Some of us remember the awful case of the Birmingham Six. Half a dozen innocent civilians jailed for terrorist atrocities, the mass killing of civilians and soldiers by the IRA in two Midlands pubs, back in 1974.
Detection is often an extremely precarious business with terrorist cases. But in the anger and desperation that followed, six Irishmen were fitted up by a combination of several police officers and the presentation of flawed forensic evidence by an improbably named, Dr Skuse. (His errors caused the Crown Prosecution Service and police to review other high-profile cases.)
Throughout the 1980s an onslaught of contrary evidence appeared including whistleblowing from within the judiciary. A public and political outcry grew. Following appeal hearings, these tragic miscarriages of justice were overturned in 1991.
It was a similar story for the ‘Guildford Four’ released after a series of appeals a couple of years prior. One of the convicted but innocent men died from illness in prison.
In essence, these cases highlighted policing and judicial problems in Britain that this country’s media, politicians and judiciary – by exerting enormous collective pressure- could actually do something about. The whole sorry saga was democracy at its very worst and very best.
Now, thanks to the diligence and courage of campaign group Fair Trials International (FTI) we can know about another group of justice miscarriages: ‘The Brussels Nine’.
These cases are particularly awful in that each of the so-called ‘defendants’ were arrested in most cases by British police within the UK, serving the infamous European Arrest Warrant (EAW).
These men and women are:
Edmond Arapi: A father of young children given a sixteen year sentence for murder in Italy in 2004. Yet Edmond had not left the UK for six years between 2000-06. He had no idea the trial took place and he was convicted in absentia. He was arrested under an EAW in 2009 at Gatwick Airport. An English court ordered his extradition in April 2010. In June 2010, Italian prosecutors admitted to making a mistake and charges were dropped.
Deborah Dark: In 1989, after months on remand, Ms. Dark was acquitted of drugs charges in France. Without informing her, the French prosecutor appealed and apparently secured a conviction against Ms. Dark. Whilst on a package holiday in Turkey, Dark was arrested at gunpoint, but later released. A year later in 2008, Dark was arrested on holiday in Spain, and held without trial for one month. But Spain refused to extradite Dark to France. Dark was then arrested by British police, but the English court refused extradition, due to passage of time. Only in 2010 did French prosecutors drop the EAW against Dark.
Garry Mann: In 2004, during the Euro 2004 football championships, ex-fireman Mr Mann was tried and convicted in Portugal within 48 hours of a riot in the sea resort, Albufeira. He was not near the riot and did not have time to organise a fair defence. Mr Mann opted to serve his two years prison sentence in the UK. In 2005 and English court held that he had received an unfair trial. In 2009, Mr Mann was again arrested and extradited to Portugal where inexplicably to Mann he was required to serve a two year sentence. The case was described at the English High Court by Judge Lord Justice Moses as an “embarrassment”. But following due process Mr Mann was extradited to Portugal in May 2010, released back to a the UK in May 2011, and released from prison in August 2011.
Andrew Symeou: student Andrew travelled to Greece on holiday; the first time he had been abroad without his parents. He was later seized by police back in the UK without explanation and spent 11 months on remand in custody in Korydallos Prison. Greece’s prison system is routinely condemned by Amnesty International and other Human Rights monitoring organisations for breaching conventions on torture and mistreatment. Following delays, due to lack of interpreters and strikes by the judiciary, Mr Syemou eventually faced trial and was acquitted in June 2011; the case against him lasted four years.
I would urge all readers to make themselves aware of the further six victims of EAW miscarriages, who have bravely agreed to be profiled by FTI: businessmen Michael Turner and Jason McGoldrick extradited to Hungary; university student Patrick Connor, extradited to Spain and coerced into pleading ‘guilty’ so he could get home; an unnamed Bristol-based schoolteacher who was prosecuted for ‘theft’ because he withdrew money from his Polish bank in 2004 and went into overdraft (arrested by British police in 2010 but not extradited); and Alan Hickey, a London lorry driver, who pleaded guilty (under coercion of being imprisoned for many years) to people trafficking in France, only to find himself, unsurprisingly then under an EAW from Belgian authorities.
On Monday evening this week, the British Prime Minister became a magician; he made disappear a vital debate tabled in the House of Commons on European justice measures, including specifically the European Arrest Warrant.
Just as most of the nine public victims of Brussels’ miscarriages of justice had their legal representation quashed, it now seems all British citizens face the same fate, in a political sense.
Our representatives (MPs) were allowed no say on the gravest of issues. As such, our most fundamental human rights to personal liberty and democratic government, have been – to all intents and purposes – extradited to the EU.
Not being a magician, I do however have one wish. That is for Mr Cameron to quickly find the decency to at least read FTIs’ briefing – EAW Cases of Injustice – and to shift his chillaxed rump back from a fixation on Brussels to Westminster.
It is not just the victims that deserve better.
But I’m sure each British voter, and generations to follow, will want to know precisely where their own constituency MP stood on this issue … especially if their kids are arrested by a British officer for a crime that they didn’t commit, and extradited alone to a town that they never visited.
Richard Bingley is a senior lecturer in security and international relations. twitter: @bingleyr