Robert Verkaik: Bureaucrats are abusing powers designed to trap terrorists


Under Britain's old extradition laws it is highly doubtful that Garry Mann would have ever faced the prospect of serving two years in a foreign prison after a trial roundly criticised by judges in this country.

But the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) does not entertain the idea that the criminal justice system of another EU member state is capable of delivering an unjust outcome. The underlying rationale of the EAW is that there is rough uniformity across Europe in the prosecution and criminal trial processes.

A defendant who believes he or she is the victim of a miscarriage of another country's justice system can argue their case before the European Court of Human Rights. Yesterday, Mr Mann became the latest British citizen to find that justice delayed may be justice denied.

The backlog of cases before the court means that it could take two years before the judges in Strasbourg hear the merits of his claim that his conviction is unsafe – by which time he will already have served his sentence in Portugal.

The EAW was established in 2002 in the wake of the 11 September attacks, as a fast-track system for extraditing people from one EU country to another. It was only ever intended to help tackle serious cross-border crime more effectively when Europe was confronting the spectre of international terror cells of Islamist extremists.

The warrant has played a part in helping Europe's security forces combat serious crime, but in the hands of bureaucrats it has also proved to be a power that has caused grave injustice in cases of very minor crime.