European Arrest Warrant protects the interest of businesses

No5 Chambers This article was written by Richard Gibbs, a barrister at No5 Chambers. Richard specialises in fraud and Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) proceedings. He has defended and prosecuted large frauds in the Crown Court in proceedings stemming from incidents of commercial and benefit fraud. He regularly appears on behalf of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, local authorities and trading standards in regulatory matters.

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A leading barrister is calling for some laws to be enshrined in principles set out by EU law, to help protect international trade from being affected by inevitable changes after an exit from the European Union.

Once the UK decides to formally withdraw from the EU, the Government would have to choose whether to change present laws derived from the EU or to retain them.

Richard Gibbs, a barrister at No5 Chambers, says that a simple act of parliament would honour the commitments of the European Arrest Warrant by protecting the provisions in domestic law.

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW), introduced in 2004, is an effective example of EU criminal justice measures used to help make the extradition of people wanted for serious crimes faster and less complicated.

This not only protects the interests of the public but is essential for businesses when shielding themselves from crimes such as fraud.

The environment in which businesses function, in Britain and in Europe, is essentially going to change as new laws are established.

Richard Gibbs warns that any changes to laws such as the EAW raises a question mark for businesses wanting to conduct international trade deals with the UK and the EU.

He said: “The essence of all trade is the enforcement of contract, and the fact that contractual agreements can be imposed, with people ultimately made to honour these commitments in court. Whether that be in a civil court or a criminal court, the final sanction for any trade disagreement is a court hearing.

“Changes to the EAW could potentially impact the ability to enforce contracts across the UK and the EU, which would increase organisations’ exposure to risk when carrying out cross border trade agreements.

“We need to worry about the overarching picture. Whether we love them or loathe them, there is a need, in a globalised economy or world, for some form of agreement for how cross border disputes are dealt with.”

The EAW can be issued by any relevant national authority for offences carrying a maximum penalty of at least a year in prison.

Since Britain’s adoption of the European justice and home affairs measure set by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007, substantial numbers of foreign criminals have been removed from the UK, whilst Britain also gets to extradite those wanted for trial.

The EAW acts as an important safeguard, not only for individuals but also for businesses. It is often used to gather information about what transactions had been agreed, what money has been transferred and what commitments had been entered into.

Businesses from outside the EU as well as inside will want assurances that contractual agreements can be enforced, otherwise criminals could simply hide abroad as was seen in the Costa del Sol in the 1960s.

Richard explains: “A change to EAWs could be very complicated and, in real terms, have an effect on a lot of businesses.

“For instance, if you have been defrauded you won’t be able to claim on your insurance until you’ve got a crime number, and you won’t be able to get a crime number until the police are satisfied that it has been reported and it could be investigated. How likely are the police to investigate something if they know they aren’t going to be able to get the suspect back?

“In the interim we need to make it clear that we would honour those commitments. That may mean enshrining the provisions in domestic law, which is a simple act of parliament to transfer that from the EU to the UK.”