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The European Arrest Warrant in action

Imagine a future where you could find yourself arrested for crimes for which you were acquitted nearly twenty years ago… where you can be found guilty and sentenced in your absence and without your knowledge… a future where when you go on holiday abroad you find yourself being arrested for you know not what – and those arresting you do not know either; they just know you are wanted in another foreign country.

This is not the future.

I have added emphasis to this BBC story about Deborah Dark in order to highlight aspects that particularly shocked me but otherwise left it unchanged.

A British grandmother is being pursued by France for a crime she was convicted of in her absence 20 years ago.
Deborah Dark, 45, from London, was acquitted of a drugs offence in 1989 – but found guilty and sentenced to six years on appeal without being told.

France issued a European Arrest Warrant in 2005 but recent extradition attempts have failed in both the UK and Spain.

UK charity Fair Trials International said the warrant system was creating a “blatant injustice” against her.

Ms Dark, from Richmond in south-west London, was arrested in France in 1989 in a car containing several kilos of cannabis.

A French court believed her defence that she been set up by an abusive boyfriend and was acquitted.

But she was unaware the prosecution appealed without telling her after she returned to the UK and she was found guilty and sentenced in 1990.

A European Arrest Warrant was issued by the French authorities for Ms Dark to be returned to France to serve her jail term.

Ms Dark told the BBC of the effect that still being officially wanted in France had had on her.

She said: “It’s destroyed me, and to see my daughter to go through all that pain again. I just will never forget it.

“I can’t leave the country. If I leave the country I will be arrested because I’m still on the European Arrest Warrant.”

In 2007 she was arrested on a package holiday at a Turkish airport but the authorities were unable to give her a reason.

On her return to the UK the British police could not find any warrants against her.

When Ms Dark travelled to visit her retired father in Spain in 2008 she was arrested and spent one month in custody.

But a Spanish court refused to extradite her on the grounds of unreasonable delay and the significant passage of time.

When she returned to the UK she was arrested by British police at Gatwick airport and released on bail pending an extradition hearing. Magistrates refused extradition in April this year.

Fair Trials International said Ms Dark was effectively being “imprisoned in the UK”.

Chief executive Jago Russell said: “Deborah’s case is a shocking example of the way a system intended to deliver justice has created a blatant injustice.

“The European Arrest Warrant should have been designed with a time-limit built in but it wasn’t.

“The result – a person’s life can be turned upside down for an event alleged to have happened 20 years ago.

10 comments to The European Arrest Warrant in action

  • RAB

    Ok, a few points here.

    One, what was Turkey doing arresting her in the first place? How come they have a file on her and the UK authorities didn’t?
    They are not even part of the EU or the the “Agreement”. Are they trying to suck up to gain admittance, or what?

    Two can we trace this back to some jumped up bureaucratic shithead in their so called “Justice” dept trying to make a name for him or herself?

    Three, what are we doing rolling over to crap laws like this anyway!
    We have a bunch of foreign terrorists that we cant deport back to whatever craphole they came from because of the European Human Rights Laws, well a trial with a defendant in absentia, no evidence to speak of, no defence allowed and a guilty verdict brought in, should, I would have thought, invoked the ‘Uman rites stuff! surely?
    four, What the fuck is the point? It was a few pounds of weed. Big deal!

    Murderers and major criminals walk free after no time at all in UK for much worse than this “Terrible” crime.

    So if she eventually does get extradited, then it should be to stand trial with proper evidence, proper witnesses a jury and a proper and properly translated defence.
    Oh I forgot, they dont do stuff like that in Euroland!

    Oh and once again, what is the fuckin point!
    Dont make me laugh, it is as daft as keeping Ronnie Biggs in prison, and he actually did it!

  • Steve

    Wow, so they don’t have double-jeopardy over there either?

    Must be nice to be a prosecutor. Lose, then appeal when the defendant isn’t around to mount any kind of defense.

  • Ostralion

    How about the Anglosphere coin a new phrase, to go with Dutch courage- French Justice? Only to be used for unjust cases, like Ms. Dark’s?

  • Turkey are definitely sucking up to gain entry. I read somewhere the other day that they are trying to adopt asmoking ban, and on holiday there last year i noticed that the no smoking signs they already had conformed to the EU-standard sign.

  • RAB

    Well best of luck with the smoking ban!

    Turks seem to light up about every five minutes and anywhere.

