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When stereotypes are true: The European Arrest Warrant and Greek justice

Vicki woods writes in the Telegraph that Greek justice makes a mockery of the law.

Now the trouble with cases like this is that just as one is firing up to get outraged… along comes the thought, yeah but he might be guilty.

So he might. Or he might not. But the Greek justice system does not seem to be in any hurry to find out in the case of Andrew Symeou. He has spent a year behind bars without trial. Oddly enough the Greek authorities did manage to energise themselves sufficiently to issue a European Arrest Warrant. That got snappy action all right! A stirring display of how the nations of Europe can act together to leapfrog pettifogging national legal procedures! After this strong start, however, the Greeks did not quite manage to maintain the spirit of pan-European efficiency when they twice denied Mr Symeou bail on the grounds that he was not a Greek national.

23 comments to When stereotypes are true: The European Arrest Warrant and Greek justice

  • JadedLibertarian

    I’ve been having some troubling thoughts about criminal “justice” of late, specifically along the lines of: if a man does something wicked, how does doing violence to that man undo his crime? You may say that it is about deterrence rather than restorative justice, but to go to that man and say ‘In and of itself, your crime does not warrant what we are about to do to you. But we want to scare your cronies, so we are going to do something awful to you’ seems, well… evil.

    I find myself wondering by what right does the state do violence to criminals? Especially when they are the ones who decide what a criminal is.

    I’m coming over to the position that the state is the last entity that should have the power of life or death over even criminals.

  • “… the state is the last entity that should have the power of life or death over even criminals.”

    SOMEbody has to have that power. I’d rather it not be you or me. There simply are people that NEED to be executed. I refer you to the Nashville double-murder torture-carjacking. (Link)

    Do you want to keep those people around for the rest of their lives? Do you want them turned loose? Do you see any benefit to society paying for their lifetime lockup? Somebody has to prune the family tree, or clean out the gene pool; and history shows that letting the friends of the victims isn’t a good way to do it.

    (They’ve all been convicted. Only one was sentenced to death.)

  • Richard Thomas

    JL, does your comment have scope outside the death penalty? My own opinion is that the death penalty is not something the state should be doing but if you are talking about other forms of punishment, I’m of the opinion that vengeance is a valid aspect of the punishment system.

  • the other rob

    Ellen – I trust myself to decide on matters of life or death far more than I’d trust any bureaucracy. To that end, I carry a 9mm on my hip, every day.

  • xj

    We have a European Arrest Warrant. Why don’t we have a European Writ of Habeas Corpus?

    One implies the other. Or ought to, on any defensible theory of sovereignty.

  • Concerning the above comments by Jaded Libertarian and Ellen, I have two points.

    Firstly, punishment should be sufficient deterrent. The best way of doing that is to make sure that a cost benefit analysis on behalf of the potential criminal is negative. Thus criminal benefit (including loss to any victim of the crime, these not being the same) should be noticeably less than punishment times probability of apprehension and punishment. As there is a good chance of getting away with crime, the actual punishment metered out tends (quite properly) to be more severe than the actual loss to the victim. Finally, on this point, there are two difficulties: (i) many criminals are so stupid that they don’t do cost benefit analysis – their fault, not that of society; (ii) the punishment must be somewhat moderated, in appropriate circumstances, by the extent of criminal intent versus negligent incompetence and also by previous blameless behaviour.

    Secondly, the death penalty is a special case. I am against it (outside of war and acts of spying/treason) on the simple grounds that, society’s law enforcement having made a mistake, no atonement is of value to the innocent executed person. Other punishments do offer the possibility of at least partial atonement.

    So JL, this is what we currently do in the UK, though no doubt it is imperfectly executed. We have it about right.

    Back to the case of Andrew Symeou: if the reports are correct, he is being actually punished before being found guilty and sentenced. This is very likely totally unnecessary, especially given the alleged crime, as he does not look to present a significant flight risk. He could remain in his ‘own’ country (the UK) on the typical bail terms that we offer, including surrender of his passport and reporting weekly to the police.

