Sarah Ludford praises European Arrest Warrant’s latest use in London

From a press release:

London MEP Sarah Ludford has welcomed the use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in a bid to apprehend a former Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, west London. After failing to answer bail the man, named by police as Lawrence Soper, is believed to have fled to Italy.

Sarah Ludford commented:

“This represents a clear example of sound use of the Euro-warrant. While there are some cases of justified concern about misuse, the EAW is generally used properly.”

“It makes the long arm of the law that much longer and is a powerful tool in ensuring dangerous criminals do not escape justice. I hope it leads to Mr Soper’s speedy return to face the charges in the UK for the heinous crimes of which he is accused.”

“Those politicians who oppose the EAW in principle need to explain to victims their defence of criminals getting away with murder, trafficking, sex crimes and terrorism.”

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Thomas Long 5th Sep '12 - 3:16pm

    Errm… I believe we did have extradition before the invention of the EAW.

  • Giles Goodall 5th Sep '12 - 4:56pm

    Thanks for flagging up. The EAW is an excellent example of how EU cooperation fights crime – and how pulling out, as some opponents would have it, would let international criminals off the hook.

  • I don’t know the specific facts of this case, so it may be a good use of the powers. However, this statement gives the impression that Sarah Ludford is one of those unquestioning Europhile Lib Dems. The courts in this country are pretty powerless to resist an application for an EAW, even where there are either severe doubts about the evidence against a suspect or they will languish in a foreign jail for ages while investigation is ongoing. Some of these fears would be allayed, if Ms Ludford could articulate what action she and her colleagues have taken in respect of the “justified concerns about misuse”

  • Alex Macfie 5th Sep '12 - 10:52pm

    I agree with AlexB: we need to be clear about the EAW’s failures and make clear that we support reform. I’m not against EAW in principle, but I am inclined to the view that the rampant misuse makes it not something that liberals should be defending; it should never have been agreed to in its current form, and it should be reformed, but failing that, suspended until meaningful reform happens.
    Reforms to EAW that are absolutely essential include (among others):
    — Restoration of the dual criminality principle.
    — A tight proportionality test, to prevent the use of EAWs for trivial allegations; also much tighter time limits on issuing an arrest warrant after the alleged offence took place (there should perhaps be an EU-wide statute of limitations).
    — Anyone held on an EAW should be able to challenge the case against them as part of the extradition proceedings. It was ridiculous that Edmond Arapi might have been extradited to Italy to serve a sentence for murder (for which he had been convicted in absentia with no knowledge of the trial) even though he could prove that he couldn’t have done it because he was in the UK at the time!
    — The refusal of any extradition request on an EAW should lead to its automatic invalidation and removal, with the country making the request being barred from making the same request again unless new evidence emerges.
    — If the extradition request is to serve a sentence, the court should be able to take the conduct of the original trial into consideration.

  • David Evans 6th Sep '12 - 7:51am

    I agree with the Alexes and disagree with the emphasis Giles puts on things.

    It is far too easy to identify one good thing that has come from a piece of legislation (or coalition agreement) and trumpet it as evidence of the success of the entire enterprise, rather than learning lessons from mistakes and to engage in the hard work of making a good idea work properly.

    Celebrate success – yes, but we ignore failings to our own detriment.

  • Jonathan West 6th Sep '12 - 8:30am

    Alex Macfie, the crime for which the EAW has been issue for Laurence Soper is child sex abuse, committed as I understand it in the 1980s. The re is a problem with having a “strict statute of limitations” that applies specifically to EAW in connection with crimes such as this. The problem is that it can often take years or even decades before the child (now an adult) summons the courage to come forward to the police.

    In the case of Ealing Abbey (where Soper was Abbot from 1991 to 2000) and the attached St Benedict’s School (where he also taught for many years), there are known cases of abuse which date back to the 1940s, but the first conviction of anybody there didn’t occur until 2003. So far, three people have been convicted of child sex crimes at St Benedict’s, one monk and two former teachers.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Sep '12 - 9:41am

    I didn’t say anything about the details of how a statute of limitations. Obvoiusly the time limit should depend on the nature the crime, as it does in any jurisdiction that has a formal statute of limitations. And for child sex offence allegations there should probably be no time limit. However, we also need to stop Poland (in particular) from chartering planes to extradite people over allegations of petty theft from 5, 10, 15 years ago. It is hard to see the public interest in pursuing such allegations, or what evidence there could possibly be to convict anyone so long after the fact.

  • Jonathan West 6th Sep '12 - 12:53pm

    Well, if you ever do make changes to the EAW, please make sure you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Sep '12 - 9:38am

    @Jonathan West: You seem to be very unconcerned about the injustice that EAW as it currently operates causes. Like it or not, the EAW has a reputation among the public mainly for carting people across Europe to stand trial over minor misdemeanours, at great cost to the public, and even where there is an obvious injustice. Unfortunately, this reputation is somewht justified. To be fair, Sarah is involved in campaigning for reforms, but her press release does suggest uncritical support, and should have been much more explicit in acknowledging its flaws. Tick-box extradition does not work.

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