Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion has welcomed the news that Liberal Democrats in government have vetoed Conservative plans to opt out of key European crime-fighting measures which have led to some of Britain's most wanted criminals being brought to justice.

 
europolUnder the Lisbon Treaty, the  UK  has the option of leaving a series of cross-border EU crime fighting measures and must make a decision on whether to opt out by next year.
 
Earlier today, following prolonged negotiations within the coalition, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the coalition government will be opting back in to 35 of the 136 crime fighting measures, including the European Arrest Warrant and all those deemed vital by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
 
Phil Bennion MEP commented:
 
"This is a victory for British police and courts over Conservatives who wanted to put anti-EU prejudice ahead of catching criminals. The Tories were proposing to withdraw from key European crime-fighting measures which top police chiefs and leading crime experts have repeatedly warned are vital for  Britain 's security."
 
“Lib Dems were determined not to let them put ideology ahead of the safety of the British people and have ensured that  UK  will remain part of crucial measures such as the European Arrest Warrant, which has led to the capture of thousands of criminals including murderers, people traffickers, paedophiles and terrorists.
 
The European Arrest Warrant was vital to ensure a number of high profile criminals from the West Midlands region faced justice, such as the Romanian Florian Baboi, who drunkenly beat to death 63-year-old David McArthur in Birmingham before fleeing to Romania. After being arrested in Bucharest, Baboi was brought back to face trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court in May 2012. After serving 23 years, he will be deported to Romania. See here and here
 
One of Britain's most wanted men, drug trafficker Mark Lilley, was captured just this week at his luxury villa in Malaga in a joint operation by Spanish and British police - again using a European Arrest Warrant. (Other examples from West Mercia, Staffordshire and the Warwickshire police force area are below).
 
Phil Bennion added: "The Conservatives' doctrinnaire plan to pull out of European Police cooperation just because it is European is deep-rooted but senseless. It would have left British police with both hands tied behind their back. 
 
"I am glad Liberal Democrat ministers in the coalition have dug their heels in on this issue. Liberal Democrats are fighting to ensure that British police forces have the tools they need to keep people safe and tackle transnational crimes such as drug-trafficking, people-smuggling and child abuse effectively. It is now clear that the European Arrest Warrant will not be used for trivial cases and there is no sound reason for abandoning this extremely effective crime-fighting measure.
 
"In the 21st century criminal gangs do not stop at national borders. Neither should our efforts to pursue them and bring them to justice."
 
ENDS
 
Phil Bennion, Lib Dem MEP Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and the West Midlands
Contact: Press Officer Ben Jephcott 07966 514982
 
Notes to Editors
 
·        The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) mass opt-out is a mechanism negotiated by Labour which allows the UK to choose to opt out en masse from the 133 JHA cooperation measures which pre-date the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The  UK  is then allowed to apply to the European Commission to retain some of these measures. Liberal Democrats have forcefully argued that no measures should be dropped if this would threaten the UK 's security. The deal struck after more than 12 months of negotiations is to retain a package of 35 measures including all those deemed vital by the Association of Chief Police Officers. 
·        Since 2009, 4005 criminal suspects have been deported from the UK using the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to other EU countries, including 57 for child sex offences, 414 for drug trafficking, 86 for rape and 105 for murder.105 for murder.
·        Since 2009, 384 suspects were extradited back to the UK to face charges using the EAW including 63 for child sex offences, 105 for drug trafficking, 27 for rape and 44 for murder.
·        Liberal Democrats are also pushing for reforms that will stop the misuse of the EAW for trivial offences and will allow British citizens to be bailed back to the  UK  if they are arrested abroad. 
·        The House of Lords EU Committee published a report in April 2013 which concluded that the Government has not made "a convincing case for exercising the opt-out" and that "cross-border cooperation on policing and criminal justice matters between the United Kingdom and the other Member States is an essential element in tackling security threats such as terrorism and organised crime."
 
Other  case examples of reports of European police co-operation bringing criminals to book in police forces in the West Midlands region are below:
 
WEST MIDLANDS POLICE:
July 2012 – Murderer: Martin Christopher Stafford, 46, stood trial charged with the murder of Michelle Gunshon, aged 38, who disappeared while working at the NEC in December 2004. Despite extensive enquiries, Michelle's body has never been found. She went missing in December 2004, while staying in Birmingham City centre, while working as security staff at the NEC. Stafford was extradited from the Republic of Ireland in December 2011 under terms of a European Arrest warrant, by officers from West Midlands Police and charged with Michelle's murder. See here.
 
