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MPs condemn European Arrest Warrant
The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is "fundamentally flawed" and the Government needs to go further with its reforms of the system, a group of influential MPs has warned.
The EAW, introduced in 2004, allows a national judicial authority, such as a court, to get a suspect extradited between European Union (EU) member states.
The fast-track arrest warrant is among 35 EU criminal justice measures the Government wants to retain - but Home Secretary Theresa May has promised to change British law to prevent it b eing used to extradite UK nationals on trivial or dubious charges.
However, the Home Affairs Select Committee has said it is concerned the reforms do not go far enough and has called for an urgent vote in the House of Commons on continued UK membership of the EAW.
Committee chair Keith Vaz said: "The European Arrest Warrant, in its existing form, is fundamentally flawed and has led to a number of miscarriages of justice with devastating consequences for those concerned.
"We welcome the Government's proposed reforms, but are concerned that they do not go far enough.
"The House should be given the opportunity to vote separately on continued UK membership of the EAW as early as possible in order to provide a parliamentary mandate for any future negotiations."
In its report, the committee said some countries use the EAW simply to expedite their investigations, whereas others do so in pursuit of relatively minor crimes.
It added that for these reasons the UK receives disproportionately more warrants than it issues.
The committee argued the EAW has also facilitated miscarriages of justice in a number of cases.
Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, if the Government wishes to claw back criminal justice measures from Brussels it first has to opt out of all 133 on the list and then negotiate to opt back in to those it wishes to retain.
Announcing her decision to retain 35 earlier this year, Mrs May said she would amend the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill to ensure that an arrest warrant could be refused for minor crimes.
In its report, the committee argues that if the Government proceeds with the opt-in as proposed, it will not result in any repatriation of powers to the UK - and may even result in a net flow of powers in the opposite direction.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's shadow home secretary, said: " Labour supports the European Arrest Warrant and the other crucial measures of EU cooperation that tackle serious crime, bring criminals to justice and protect victims.
"While the Government's U-turn on the arrest warrant has been welcome, the Home Secretary has been foolish in putting EU cooperation at risk in a big game of phoney hokey-cokey.
"As the Home Affairs Select Committee rightly points out, there is no repatriation of powers in the Government's package. The measures being lost are either defunct or happening already."
Fair Trials International, a human rights charity that provides assistance to people arrested in a country other than their own, said the 'opt-out decision' is a key opportunity for the Government to take action to address long-standing concerns about the EAW.
Fair Trials' head of law reform Libby McVeigh said: " We hope this report persuades the UK Government and politicians in Brussels to reform the arrest warrant to prevent future cases of injustice.
"The arrest warrant is an important crime-fighting tool but, without reform, will continue to be used inappropriately with devastating human consequences."
A Home Office spokesman said: "European Arrest Warrants provide the police with an important mechanism for returning criminals to the UK to face justice.
"But they need to be used proportionately and requests shouldn't be made prematurely.
"That's why we are incorporating important safeguards into our law governing requests received from other EU countries."