PAOLA BUONADONNA: Plane spotting - an unusual hobby
perhaps but is it spying? The fight against terrorism in Europe has focused
politicians' minds on the need for quick action and tough legislation.
But that creates a different kind of danger for the ordinary person.
The twelve British plane enthusiasts arrested
in Greece appear to be the victims of a culture clash. The Greek authorities
don't appreciate foreigners taking an interest in their military. After
twenty-four days in custody they still haven't been charged - just one
of the many stark differences between the British and the Greek justice
Here in Britain tough new anti-terrorism measures
are being rushed through Parliament. But there's also a European law on
the way which could be even more wide-ranging and has received even less
scrutiny. Next week home affairs ministers from across the EU will agree
the final wording for a common definition of terrorism and a European arrest
warrant for all serious crimes. The following week Tony Blair and his colleagues
are expected to seal the deal at a summit in Belgium. It will be the biggest
step so far towards a common European justice system - yet it's hardly
GWYNETH DUNWOODY MP: These are fundamental constitutional
changes. Very important changes for you and me. They should not be rushed
through in this unmannerly, untimely and dangerous manner.
OLIVER LETWIN MP: We want to make sure that except
in the very restricted case of terrorism, we don't have an arrangement
where British policeman can be sent on a mission to arrest someone for
a court in another country.
GRAHAM WATSON MEP: Potentially it is a very big
step towards one legal and police area in the European Union and it is
being done without sufficient democratic scrutiny.
BUONADONNA: Another court appearance for
the twelve Brits but still no resolution. For some the case of the plane-spotters
is a warning bell. They argue that involving the EU in criminal law could
lead to far more miscarriages of justice.
DUNWOODY: It's extraordinary that they've
not even been charged. I'm very concerned that a British citizen should
be put in this situation in this country, which is quite possible. In
other words being arrested on some very 'iffy' evidence and then presumably
taken anywhere else within the European community.
BUONADONNA: The Belgian summit will produce
a European arrest warrant to replace lengthy extradition procedures. A
judge in any EU country could order the arrest of the citizen of any other
for cross-border offences without the need for evidence. It applies to
a long list of crimes, ranging from terrorism, to drugs, fraud, computer
hacking, even xenophobia which is not a crime in Britain. British authorities
will have to arrest the suspect and hand them over within sixty days.
LETWIN: This arrest warrant would
have a very wide power as it's currently conceived and that would mean
that somebody who was arrested for quite small offences in a place like
Greece could indeed be arrested in the UK, even if the person had returned
to the UK.
BUONADONNA: One British lorry driver knows
all about being falsely accused of a crime abroad. At a lay-by on the Belgian
border he swapped trailers and picked up a sealed cargo. He thought he
was carrying plastic boxes. In France he was stopped and customs officials
found 128 kilos of cannabis inside. That's when his ordeal began.
DAVID BENNEY: I was arrested, I was then
sort of handcuffed to the wall and questioned for twenty-four hours during
which I wasn't given any food or drink, then I was transferred to the police
station. I was then taken to, up in front of a judge and put in prison
on remand, where I spent fourteen months waiting for a trial.
Everything you get from
the Court or the prison is all in French and there's no official translator
in prison, so you just don't know what you're signing or what you're reading.
There were seventeen men to a cell of all nationalities, so you can imagine
what it was like in there.
MILLIE BENNEY: I did feel isolated - I
nearly lost the house. I just couldn't afford to really go out there, so
I had to sort of like just limit myself to like three times in that whole
BUONADONNA: The Benney family is slowly
getting back to normal. Their middle son is turning six, and this year
his dad will be there to celebrate. But it's hard to forget the bitterness
of the forced separation. And despite being cleared of all charges David
Benney has still not received an apology or compensation. Campaigners who
fought to bring his case to public attention fear they will be even busier
in the future.
STEPHEN JAKOBI: The Euro warrant is based
on a totally false notion that all justice systems are equal and good within
the European Union. It's perfectly clear that for example the Greek justice
system is not as good as the Dutch or British justice system and all the
governments are busy selling this great lie.
BUONADONNA: This is where David Benney
spent fourteen months of his life - the remand centre in Dunkirk. As a
foreigner prisoner he faced enormous difficulties - getting translation,
proper legal advice, and most importantly bail. None of these basic safeguards
are included in the European arrest warrant as it stands despite fierce
When EU leaders sign on
the dotted line in just twelve days time they won't have to take into account
suggestions from the European parliament here in Brussels. Yes, MEPs were
consulted but they have no power to change the proposals.
Nor will the British Parliament
have much say. Yes, MPs and Lords were briefed on the proposals. But when
the Lords looked at the legislation recently they were only given a copy
in French. And when the text is finalised on Thursday it's going to be
extremely difficult for anybody to change it. Short of the government making
a complete U-turn on this the European arrest warrant will be a done deal
in a fortnight's time.
WATSON: This is being done without
adequate discussion, debate at European level and in particular without
the oversight of any parliament which can propose and force through amendments
to the legislation being proposed by the governments.
BUONADONNA: We asked the Home Office to
respond to these concerns and explain why this measure is needed now and
in such a hurry. But no Home Office minister was available for interview.
In a statement they acknowledged the European arrest warrant marks a step
change in European co-operation. They said it's aimed at serious cross-border
crime and Britain cannot afford long delays in extraditing suspects to
other EU countries which are, after all, mature democracies bound by the
European Convention on Human Rights.
David Benney is trying
to make up for lost time. But it's not easy to catch up with the lives
of his children.
BENNEY: You're never gonna get
the years back that you've missed. I've missed an awful lot, I've missed
the littlest one starting to walk and his first day at school and things
like that, you know it's, you can't get it back.
JAKOBI: You're alright provided
you take all your holidays in Bognor Regis and you're never mistaken for
somebody else overseas you'll be fine, but if you ever go for a Spanish
holiday or a holiday in the Mediterranean you are at risk and it's like
lightning, lightning doesn't strike often but God when it does you know
DUNWOODY: What is appalling is that the
first that most people will know is when it is applied and if it's a high
profile case there will be enormous outrage and at that point, people will
say, why did you let this happen?
BUONADONNA: The plane-spotters caught in
Greece continue to protest their innocence. If the European arrest warrant
becomes law many more bewildered Brits might find themselves being purported
to a distant prison on the orders of a foreign court.