Innocent until proven guilty? Not under the EU’s justice system

Corpus juris, used in Europe, is not a system of justice we should be welcoming

Share

We all know that early November is “Remembrancetide”. Taking pride in our armed forces –something I wholeheartedly think we should do – is trendy and sophisticated these days. Everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to schoolgirls donating their pocket money supports “our boys and girls”.

It’s also inevitable at this time that stories appear about celebrities, or “Channel 4 newsreaders and left-wing comics”, as I like to call them, not wearing their poppy. Despite calls for us to be outraged, the Royal British Legion will always respond in the same way: by pointing out that millions died for our freedom, which includes, if one wishes, the right not to wear a poppy. In short, they died for our liberty.

Freedom, liberty and justice are something I think the left of politics and the media have completely wrong. In a flurry of “isms” they have closed in on free speech, on the right of protest and demonstration, and clamped down on opposition to certain views. But nowhere do I think they have it more wrong than the creeping harmonisation of EU justice and home affairs.

Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, says it would be “crazy” for the UK to opt out of these transfers of powers to Brussels. “Do you want criminals and paedophiles running freely around on the streets? Is that really in the United Kingdom’s best interest?” she asked. Is Brussels going to release some criminals if we don’t sign up, after it’s forced Westminster to give them the vote?

Such intimidatory language is typical of Eurocrats. Reding speaks as if the UK has no police force or justice system, when in fact our traditions of habeas corpus should be held up as a beacon of fairness.

Unlike most continental countries, Britain has had a continuous and peaceful constitutional development going back hundreds of years. The last significant armed conflict in mainland Britain was the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Disputes have been settled and power has passed from one government to another essentially by voting (with an ever-increasing franchise) since the end of the Civil War. The losers have accepted the verdict of the voters without resorting to protest and rebellion. This history may lead some commentators to overlook the central role of physical force in the maintenance of state power.

Corpus juris, used by our continental neighbours, is not a system of justice we should be welcoming in the UK. It is alien to our beliefs of “innocent before proven guilty” and of limiting the power of the state. Once the power of law enforcement has been handed to another institution, there is no guarantee we can get it back. Certainly the endless rhetoric of “repatriating powers” to Westminster politicians, scared of the increasing hostility to the EU project and the rise of Ukip, has seen no reversal in the flow of powers.

The EU court already exists: the plans under the Lisbon Treaty are to extend its jurisdiction. I question whether many MPs know the details of these measures.

As far as I am aware, there is no official research centre of comparative criminal procedure in any university in Britain, nor has any previous government undertaken any detailed research into the workings of the criminal law system of our EU partners. And yet we have been signed up to a series of treaties that bring ever-closer union.

In England in 1215, King John was prevailed upon by his barons to give his assent to the Magna Carta. This established certain limits on the power of the king to ensure he wielded his authority for the purposes of justice, not vindictiveness.

What we may not appreciate in this country is that at the same time, the opposite was happening in Europe. For example, the Holy Inquisition was being set up in Rome. This system of combining the prosecutor and judge is something which formed the basis of the legal system in Europe. They are no longer the same person, but are instead salaried civil servants working cheek by jowl.

My question to those who support this transfer of powers to the EU is simple: “Do you believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty?” Perhaps they should speak to Andrew Symeou, who was extradited to Greece and languished in jail there based on the signature of a magistrate that no UK judge could overturn despite the evidence against him being obtained under duress. He was in a Greek prison for almost a year and denied bail until the trial was adjourned.

If we do not opt out of these Justice and Home Affairs measures, we risk our system being replaced by a system as in Italy, where criminal investigations make no distinction between imprisonment for prosecution purposes or investigative purposes. Amanda Knox is a high-profile example of this system. She was subject to her personal life being publicised and attacked in a way which would not have been permitted here or in her own country of the US. Indeed, the police said she had committed slander by trying to defend herself. She was told she had HIV so that she would reveal details of her ex-partners – details which were then released to the media.

The debate a few years ago on 90 days’ detention without charge, which was subsequently defeated, pales into insignificance compared to what British citizens could be locked up for, for months on end, if the EU gets its way. It is essential that we have a public debate on this so we do not end up with this system by default.

Nigel Farage is the leader of Ukip

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
V&A museum in London  

Celebrating the cultural impact of PR at the V&A

Danny Rogers
 

Daily catch-up: will this be the election result? And other Questions To Which The Answer Is No

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn