EU police co-operation is vital for UK fight against crime

October 16, 2012 3:18 PM
European Arrest Warrant

Police co-operation - too important to be surrendered to head-banging Tory right, says Phil Bennion

Commenting on news that the Conservatives want the coalition government to opt out of EU police and justice co-operation, local Euro MP Phil Bennion said:

"The fight against crime is too important to be surrendered to the head-banging right wing of the Tory party.

"There are hundreds of success stories - including many examples here in the West Midlands region - of criminals being brought to book due to the European Arrest Warrant.

"I understand negotiations on this are still going on in the coalition but now is the time for the Euro-realists in the Conservative party to stand up and becounted.

"Which is more important - keeping people safe or waving the Euro-sceptic flag?

"Public opinion is strongly in favour of police forces being given the power to chase criminals who flee overseas, tackle international crime and make sure foreign criminals sheltering here are sent home to face justice.

"Police co-operation has been an EU success story - breaking up paedophile rings, catching terrorist suspects and just the other week, arresting a child abductor.

"More and more scammers and fraudsters use phones and internet to find their victims in Britain without even setting foot here.

"Technically, under the Lisbon Treaty, Britain can either accept the new arrangements or decide to opt out of all EU co-operation measures and selectively opt back in again to individual areas in turn. I can see David Cameron has to deal with 100 Tory MPs demanding we pull out from all measures but I hope he listens to the 13 former chief constables who have written to him warning that a pull-out will put the public at risk.

"Negotiations are still going on but it is essential that the coalition reaches a good compromise here.

"The Lib Dems are fighting to maximize UK participation in EU police co-operation while pressing from the inside for reforms of the operation of the European Arrest Warrant to ensure it is not used for minor offences, for example.

"Some Conservatives seem so blinded by an ideological hatred for European cooperation that they would sacrifice the safety of the British public and the rights of victims for it.

"Policing is more important than politics. When crime crosses borders, justice must do the same."

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the British Government must decide by June 2014 whether the UK will remain a participant of all existing pre-Lisbon EU legislation in the field of police and judicial cooperation after 2015. In practice a list of measures the UK wants to stay part of is set for negotiation. The government has promised a vote in both Houses of Parliament on the matter, after consultation.

National successes/ Cases of joint police action now under threat:

  • Operation Golf, a joint investigation between the Met, Europol and Romania, which broke up a pan-EU organised child trafficking network. 121 arrests, 181 children freed.
  • The EU-wide search for Hussein Osman, one of the failed 21/7 London bombers, tracked down and arrested in Italy and brought back to the UK using the European Arrest Warrant to face trial within weeks.
  • Jeremy Forrester, the teacher wanted for child abduction, was arrested in France under a European Arrest Warrant and brought back to the UK in 12 days.
  • The recent murder of the British family in Annecy in France is being investigated through a 'joint investigation' between British police, French police and Eurojust.

West Midlands Police area examples:

  • July 2012 - Murder suspect Martin Stafford, 46, extradited from the Republic of Ireland to stand trial for murder of Michelle Gunshon, who disappeared while working at the NEC.
  • Romanian Florian Baboi who drunkenly beat to death 63-year-old David McArthur in the pensioner's home in Birmingham in August 2011. Baboi fled to Eastern Europe after his victim's body was found by a neighbour. Investigators issued a European Arrest Warrant and Baboi was seized by Bucharest police on 12 September 2011. Baboi convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on 2 May this year, sentenced to at least 23 years in prison, after which he could be deported back to Romania. See here and here.

Staffordshire Police:

  • Martin Wolstenholme, of Stoke-on-Trent, arrested in Malaga after an international manhunt following a European Arrest Warrant. Staffordshire Police named him as part of their investigation into a kidnap in November, 2010, as featured on TV's Crimewatch. Wolstenholme, aged 34, was transported to Madrid where a hearing took place in May this year to extradite him back toBritain. See here and here.

West Mercia Police:

  • April 2009:Shrewsbury conman David Oakley found guilty of 12 offences of fraudulent trading and forged cheques although he did not turn up for his trial. Jailed in his absence to three years and nine months at Shrewsbury Crown Court. He had said he was 'too ill' to leave his Spanish home, where he netted about ยฃ100,000 through his illegal activities. Arrested in Melle in France and extradited back to the UK to serve his sentence. A woman also arrested under a separate European arrest warrant on suspicion of fraud offences. See here and here.
  • 2007: Paedophile John Richard Murrell extradited from Ireland to face trial in Worcester despite a "cynical" attempt by his brother to block it. Murrell fled to Ireland after serving half of a two-year sentence for sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl, breaching the terms of his release. The High Court in Dublin ordered the 39-year-old be sent for trial in England even though he faced a charge in a Dublin court. Murrell was sent to England by the end ofDecember to face trial at Worcester Crown Court. See here and here.

Warwickshire Police:

  • Murderer of Ryszhard Sawczyk, found dead at Evans Road, Rugby, Warwickshire. Mariusz Szpyt, aged 24 years, was charged with the murder in September 2006. Szpyt was later extradited back to the UK from Poland on a European Arrest Warrant in September 2007 after a manhunt by Polish police, and faced trial at Warwick Crown Court in November. See here.