Common Error No. 86


86. "We should extradite any citizen accused of crimes by overseas prosecutors."

The readiness of British governments to act at the behest of overseas prosecutors has been a disturbing development. It has included extradition to face trial abroad for actions done in the UK which are not criminal here. Countries have very different approaches to law and legal rights. US prosecutors, some seeking popularity to boost political careers, have a habit of using criminal law in what would be civil actions in Britain, especially in relation to business actions. Their habit of parading those accused in chains in order to influence future jurors is not one that sits well with the presumption of innocence. Their regular use of plea-bargains to allow some of those accused to buy immunity by testifying against others is not conducive to honest testimony.

Even more disturbing is the British government's decision to allow UK citizens to be extradited to other EU countries, possibly ones they have never even visited, to face trial for actions which are not illegal in this country. Under this procedure, a person appearing on a local radio station might be extradited to Malta to face trial there because some prosecutor there regarded what was said as a breach of some obscure Maltese law.

The pretence is that the EU is now a unit with a common standard of law. This is simply not true. Each member state has had its own approach to law, and many have widely different practices and different degrees of respect for people's rights. The trial of UK plane spotters in Greece for espionage illustrated some of these radical differences. UK citizens should not be at the mercy of capricious foreign prosecutors.

Many fought for their rights under law in the UK, and some died. It is entirely wrong that these rights should now be so carelessly given away in the name of cementing international relationships.