Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Europe laying down the law.

An update on this earlier post:
A case which could fundamentally alter the way Scots police question suspects is to conclude at the UK Supreme Court.

It will rule on the case of Peter Cadder, a teenager charged with assault and breach of the peace, who was convicted on the basis of evidence gained before he spoke to his lawyer.

Currently, police can question suspects for six hours without a lawyer present, then they must be freed or charged.

But a European court has ruled access to a lawyer is part of a fair trial.

This ruling was made by the European Court of Human Rights in 2008.
I can't imagine that the UK Supreme Court is going to give judgement counter to a ruling from the ECHR,which means potentially thousands of other similar convictions could be reviewed or appealed.

On a related topic:
British citizens arrested in other EU countries will always be told their rights in a language they understand under new plans, Ken Clarke has said.

The justice secretary has signed the UK up to a draft EU directive which, when it comes into force, will guarantee minimum standards of treatment.

The move was welcomed by campaigners for fair trials abroad.
Those rights are already afforded to the vast majority of foreigners arrested in England and Wales with information on their rights being provided in more than 20 different languages.

It's only fair that British citizens should get the same rights abroad, although I can understand the Eurosceptics' unease with the background behind the measure:
Conservative MP James Clappison, a member of the Commons EU scrutiny committee, said opting in to the directive would further undermine the UK Parliament's control of home affairs policy.

He said: "The EU is trying to create a common criminal justice system and this is another step along the road towards that goal."
That argument could be made more strongly with respect to the Cadder case and it's also interesting that any new directive will ensure that the "letter of rights" will also apply for foreign nationals arrested in Scotland, reducing even further that legal system's "separateness" from not only the EU as a whole, but specifically also the rest of the UK.

Update 1

The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Cadder.

Update 2

Alex is, understandably not happy. I can't help feel he's missing the point here though. Surely it's "Europe", not the Supreme Court which is chipping away at the Scottish system's independence?

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