As we've covered before, The European Investigation Order (EIO) is intended as a partner to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), to which Britain is already a signatory. Unless we opt out pronto, it is due to come into effect at the end of this month.
The EIO is intended to make it easier
to gather evidence on another member state's soil. Amongst other things, it would grant foreign police the right to carry out the ‘real time’ interception of
communications, monitor a person’s bank account, demand bodily samples,
DNA or fingerprints from a person in another EU state. They would be able to order British officers to conduct
undercover-spying missions, and pursue people for 'crimes' which are not
recognised in UK law - such as the Portuguese offence of criminal
A decision will be taken in the next two weeks. Tory MP and friend of Big Brother Watch, Dominic Raab, raised his concerns in the Commons:
Other EU countries could demand the personal details of entire plane-loads of holidaymakers, and force hard-pressed British police to trail suspects on their behalf. The countries demanding the new powers on behalf of the European Union include ex-Eastern Bloc states Bulgaria, Estonia and Slovenia.
"Britain should not opt into this half-baked measure. It would allow European police to order British officers to embark on wild-goose chases. It would force our police to hand over personal information on British citizens, even if they are not suspects and the conduct under investigation is not a crime in this country. And it gives foreign police law enforcement authority on British soil. The Order won’t help tackle crime – it will waste police time and ditch safeguards that UK citizens expect from the British justice system."
Big Brother Watch understands that Raab's parliamentary colleague, civil liberties champion David Davis MP, is on the case - more on this as it emerges.
Fair Trials International points out that, under the EIO, the Spanish police investigating a murder in a nightclub to demand the ID of every British citizen who flew to the country in the month the offence took place. They could force the UK to search its DNA database - which contains the profiles of nearly one million innocent people - and send the Spanish police profiles of anybody on the database who was in Spain at the time. FTI is also concerned about UK police being obliged to investigate matters which are not even crimes here, such as the Portuguese offence of criminal defamation.
Worst of all, as barrister and former MP Jerry Hayes points out in strong terms, none of this even requires sign-off from a judge:
In its present form the EIO would allow any EU police force to start investigations and gather evidence on UK soil... where it offends against everything we hold sacred, is that no judicial authority is needed to verify whether there are reasonable grounds for an offence to have been committed. In this country the police can’t investigate on a whim, they have to have reasonable grounds to believe that someone is up to no good. So, potentially, every corrupt police officer in the pay of the Mafia in Southern Italy, could come over here, obtain your DNA and bank balances without going to obtain permission from a judge first. Insane. And downright dangerous.
A decision on the British position on the EIO is due by July 29.
But given all of the above, isn't it worth asking... why might we even think about entering into such a terrible arrangement?
Well, as the Mail points out, the Liberal Democrat manifesto contained a telling policy commitment: "Keep Britain part of international crime-fighting measures such as the European Arrest Warrant, European Police Office, Eurojust, and the European Criminal Records Information System."
A Government spokesman said the coalition was 'actively considering whether or not to opt in to the proposed EIO':
''The coalition agreement states that the Government 'will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.''
By Alex Deane