European governments, including the UK, have adopted a new law giving all criminal suspects in the EU the right, from arrest to trial, to free interpretation and translation of questioning, court proceedings and essential documents.
The landmark measure is the first in a package of rules that will give greater legal rights to individuals arrested or extradited abroad under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Action is being taken after high-profile cases, some involving individuals from the South West, had raised concern about the operation of the EAW.
South West MEP Graham Watson, who piloted the EAW through the European Parliament in 2002, told the Devon Week: “The EAW is an essential tool in the fight against crime. It has brought to justice murderers, rapists and terrorists who would have otherwise been free to sun themselves in Europe.
“However, when I drew up the EAW in 2002 I married it with a proposal for the legal rights of defendants. National governments, led by Labour ministers in the UK Government, shamefully scrapped these rights.
“Following a long battle led by the Lib Dems, we have now secured translation rights that are essential to a fair trial and would have been invaluable to many Britons facing trial abroad. I applaud the result, but deplore the delay.”
Graham is concerned that UKIP MEPs might try to block it having voted in the European Parliament against translation rights.
Graham said: “UKIP talk-the-talk about justice, but they cannot bring themselves to support moves that will actually protect their own constituents. I hope they end their hypocritical stance that betrays justice and the people they represent.
“Whatever happens, Lib Dems will continue to fight for ‘fair trial’ laws that entrench fundamental rights.”
(from a press release)