Calls for reforms to give police more time to fight crime

AN MEP is calling on the government to act and ensure that police officers do not have to waste their time dealing with spurious arrest warrants issued in another EU country.

Glenis Willmott MEP for the East Midlands, and leader of the Labour Party in Europe is concerned that European arrest warrants, introduced in 2004 to help speed up the extradition of suspects in serious criminal cases, have resulted in police spending too much time chasing people accused of petty crimes abroad.

Campaigners for reform have cited a number of examples where warrants have been issued, including bicycle theft, pig rustling, the theft of wardrobe doors and going over an overdraft limit.

Mrs Willmott has joined with other Labour MEPs to call on the government to strike an agreement with other European countries to ensure that the warrants are used only for the most serious cases.

She explained: “I don’t want police in the East Midlands who are already under pressure because of government cuts, to have to spend valuable time finding someone wanted in Poland for stealing a bicycle.

“European arrest warrants have made it easier for us to bring people accused of serious crimes to justice quickly. But their use for petty criminals and minor misdemeanours will actually undermine the police’s ability to fight more serious offences.

“Some countries have been applying the warrants in cases for which they were never intended. They were introduced to help us in the fight against murder, terrorism and rape, not low-level theft that in this country would normally just result in a caution at the most.”