The dangers of the European Arrest warrant, and indeed of international extradition arrangements is shown quite clearly by the recent case of Ashya King, a five year old boy who is very sick. Against medical advice his parents removed him from the hospital where he was being treated. the news media reported that doctors had said that he could only live for a few hours if he were taken out of hospital being his feeding arrangements, powered by battery, would run out. The Police launched a hue and cry and when it was discovered that the parents had taken the boy abroad the courts issued a European Arrest Warrant, on the evidence of the doctors and the police, which warrant was granted by a District Judge.
The parents had committed no crime, as far as I can ascertain. they disagreed with the hospital’s treatment of the boy and sought alternative treatment abroad. They went to Malaga in Spain, where they intended to sign documents to enable them to sell a property there, in order to release the funds to pay for treatment in the Czech Republic, which treatment is not available under the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, nevertheless having committed no crime and having properly cared for their son for several days (reports of the boy’s likely speedy demise proved exaggerated) were arrested under the European Arrest warrant, imprisoned while their son was taken into the care of a local hospital.
It is a case where out of excessive caution the Police applied for a European Arrest warrant; they and the Crown Prosecution Service did not want the boy to die, because the doctors had said that if they did not care for the boy he would die. If there were no European arrest Warrant the Police would not have been able to apply to extradite the parents, because they had committed no crime. However the European arrest Warrant does not require someone to have committed a crime or alleged to have committed a crime. Mr & Mrs King have been detained by the Spanish Police in prison even though no one can identify any possible crime that they may have committed.
Fortunately it is not a crime to act contrary to medical advice and it is certainly not a crime to seek better medical treatment that the state can provide. Judges in the United Kingdom tend to be rather uncritical of evidence put before them where Police seek arrest and search warrants. The treatment that Mr & Mrs King sought for Aysha will not be available on the NHS until 2018, and then only in Manchester and London. First news reports quoted the medical staff at the UK hospital treating Ashya as saying that this treatment was not suitable in his case, which now seems to be wrong.
The five year old finds himself now isolated from his parents in foreign land being treated (without the consent of his parents) in a Spanish hospital being cared for by people with whom he cannot communicate. the caring parents are in court today, defending the extradition case.
I wish them well and hope that the Spanish Court dismissed the case or that the police withdraw the warrant. It is clear that the warrant was obtained on misleading information and that the court that granted it did not know the full facts. It is also clear that the arrest warrant was based around the possibility that the parents were neglecting the needs of their young ill son. What is perfectly clear is that the parents have not neglected the needs of their son in any way, and now no doubt the UK authorities will try to defend their actions which every day seem more indefensible.
The case vividly illustrates the dangers of the European Arrest Warrant; once you give the police and the courts a power that is draconian, the chances are that they will inevitably abuse its use to restrict freedom.