Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Lib Dems Block Tory Attempt To Go Soft On Crime

Andrew Duff MEP
East of England LIB DEM MEP Andrew Duff has welcomed the news that Liberal Democrats in government have vetoed Conservative plans to opt out of key EU crime-fighting measures.

Under 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 government will be opting back in to 35 of the 136 measures, including all those deemed vital by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

East of England LIB DEM MEP Andrew Duff commented:

"The Tories are so blinded by their anti-EU prejudice that they have gone soft on crime. They were proposing to withdraw from key European crime-fighting measures which leading British law enforcement experts have repeatedly warned are vital for Britain's security."

By attempting to opt out from the mass of EU laws on justice and home affairs with which it has already agreed, the UK has shown bad faith. And it is not simply a question of 'staying in' the 35 exceptions but of attempting to renegotiate our way back in to them with the certainty of great delay and legal confusion - and at greater cost."

"Lib Dems were determined not to let ideology trump 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 reckless Tory plans to withdraw from this kind of cooperation would have left our police with both hands tied behind their back, allowing criminals to escape the long arm of the law.

"Liberal Democrats will continue to ensure that British police forces have the necessary tools to keep people safe and tackle transnational crimes such as drug-trafficking, people-smuggling and child abuse effectively. 21st century criminal gangs do not stop at our borders. Neither should our efforts to pursue them and bring them to justice."

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 EAWincluding 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."