Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Good Day for British Justice

Yesterday, the Home Secretary blocked the extradition of Aspergers sufferer, Gary McKinnon, to face charges in the US, having admitted he hacked Pentagon computers in search of UFOs and aliens. As well as sympathising with Gary - and his fantastic mother Janis, who campaigned so tenaciously for him - the case highlights flaws in the UK-US extradition regime. In particular, in cross-border cases - like the McKinnon, Tappin and O'Dwyer cases - I have long argued the location of jurisdiction should be decided according to clear legal rules in open court, not by haggling prosecutors based on policy or political expediency behind closed doors. So, I was pleased to hear the Home Secretary announce plans for a new 'forum' test designed to address just that. It will serve the interests of British justice and help de-politicise this kind of case, removing a thorn in the side of the special relationship.

The day before, the Home Secretary also announced Britain would exercise its bloc opt out from 130 crime and policing measures, to halt the UK sleep-walking down the path to a pan-European criminal code enforced by an EU Public Prosecutor and interpreted by the ECJ in Luxembourg. This was a response to a campaign I led, backed by over 100 MPs, as reported earlier this year here. Critically, we can opt back into any individual measure that is vital for law enforcement cooperation. This is an important chance to press for re-negotiation of the flawed European Arrest Warrant (the EAW). If you think we have seen rough justice under the US treaty, it is nothing compared to the number and character of injustices under the EAW. We'll need to scrutinise carefully the government's approach - but finally we have a chance to secure the modest safeguards we need and a healthy dose of common sense.

At last, we have a Home Secretary prepared to stand up and fight for British citizens and British standards of justice. I led the debate last December that secured a unanimous House of Commons vote in favour of US and EAW extradition reform. So, as well as a good day for British justice, it is a good day for British democracy.


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