    I was there back in May, and I went Paragliding.
    One of the most thrilling hour or so of my life!

    We’d been in the air for about ten minutes, when my Turkish pilot pulled out a packet of fags, lit two up, and there we were swooping and soaring around at six thousand feet, puffing away like good uns!

  • mike

    RAB: Do you think you could have managed a beer while you were at it?! Still, this has got to be the ultimate nightmare of ‘ealth ‘n safety types everywhere!

  • RAB

    Oh easy Mike, but I didn’t think to take any when we went up the mountain.Had a couple in the bar when we landed though.
    Besides I only have two hands, fag in one camera in the other.
    I have some great pics and video clips.
    I know we have strayed from the topic again, but honestly folks, if you ever get a chance to do it, well it is utterly butterly Brilliant!

  • TomC

    I don’t find this at all surprising. I know how corrupt and arbitrary is French justice from first hand experience.

    In 2002 I sold my French business to some Dutch people. They defaulted on completion from lack of funds but to respect our own contract legally, the business was theirs – including our house – only we couldn’t give it to them as they hadn’t paid, but couldn’t pull out of the contract legally or sell it to someone else. Over the next three months we fought to have them pay what they had contracted, and recovered a 10 per cent cash guarantee that they had to provide under the terms of the contract.

    What they were doing was taking advantage of the stale mate situation in order to coerce us into lowering the sale price. We had bought a house in another area, and this fell through from lack of funds – we hadn’t been paid – causing us to become liable to a 6000 EUR penalty clause (the same obligatory guarantee).

    We cancelled the sale 4 months afterwards and took them to the tribunal. Our bank accounts were seized and they recovered the deposit guarantee we had obtained. The money is simply removed from your accounts without your knowledge. 4 years later the appeal court couldn’t find in our favour and we were obliged to pay 40,000 EUR interest on the deposit that our lawyer had supposedly wrongly taken, not to mention about 25,000 EUR legal costs. Miraculously, we weren’t liable for the opposition’s legal costs.

    We eventually sold the business in 2006 for considerably less money. One reason for this was that for 4 years we had made no investment in the business as banks refuse categorically to lend to cases with unresolved legal conflicts. If I had known what a bunch of corrupt bastards the French legal system had been, I would have done a deal for less money with the Dutch, as the law blatantly fails to protect the contracts one makes with buyers.

  • Paul Marks

    “The character of the people” (as in what does a rule against smoking matter – the Turks will still light up whenever they want) does not work in the end.

    Because “character” changes over time – as a new generation comes up “educated” not just by the schools and colleges (although H. Man and, later, the Bellamy brothers were correct about how important they were for the “Progressive” cause) but also by the media.

    Think about that Airforce film – it would not happen now.

    Even in the military that sort of “macho attitude” would not be found in Generals or their pilots.

    The change goes back a long way – even back in the 1960’s Senator Barry Goldwater (an Airforce reserve general) might still be admired – but most people were no longer really part of the same culture as him.

    To them opposing the Civil Rights Act was racist (as the distinction between public and private, so clear to someone of Goldwater’s character, was totally unclear to most people) and someone who flew in a jet in the Grand Canyon (and over Vietnam seeing things for himself – just as he had over China back in World War II) was someone to be admired – but also someone who was scary (someone outside their culture).

    A century before most Americans would have seen Goldwater as someone to be admired and as example to be followed.

    Even in the 1960’s (and even more now) most people viewed him as a example to be avoided.

    National character had changed – had been made to change.

    Nor has the change stopped.

    Look at the young generation (the “elite” undergraduates in the universities) with their mindless support of Barack Obama.

    That would not have been the case only a couple of decades ago.

    “The March Goes On” as the newsreal used to put it, and remember who controls the schools (including many private schools) as well as the universities.

    “When an opponent says “I will not come over to your side”, I smile and reply that we control the souls of their children already.”

  • Paul Marks

    TomC raises an important point.

    If one sells someone something and they do not pay – is the something their property (and one is left suing them for the money is a different matter) or is the something (the car, the house, the business) not their property at all – because they have not paid what they agreed to pay.

    I would hold to the latter view, i.e. that the property does not belong to the person who has not paid for it and still belongs to the person who agreed to sell the property (for an agreed amount of money).

    I am surprised to hear this is not the case in French law.

    I doubt that German law would take the same view.