    As with so many things EU, the protection-free extradition process aids only its statist bureaucracy, not the people of the EU (and in this case, not justice either).

    Best regards

  • JadedLibertarian

    Just to clarify my points, incarceration is an act of violence (in my view) and may indeed be tantamount to the death penalty for many who experience it.

    Many die in custody every year and no-one is punished.

    It doesn’t really matter to you whether we have a death penalty in this country, if you’re the one who gets stomped to death by a lifer while doing 6 months for tax evasion.

  • JadedLibertarian

    SOMEbody has to have that power. I’d rather it not be you or me.

    So we take the most onerous responsibility and give it to the most incompetent and corrupt body we can find?

  • Now the trouble with cases like this is that just as one is firing up to get outraged… along comes the thought, yeah but he might be guilty.

    I don’t think this is relevant. The questions are whether he can be proved to be guilty to an acceptable standard, and whether due process has been properly carried out. His actual guilt or not is simply not the point.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    If ever there is a country that needs to be kicked out of the EU, rather than being given the luxury of leaving, is Greece. A bunch of wankers, their political/legal establishment, though I am sure some of the ordinary Joes there are fine. Of course, a lot of the more enteprising Greeks have emigrated to places such as Australia.

  • Derek Buxton

    One thing missing in the comments is that “corpus juris” is EU law based on the Napoleonic code. I does not envisage either “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”, Habeas Corpus or trial by jury. It is not compatible with our long time justice system and should not apply in this Country, but our politicos must brown nose the EU. And soon foreign policemen will be on our streets with their own brand of justice, which may, just, wake some of the population out of their stupor regarding the EU,….. I hope!

  • Micheal Jennings,

    The point you made was the point I was trying to make indirectly, when I said “So he might… but the Greek justice system does not seem to be in any hurry to find out.”

  • Peter

    On the state and punishment. Encarceration is usually justified on the grounds of either: protecting the public by keeping the criminal away from society, deterrence, vengeance (justice). I have no patience for the vengeance justification – ultimately the only justification for vengeance must refer to islamo-christian-judean morality, to which I do not subscribe. The libertarian outlook is one of non-initiation of violence. Of course, the criminal has committed violence of some description, so violence for self-protection is justified. However, only so much as is required to keep society safe from the criminal in the future. There are a host of balancing considerations, such as for how long the criminal can be kept locked up before the limitations put on his freedom are greater than the benefit to society from him being locked up. It is my view that only so much violence is required as will keep society safe. Therefore the death penalty is never justified, although encarceration, potentially for a lengthy period of time, is. As libertarians we can also not have much sympathy for the deterrence argument. Punishment as a deterrence is essentially punishment for something that the criminal did not do. It can of course still be justified on utilitarian grounds – although it is questionable how effective deterrence is – and in any way the punishment meted out to keep society safe also doubles up as deterrence. Ironically, the libertarian is reduced to determining the appropriate level of punishment using utilitarian arguments, with libertarian side constraints that effectively benefit the criminal

    Things may be bad in Greece, but things are not that great here either – and especially in the banana republic of the US – where policemen seem to go about their ‘duties’ completely unchecked.

  • Nobody NEEDS to be executed. People sometimes NEED to be killed so as to protect oneself from immediate mortal danger, but outside of that, taking a person out of a cell where they are no threat to the public and killing them in cold blood is, frankly, murder.

    If someone is to be punished, it is NOT the right of the State to throw them to the wolves in some cage-fight locker room warm-up called a prison. Neither should the State use the threat of violence and abuse from other inmates as a means of coercion, though this does happen.

    Keeping people in (unpleasant) prison awaiting some remote trial date is unacceptable regardless of their guilt or innocence, for the basic reason that we do not know which yet and as such the presumption is innocence.

    In terms of imprisonment, the whole point is to protect the public, so rehabilitation should be a key part. I would even go as far as saying that rehab occurs in different institutions to any punishment phase and within that, separate areas of those who are progressing and those who are unreformed.

    Apart from that, I second most if not all said by Nigel, Jaded, Michael.

