Saturday, 7 August 2010
The ever expanding influence of the EU in criminal matters - No. 2
A corpus of European Union (EU) law has grown up concerning Police and Judicial Co-operation. Aspects of this are necessary given that there is extensive international crime. However, the law-makers have paid insufficient attention to long-established rights of the British people. The rights of British citizens before the law will again be altered in adverse ways given that the British government has agreed - (so far without debate in Parliament) - to opt in to negotiations about the proposed European Investigation Order (EIO) system - see Telegraph and BBC. Whilst this looks like mere participation in negotiations, it has the effect that the U.K. will be bound by the outcome. The Law Society reported on this development - here - and, in June 2010, the Society took a critical look at the proposal - see here. As the Law Society points out: a judicial decision would be issued by a competent authority in the issuing Member State requesting one or more specific investigative measures to be carried out in another Member State with a view to gathering evidence relating to criminal proceedings.
The potential scope of investigation is extensive and few safeguards are proposed. In fact, a number of safeguards built into earlier EU Framework Decisions (e.g. on the European Evidence Warrant) do not appear in the Investigation Order proposal - e.g. it will not be possible to oppose an order on the basis of double jeopardy etc. It could also be possible for a State to request investigation into a matter which, although criminal in the requesting State, is not criminal in the U.K. - (e.g. holocaust denial). When an Order has been issued it could be possible for numerous investigatory measures to apply: interviews, bodily examinations; interception of communications; monitoring of accounts etc.
Analysis of the proposed EIO written by Steve Peers (Professor of Law, University of Essex) may be read at Statewatch. Law and Lawyers recently looked at disclosure of criminal records - see here.
Politically, it is interesting to see how the new coalition government is acting on issues affecting the liberty of the British citizen. Despite hopeful comments about restoring liberty, the new government's actions sometimes appear to be going in the opposite direction. Downing Street comment on the opt-in may be read here.
The potent views of Fair Trials International merit a full reading.