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Top judges back Euro-arrest powers


Top judges have backed the European Arrest Warrant

Top judges have backed the European Arrest Warrant

Top judges have backed the European Arrest Warrant

A host of top judges have warned the UK risks becoming a "safe haven for fugitives" if MPs do not back the European arrest warrant (EAW).

Forty senior judges and legal figures, including inaugural Supreme Court president Lord Phillips, have signed a letter published in the Daily Telegraph urging Parliament to opt into the controversial measure.

The EAW is one of 35 powers the Government is seeking to opt back into after having opted out of a raft of more than 100 EU policies relating to justice and home affairs.

But Prime Minister David Cameron faces a backbench revolt over the issue, which needs to be decided before a December 1 deadline, as backbenchers in his own party oppose the scheme.

The letter, also undersigned by Law Society president Andrew Caplen, said: " Without the EAW, other EU members may be unable speedily to extradite suspects such as Hussain Osman or Jeremy Forrest to Britain - both in jail after use of the EAW.

"Britain also risks becoming a safe haven for fugitives from justice - a handful of them British citizens , but the vast majority foreign nationals wanted for crimes elsewhere in Europe.

"There is no credible alternative to the EAW. Other EU members will be reluctant to adopt new laws if we reject a system that works.

The judges add: "A vote to opt in will be a vote for security and for fair and effective criminal justice."

Supporters of the EAW argue that it has played a vital role in securing the return to the UK of suspects in significant crimes, including 21/7 bomber Osman, who fled to Italy, or teacher Forrest, who was returned from France to face trial over the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old girl.

But some Tories oppose the measure because of concerns that it is too easy for UK citizens to be extradited on relatively minor charges to countries where they may have no guarantee of a fair trial.

Home Secretary Theresa May spoke out last month, stating an opt-out vote would lead Britain to becoming a "honeypot" for European criminals, and, while the prime minister has promised a vote in the Commons before the Rochester and Strood by-election, the Home Office has appeared to reject a call for separate votes on each measure.