Charon’s Advent calendar: Day Seven

I find quite a few politicians a bit baffling – but this latest nonsense from John Hemming MP, who has a reputation for being quite bright, is just daft….

Political Scrapbook reports….

“Millionaire Liberal Democrat John “three homes” Hemming has told Radio 4 he would vote for  a rise in tuition fees to punish students who occupied his constituency office. His extraordinary exchange with Eddie Mair came after an embarassing argument with a protester live on local radio……”

The global Assange / Wikileaks circus continues today with police arresting Assange when he walked into a London police station this morning.  It appears that the judge refused bail – despite the paucity of evidence(*), it is asserted, but Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer,  has the ‘thermonuclear 256 bit encryption code to decode thousands of documents now transmitted to thousands worldwide should anything untoward happen to Assange…like him being killed, for example…or, presumably, extradited from Sweden to the United States?

(*) Gerard Batten, a UKIP MEP, said the Assange case highlighted the dangers of the European arrest warrant, because the judge has no power to listen to the evidence to judge if there is a prime facie case.

Mark Stephens has suggested that the Swedish prosecutor  should question Assange in London – a perfectly sensible suggestion on the face of it, but I won’t be holding my breath. We shall see.

A rather ironic postscript: Mark Stephens, not surprisingly, is concerned that the security and others services are watching him and that client confidentiality may be breached and leaked to the world at large.  The attempt by US lawyers to elide the lawyers with Assange and implicate them is just primitive and should be easily resisted.

Read The Legal Week report

12 thoughts on “Charon’s Advent calendar: Day Seven

  1. As far as Julian Assange goes, by declaring that he has a “poison pill” which will be released and cause immense damage to the West if he’s killed, he has surely made himself a target for anti-Western terrorist organisations. There’s this wonderful irony that he might have to rely on the efficacy of Western secret services to stay alive. Or stay in a nice, safe prison cell.

    As he was the subject of an EAW then I didn’t think there has to be much evidence. It’s deliberately a streamlined system which rather assumes that all the signatories are governed by some common conception of justice. Poland has been making very extensive use of EAWs.

    in the case of John Hemming, it is bizarre, but perhaps he’s decided he’s doomed at the next election and he’s fed up being shouted at, so he’ll exact some revenge. Of course there is a general point – if you annoy somebody who is naturally on your side anyway, and go for confrontation, rather than persuasion, it might prove to be counter-productive. One wonders if the students had really wanted him on their side whether they adopted the right tactic in this case. People are, after all, people.

    ps. how many MPs aren’t millionaires? Indeed what’s the definition – if its assets (houses, pensions, investments) then it might capture quite a few. We’ve very possibly got a House of Commons (and almost certainly Lords too) where the millionaires are in the majority. That’s inflation for you.

    pps. is it just me, or is the political atmosphere particularly febrile at the moment? There are lots of angry people at the moment. I believe its also so on the other side of the pond.

  2. Steve – the problem with the EAW is the very lack of evidence required for it to be executed in the UK.

    Poland and other countries have, I am advised, been using EAWs to extradite people for matters which are not crimes in the UK but are in their country. (Including quite minor matters, I believe.)

  3. I hadn’t heard that Poland was issuing EAWs for offences not recognised in the UK, although I can certainly imagine that alignment is going to be an issue. Even though there may be a similar offence in principle, no doubt interpretations vary a lot.

    I’m less concerned about whether it is a minor matter or not. We wouldn’t tolerate somebody moving a few counties away to escape a shoplifting charge. I’m not sure why jumping countries should be much different. It almost comes with the freedom of movement issue. Frankly, if we can’t trust such countries, then we oughtn’t have them in the EU. To what extent countries choose to pursue what we might consider minor crimes committed on their territory is, I feel, properly in the realm of democratic states and their electorates. It’s surely not our job to provide a refuge from justice. It’s a variation of extra-territoriality in my view.

    I think there are some grounds where an EAW shouldn’t be applied (freedom of speech for instance – I wouldn’t want to see extradition for Holocaust denial, blasphemy or the like). However, these principles ought to be set out.

  4. Steve – all anecdotal…. so can’t give precise examples. There is, however, concern that EAWs are being used for parking fines et al… and minor speeding offences etc…… again.. I have not seen any specific literature. Not really my daily field on activity or research….

  5. Well there are stories such as this one

    http://tinyurl.com/3xla8cl

    An extradition for a phone theft from 6 years ago (although as it is alleged to be a mugging, then I’m not sure I’d call it minor issue if it happened to me).

    I would like to see some more facts. To be honest, if people are jumping countries to avoid justice then the disproportionate affect on them it might simply be justifiable on the basis of doing exactly that.

  6. @ObiterJ

    Thanks for the links, and there are some interesting examples. I think there are two key points – as is pointed out in the articles, the EAW is predicated on some mutual trust of the legal systems of the respective countries.

    However, that brings up the second point. That’s to what extent we can transfer values between countries. For example, there was one case mentioned where what is considered a crime in one country might only be a civil matter in the UK. That may be, but it does seem to me that is claiming our values are necessarily superior than the other country’s. After all, the alleged offence happened on their territory and, presumably, any such laws are determined, at least in principle, by their own, democratically elected and locally accountable government. It could be that social conditions, culture or the like play a part.

    There clearly has to be some limits on what is and is not allowable under the EWA, but those conditions ought to be drawn up in the treaty. I’m not convinced that something along the lines of X is a crime in country A but not in B therefore nobody can be extradited from B to A for X is wholly logical. Firstly, it’s something of a lottery if the person left country A before apprehended (so where’s the logical difference). Secondly, when entering country A the person from B has surely, by implication, agreed to abide by the laws of country A. (Note, I refer only to offences on country A’s territory – which is, in this networked World, a tricky issue to define).

    There do have to be safeguards, but I feel we could be in danger of assuming superior values. Some might find our values lacking, but would we wish to see our perception of justice frustrated.

    So lets have those principles sorted out, but equally not in a way where we always assume the superiority of our own values.

  7. SW – bail is decided in the usual way.

    However, where a magistrates’ court withholds bail in extradition proceedings or imposes conditions in granting bail in extradition proceedings, the High Court may grant bail or vary the conditions. The applicant should apply to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. A judge in chambers may grant bail or vary the conditions.

    I suppose that Mr Assange may well wait until the next appearance before the magistrate and, if refused again, he will apply to the High Court. It may be that a suitable bail package can be set up between now and the next hearing – we shall have to see what occurs.

    It was interesting that various celebrities offered “sureties.” I was not surprised that they were turned down. They would not have been in a position to influence Mr assange’s conduct in any way and the point of a surety is that they are able to exercise some degree of influence to ensure that the person attends court.

  8. A poiny which I think is relevant but nobody else seems to have mentioned it is that Mr Assange did not flee from the UK even though he must have known that Sweden was preparing a European arrest warrant (EAW). Also, there was an earlier EAW though it aws said to be defective.

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