Letter: Fraud in the EU

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Sir: Before you publish any more from the UK Independence Party about Corpus Juris (letter, 17 September), allow me as one of the authors of the project document to remind your readers what it is (and is not) about.

It is not (of course) a project to replace British justice, or even British criminal justice, with the "Napoleonic Code". It is a draft proposal to create a standard set of criminal offences, with a European prosecutor and a common set of procedural rules, for handling frauds against the EU budget.

Even within that limited scope, it would not abolish habeas corpus or the right to silence, nor would it put the burden of proof on the defence. It does indeed recommend that the proposed new offences be tried by courts sitting without juries, and also that the prosecution should be able to appeal.

But neither of these is so extraordinary after all. The first was recommended for England by the Roskill Committee on fraud trials in 1986, and the second already exists in English criminal procedure, albeit to a limited extent.

Lastly, it is not true (alas) that our proposals are on the point of being implemented. Eighteen months ago, our team was told to consult lawyers in the member states with a view to producing a modified version. The new version, which will certainly contain some significant changes, is not yet even finished.

Meanwhile in May this year, the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities published a lengthy report on the initial version. Though critical, this states the essence of the proposals correctly and puts the arguments on both sides in a rational way. Those interested in intelligent debate on the topic should read this report.

Professor J R SPENCER

Selwyn College, Cambridge