up by others too as per this Guardian article. There were concerns that the authority of the EAW was being undermined if it were being used for trivial offences.
The most recent case in the UK of course was that of Ashya King. There are a number of issues around this case that I don’t intend to go into in this blog. Suffice to say that the furore that surrounded this case was huge and created a groundswell of anti police/cps resentment even though they were acting on professional medical advice. Whatever your view, this case brought the EAW to the attention of many who had probably never heard of it before.
Now we come to present day and MP’s are to vote on whether to keep the EAW for the UK or to bin it.
Should we bin it? It’s creating work and expense for the country as we process them. There are some serious offences in there but also a big chunk of lesser ones. Where do we draw the line?
If you do a search, like I did at the time of the Ashya King case, on the EAW you will find it is a massively complex piece of Euro legislation. It crosses the path of so many Euro member states and all have different legal processes and procedures. It’s not an easy place to navigate. To my mind it is very much in need of rebooting. Stop, take stock of where it is, review, develop it on the basis of experience so far and move forward. Binning it and withdrawing is not a solution.
Crime is coming down.. we are told. But is it? Fraud and the shift of may crimes to digital platforms is huge. Are we accurately being apprised of these crimes and recording them correctly? Are we struggling when the victim is in Basingstoke, the offender is in Madrid and the server and host is in Estonia? Too right we are.
Criminals and criminality pays no heed to boundary lines drawn on maps. As far as Europe is concerned, Schengen allows movement that is free and unchallenged. A criminal can float from one country to the next without restriction. Crime is moving. It is moving around countries physically and it is moving around the world digitally. We have to be able to respond to that.
Yes the EAW needs a review. What do we do if we do not remain signed up to the EAW? Do we become a safer haven for European criminals who can flee here and then face traditional, lengthy, costly and often unsuccessful extradition procedures?
At a recent event I attended I was very impressed by Deputy Peter Sloly of the Toronto Police Service. He said that technology was moving faster than we could keep up and we ran the risk of ‘digital darwinism’. Essentially an inability to keep up and therefore become inefficient and redundant. One of his key phrases;
“You do not jump a 20ft chasm in two 10ft jumps.”
Crime is getting bigger and spreading wider than just our shores. We have to be able to respond and tackle it. We have to think bigger and that means team work. It needs all European countries to partner together to tackle serious and organised crime but also the lesser offences. We only have to look at the tragic Alice Gross case to realise how important cooperation and communication between Euro countries needs to be. This needs to be far more efficient and streamlined than current ‘Interpol’ methods. Yet when 43 forces in E&W’s can’t agree on some simple domestic matters the battle is always going to be an uphill one.. but one that must be taken on. We must make that jump.
Crime is growing. It’s fingers of misery to victims are spreading into Europe both physically and digitally. If we seriously want to make our homes and countries safer then we need to work together and the EAW must stay. Otherwise the criminals are running free whilst we attempt to tackle them with our hands tied behind our backs standing on one leg.