THE SCEPTIC VIEW By Tom
During the summer
David Davies made a big
deal of fuss over the
Terrorism Bill and its
plans for forty-two
day detention of suspects.
He pointed out that the week he made his speech marked the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta and that, 'for almost 800
years we have built on the right of habeas corpus founded in that
ancient document, the fundamental freedom from arbitrary detention by the state".
Absolutely right! But what he did not speak
about is the fact British citizens can be arbitrarily arrested
and detained for six months, a year, eighteen
months, or even longer; and not by our state but by
foreign states, and there is almost nothing that the
British legal system can do to prevent it or protect
Take the case of nineteen year old Londoner
Andrew Symeou. In June 2007 Mr Symeou
took an 18-30 holiday on the Greek Island of Zante.
He returned home on 22nd June and told his parents
what an enjoyable time he had, had. On 20th June
in a the Rescue nightclub another young man, Jonathon
Hiles, was allegedly punched or pushed from a
raised dance podium and sustained head injuries
from which he died on 22nd June.
On 24th June two young friends of Mr Symeou who had remained
on Zante were taken into police custody for questioning.
According to them they were held for over
eight hours, deprived of food and water, beaten,
punched, slapped and threatened until they gave
statements written in Greek implicating Mr Symeou
in the death of Mr Hiles.
As soon as they were freed
from custody they contacted British consular officials,
reported their mistreatment and retracted their
statements. One of the young men allegedly had
sustained a fractured jaw at the hands of the police.
The only evidence against Mr Symeou consists of physical descriptions of the assailant that don't match his, and the statements extracted from his friends under torture. The incident took place at
about 1am and Mr Syemou claims that he visited the
nightclub at about 4am and stayed for only about
Mr Symeou claims that he did not even
know about the incident until his friends returned
home and told him, and that he never knew, met or
saw Mr Hiles. Mr Symeou was never summoned before
a Greek court to give his version of events but
almost one year later on 18th June a European Arrrest
Warrant was issued for his extradition to Greece.
The European Arrest Warrant was introduced
into force on 1st January 2004 under the
usual justification of protecting us against organised
crime and terrorism. All that is required for the deportation
of a suspect under an EAW is basic information about their identity and the alleged offence. There are thirty-two categories
of crime for which extradition may be sought, some of
them not specific offences under English law. There is no provision
for a British court to be allowed to assure itself that there is a proper case for the accused to answer by means of examining
prima facie evidence, and there is no provision for the magistrate
hearing the extradition case, or indeed the Home
Secretary, to have any discretion to refuse extradition
if they believe or know that an injustice is being
The safeguards against misuse are absolutely
minimal: provided that the correct boxes have been
filled in then a British citizen can be extradited to
another EU member state with as much ceremony as
posting a parcel.
No one is suggesting that those charged
with criminal offences abroad should not be subject
to extradition. The family of Jonathon Hiles have
suffered a terrible tragedy and they are entitled see
justice done. Any parent could find themselves in
the situation of the Hiles or the Symeous. Their children
could be the victims of crime or accused of a
In either situation reasonable people would
want to know that there was a proper case to answer
by means of prima facie evidence being examined
by a British court before extradition was allowed.
Especially since under continental systems of justice
suspects may languish in prison for months and
even years while the crime is being investigated.
And that fate may now await Mr Symeou.
The magistrate at the preliminary hearing on 7th
July at the Horseferry Road Magistrates Court made
it plain that he had no power to consider the evidence
against Mr Symeou, or the methods by which
it was obtained from the witnesses, before agreeing
to extradition. Even if the Home Secretary knows
that there is no real case to answer and that a British
citizen may be robbed of years of liberty, and have
their lives destroyed, he has no legal right to prevent
it: so much for Magna Carta and habeas corpus.
British citizens now have no protection against arbitrary
arrest and detention by foreign states - provided
they are members of the European Union:
and of course we have similar extradition arrangements
with the USA - except of course that it is a
one way process only, since they would never allow
their own citizens to treated in that way.
Unfortunately that is not all. On 2nd September
last the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly
in favour of new arrangements for the mutual recognition of court decisions rendered in absentia, which will come into force following a
decision by the European Council, probably by the
end of this year.
British citizens may be tried in their absence, perhaps without even knowing this has happened, they can then extradited to face prison
sentences already imposed, or the British Government
can be required to impose fines or confiscation
orders imposed on British citizens. And this is an
obligation we will owe to countries in the European
Union that are by-words for corruption and illegality
such as Bulgaria and Romania, and goes down
the level of traffic offences with fines of €70.
How did we get into this state? The politicians
entrusted by the electorate with protecting their
freedoms and liberties under the law have abandoned
that trust and sold us down the river in the
cause of 'ever closer union'. This now means
'harmonisation' of our legal system along with everything
David Davies' opposition to 42 days detention
was an empty gesture when any British citizen
can be carted off to any other European Country
for months or years of imprisonment without a
British court satisfying itself that justice is being
done or being able to prevent injustice being done.