  • Laird

    If society (which, these days, essentially means the state) is going to incarcerate properly adjudicated* criminals, the cost should be borne solely by those criminals. It is immoral to charge the taxpayers for the costs of such persons’ upkeep. This means hard labor at something productive (breaking rocks doesn’t qualify, unless there is sufficient value in the resulting gravel) with forfeiture of the proceeds, and a bill (not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and constituting a priority lien on all subsequently acquired assets) for any shortfall remaining upon release. And frankly, I think any life sentence should be automatically converted to the death penalty.

    Of course, if you’d prefer to return to the concepts of outlawry and/or weregild, I’m OK with that, too (but please note that outlawry is essentially a death sentence). People who reject the most basic tenets of civil society shouldn’t expect to receive its benefits or its privileges.

    Peter’s comment that the concept of vengence necessarily refers to some sort of “islamo-christian-judean morality” is just silly. It’s far older than that; what society in history (or even pre-history) has rejected the idea of retribution for wrongs committed? Rather, it is the ideas of forgiveness and rehabilitation which are of modern vintage, and are essentially of Christian origin. “An eye for an eye” is as old as mankind itself.

    * Please note that I am stipulating to the necessity for proper due proceess, reasonable evidentiary standards, establishment of guilt to an acceptable standard, etc. My comments here speak only to punishment after proper conviction.

  • I think any life sentence should be automatically converted to the death penalty.

    Now Laird I really am asking: what do you mean by that? (and by ‘mean’ I mean ‘mean’…;-))

  • Richard Thomas

    Peter, your position means that if one were to commit a “one off” crime, there should be no punishment since there is no benefit to society to doing so.

    The truth is that part of the purpose of punishment is to make the victims whole. That includes, in many cases, ensuring that the offender in some way suffers for their transgressions. I know TV likes to shove the “Revenge didn’t make me feel better” bullcrap down our throats and I, personally, think it’s not a healthy thing but as a libertarian, I have to recognize that others have different worldviews to me and if accommodating their worldviews does not conflict with my principles, it must be given due consideration. In the case where we have, as best as we can, determined the guilt of a criminal, they have initiated violence and appropriate punishment may be meted.

  • Richard Thomas

    I have no authority in this but I’d like to request we leave discussion of the death penalty off the table in this thread. It’s rather dull and has been done-to-death (if you’ll pardon the pun). There’s plenty enough meat in discussing attitudes to incarceration.

  • Laird

    A fair point, Richard, and in furtherance of it I will withdraw the sentence in my previous post to which Alisa objected. It was unnecessary anyway.

  • Couldn’t object due to lack of understanding – but it is yours to withdraw…

  • The questions are whether he can be proved to be guilty to an acceptable standard, and whether due process has been properly carried out

  • Paul Marks

    Switzerland is far from perfect – but at least there is something a bit like the “rule of law” there.

    In Britain a person can be dragged off to the not so tender mercies of the Greek (or the American) “justice system” with virtually no way to resist.

    I am not a man of finance (I am dirt poor) – but if I was a man of means (and wanted to stay in a major European market) I would move to Switzerland and formally become a Swiss citizen.

    How else to avoid the madness that Natalie Solent describes?

    “But this means you would have to tramp round the Swiss mountains with a rifle on your shoulder a few weeks a year…”

    So what? It might do me good.

  • Peter

    Following an earlier comment of mine, Richard Thomas said “The truth is that part of the purpose of punishment is to make the victims whole. ”

    I can accept this to some extent. I have to revise some of my earlier comment though. I said that punishment as deterrence is wrong as you are being punished for something you did not do. This applies only if the deterrence is meant for other potential criminals. However, you also can think of it as ‘ex-post’ deterrence for the criminal being punished. That is, there is a certain level of punishment that goes along with a certain crime. This opens a whole bag of questions such as what level of deterrence punishment is appropriate? Does it differ for different people (even if their crime was the same)? Clearly yes. Could it justify ‘an eye for an eye’ on efficiency grounds?

    I will leave this old thread alone now.