Monday, 2 August 2010

The ever expanding influence of the EU in criminal matters

The web of European Union Police and Judicial Co-operation is expanding.

From 15th August 2010, in English criminal proceedings, account will be taken of convictions in other EU Member States in a similar way to how domestic convictions are taken into account.  This comes about because the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 s.144 and Schedule 17 is implemented from that date - (see Commencement Order No.5).    This will have far-reaching implications.  For example, in sentencing a person, the court will be able to treat EU convictions as an aggravating factor.  Also, it will usually be possible to adduce EU convictions as evidence of bad character.

The UK is bound to implement this under EU Council Framework Decision 2008/675/JHA and 15th August was the latest date for implementation (see Article 5 of the Framework Decision).  A Ministry of Justice Circular (2010/2) offers more detailed explanation and explains that the new law generally only applies to EU convictions imposed on or after 15th August 2010.


  1. As an admitted eurosceptic I am disturbed about the interference in our jurisprudence from external sources about which there is no concensus as to their quality standards. It`s not only foreign nationals in our courts but UK citizens who might be convicted eg in Bulgaria by a courts system which does not consider that interpreters are a necessity for non Bulgarian speakers. This is I believe a direct result of the Lisbon Treaty a referendum on which was a renaged committment of the Labour government in 2005.

  2. Much of this pan-European process is based on the flawed assumption that all European nations offer the same standards of fairness and treatment of suspects, defendants and prisoners as eachother.

    You are right in saying that there is a two-way process: a UK citizen can be sent (under a European Arrest Warrant) to another EU State and a nationals of other EU States may be sent here. I did an item on the EAW here. Similarly, the new "convictions" process works two-ways.

    The Treaty arrangements within the EU are (to my mind) very convoluted though Lisbon effected some simplification (believe it or not)!

    Essentially, since Lisbon came into force on 1st December 2009, there is the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). The TEU is the successor to the 1993 Maastricht Treaty and the TFEU is the successor to the original Treaty of Rome.

    It was Maastricht which introduced co-operation in criminal justice but it was then in some limited fields - e.g. terrorism; drug trafficking; people trafficking. Essentially matters which do not respect international boundaries. Originally, under Maastricht, this was known as the Justice and Home Affairs Pillar but was later renamed Police and Judicial Co-operation.

    The Lisbon Treaty has abandoned the pillar structure and the EU now has its own legal personality in international law. However, Police and Judicial Co-operation remains in place (though not called a pillar) and is ever-expanding.

    Labour's manisfesto commitment was, strictly speaking, a promise to hold a referendum on what was then the proposed EU Constitution. After referenda in France and Holland the Constitution was dropped but it is a fact that Lisbon contains much that would have been in the said Constitution. I regard the Brown government as guilty of serious political legerdemain over all this and it was quite risible of Lord Mandelson to refer to Lisbon as a "tidying up exercise" even if, to some degree, it was.

    However, that's politics for you !!

  3. For basic information on the EU and EU law see