STAFFORDSHIRE POLICE:
 
May 2012 - Kidnap: Wanted man held by police in Madrid ; Suspect returned to UK in connection with kidnap. Martin Wolstenholme, of Stoke-on-Trent, has been the subject of an international manhunt after Staffordshire Police named him as part of their investigation into the kidnap which took place in November, 2010. Officers also took part in an appeal on TV's Crimewatch as part of their efforts to track him down. Wolstenholme, aged 34, was arrested in Spain and transported to Madrid where a hearing took place to extradite him back to Britain. A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: " Liaison is ongoing with the Spanish authorities to facilitate his return to the UK so that proceedings can begin concerning his case in Staffordshire."  See here and here.
 
September 2011 – Lorry Theft: A 37-YEAR-OLD man wanted by Staffordshire Police for more than two years was arrested in Tenerife. David Kelly, who was formerly living at an address in North Street, Stoke, had not been seen since failing to answer his police bail in 2009. But Kelly was finally tracked down to an address in the tourist town of Los Cristianos after the execution of a European Arrest Warrant. Kelly had to appear before a Spanish court before being flown back to Britain. Kelly had been arrested in early 2009 in connection with the theft of a lorry loaded with about £300,000 of electrical goods from James Irlam logistics company, at Hanchurch. After returning to Britain, Kelly was charged with conspiring to steal the lorry. See here.
 
2011 - Aggravated Burglary: Jonathon Lejman, born 15/05/1981 in Stoke-On-Trent was arrested this afternoon (Thursday 24 March 2011) about 2.30pm UK time in Tenerife and was found living in a commune on a beach. Lejman was sought on an EAW for his part in an aggravated burglary in Staffordshire. On the 28 December 2008 Lejman with an accomplice kicked in the front door of a house in Stoke on Trent while the owners were asleep upstairs. Lejman proceeded upstairs to the bedroom and threatened the occupants before slashing a kitchen knife across the face of the male occupant. Lejman and his accomplice left the house leaving the male occupant with a broken cheekbone and a deep wound from ear to mouth. See here.
July 2010 – Murder of a British Soldier: Mr Newman, a Sergeant in the Royal Corps of Signals employed in the Derby branch of the Army Careers Information Office, was shot dead on 13 April 1992. On that day he left his office in Derby city centre and walked to the car park where he had left his car. He was followed by two men who shot him once to the head. The men ran off to a waiting getaway car and made good their escape. Mr Newman died of his wounds. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) claimed responsibility for Mr Newman's murder. Duffy and the other men involved fled to the Republic of Ireland. Initial attempts to extradite them failed. A European arrest warrant (EAW) was issued for Duffy on 14 February 2007. Duffy was serving a sentence in a prison in the Republic of Ireland as extradition proceedings commenced. He requested and was granted a transfer to a prison in Northern Ireland. From there he was transferred to England and arrested on the 1st instance warrant that underpinned the EAW. Duffy was produced at Stafford Crown Court on 22 July 2010 and pleaded guilty to a single count of murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve at least 24 years. See here.
WEST MERCIA POLICE:
 
April 2009 – Fraudster: A conman found guilty of fraud although he did not turn up for his trial was arrested in France. David Oakley was jailed in his absence to three years and nine months at Shrewsbury Crown Court in September 2008. He had said he was too ill to leave his Spanish home to attend the trial, which heard he netted about £100,000 through his illegal activities. West Mercia Police said Oakley was arrested in Melle. Oakley was found guilty of 12 offences, including fraudulent trading and using forged cheques. A woman was also arrested under a separate European arrest warrant on suspicion of fraud offences. See here and here.
 
November 2007 – Child Sex Offender: Britain’s most wanted paedophile was extradited from Ireland to the UK despite a “cynical” attempt by his brother to block it. John Richard 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. The summons, for failing to notify gardaí of his whereabouts, was issued in the name of Murrell’s brother, Alan. Ordering the extradition Mr Justice Michael Peart accused the brother of cynically attempting to abuse the legal system. “It is so cynical attempt to get around the provisions of the European Arrest Warrant Act that even if I was satisfied that there was some merit in the case, my view would be that it quite clearly was such an abusive attempt … that it would be unconscionable for this court to uphold,” the judge said. Murrell was sent to England by the end of December. Murrell was wanted by West Mercia Police in England to answer charges of breaching the terms of his release and faced trial at Worcester Crown Court. See here and here.
 
WARWICKSHIRE POLICE:
 
September 2007 – Murderer: At Leamington Spa town hall (September 26 2007), the Warwickshire Coroner, Mr Michael Coker closed the inquest into the death of Ryszhard Sawczyk and awating the outcome of trial at Warwick Crown Court. Mr Sawczyk was murdered on October 19 2005 at Evans Road, Rugby, Warwickshire. Mariusz Szpyt, aged 24 years, was charged with the murder of Mr Sawczyk in September 2006.  Szpyt was extradited back to the UK from Poland on a European Arrest Warrant in September 2007. See here.