Scottish prosecutors raise concerns over arrests after Brexit

More than 500 cases have been heard in Scotland's courts since 2011 following an arrest made using an EU-wide warrant, figures show.

A European Arrest Warrant was used to help catch the man responsible for the murder of Moira Jones. Picture: Strathclyde Police

Details released by the Crown Office show 541 proceedings took place between 2011-16 after an offender was apprehended using an European arrest warrant (EAW).

In an update to MSPs, the prosecution service expressed concern that there is likely to be “significant issues” transferring criminals post-Brexit should new arrangements not be put in place for when Britain withdraws from the EU.

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At present, the EAW allows the authorities to secure the arrest and extradition of someone currently residing in another EU state.

Figures show there were 48 extraditions to Scotland in the five years to 2016.

According to prosecutors, the effectiveness of the EU arrangements mean extradition proceedings are now commonly measured in “days and weeks rather than months and years”.

Before a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee on Tuesday, the Crown Office warned there are likely to be significant implications for the criminal justice system post-Brexit.

It pointed to a recent case in Ireland where the country’s Supreme Court decided to refer a decision to the European Court of Justice on the matter of whether it should surrender an EU citizen to the UK under the EAW when the accused would be imprisoned in the UK after Brexit.

In a written submission to MSPs, the Crown Office said the EAW came with limited grounds for refusal and 
specified time limits for execution.

It said: “The cumulative effect of these features is that extradition proceedings by EAW can generally be measured in days and weeks 
(the average period from arrest to surrender is 42 days) rather than months and years, as can be the case with 
traditional extradition requests.

“Further, the EAW overrides the objection in some EU member states to extradition of their own nationals.”

It added: “In the absence of any agreement in this field between the UK and the EU – or if any agreement does not include robust provisions dealing with the transition from one regime to the other – there are liable to be significant issues in making that transition, including questions about the continuing validity or effectiveness of outgoing and incoming EAWs and European investigation orders.”

EAWs have been issued in a number of high-profile cases in Scotland in recent years, including in the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Slovakian Marek Harcar for the murder of Moira Jones in Glasgow in 2008.