(c) by Torquil Dick-Erikson, 2016
Continental Europe has a completely different system of criminal justice from the English-speaking nations.
Back in 1215, when we had Magna Carta, they got the Holy Inquisition.
Magna Carta limited and constrained the arbitrary power of the State authority over individuals. The Inquisition extended and deepened it.
After the French revolution in 1789, when Napoleon took over and conquered most of Europe, he did not reject the Inquisitorial method. He adopted it and adapted it, re-directing it from service of the Church to service of the State. His codes underlie continental criminal procedures to this day.
In 1997 the EU devised a plan for a single system of criminal justice for the whole of Europe, including the British Isles. Their embryo criminal code is named “Corpus Juris”. It is based on Napoleonic-inquisitorial principles. It calls for the abolition of Trial by Jury (article 26.1), Habeas Corpus (art. 20.3.g), and the protection against double jeopardy, allowing Prosecutors to appeal against an acquittal even if no new and compelling evidence has come to light (art. 27.2). Citizens will therefore be liable to arbitrary arrest on no evidence and lengthy imprisonment (months, or even longer) with no right to a public hearing during this time. And then a verdict given by case-hardened professional career judges who are colleagues of the prosecutor, but not of the defender who belongs to a completely different career category.
So far this project has not gone forward, owing largely to British opposition – a promise by Kate Hoey, Home Office Minister, to Parliament in December 1998 to veto it if it were ever formally put forward (a promise that Blair did not dare to disown), and a weighty Report by the House of Lords in 1999, rejecting it.
However the project has not been abandoned. The European Arrest Warrant is the first step towards its full implementation. The European Public Prosecutor is being established, and despite a UK opt-out, our reconfirmation of the EAW means he will have power to have Britons arrested in Britain (see Counsel’s Opinion by Jonathan Fisher QC, linked below). And once Brussels feels that we have been irrevocably locked into the EU project, they will give us the full nine yards of it.
A victory of the IN side in the forthcoming referendum is all they are waiting for.