Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

European arrest warrant being served disproportionately on minor offences says campaigners

Date: (20 June 2012)    |    

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A Polish single mother Natalia Gorczowska, 23, who has been detained under a European arrest warrant (EAW) is fighting an extradition battle with the authorities after she was ordered to be removed from UK to Poland.

The case of Ms Gorczowska is that she had left Poland before her suspended sentence of 10 months had expired for a minor offence of possessing 4gm of amphetamine. She was originally sentenced in December 2006.
Gorczowska, who lives in Norfolk has got a temporary relief after the order of her removal was stalled by the last minute appeal to the European Court of Human rights (ECHR). She fears that if extradited to her native country she could lose the custody of her child to- local authority care.
The enforcement of EAW system has been drawing a lot of flak as British courts seemed not to assess the substance or the seriousness of allegations but use it as conveyor belt style of justice. The offence could be of a minor nature like in the case of Natalia Gorczowska, who was wanted in her native country for failing to complete a suspended sentence for a minor drugs offence.
The conditions of her sentence were that she abstain from drugs and find employment. She left Poland to find work before her suspended sentence had expired because her father bought her flight ticket to Britain. She is no longer taking drugs, the courts have been told, and are employed in the UK.
Her case has emerged at a time of mounting political criticism of the UK's extradition arrangements with the EU and US. The government is due to respond shortly to a review of procedures produced last year by Sir Scott Baker.
Her case has been taken up by Fair Trials International, which is campaigning to reform the use of EAWs, warning that they are often served disproportionately for minor offences.
In 2009/10 Poland sent the UK 2,403 EAWs the next largest was Germany, which issued the UK with 235 arrest warrants.
Extradition requests have been sent out from Warsaw for minor offenders such as individuals going overdrawn on bank accounts, piglet thieves and cake snatchers. The Home Office has asked Poland to change its procedures.
Jago Russel chief executive of Fair Trials International has said that extradition should be reserved for the most serious cases, but under the EU's fast-track system, thousands of people were now being extradited every year often for the pettiest crimes.