Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Priority Questions

European Arrest Warrants.

2:30 pm

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Question 10: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason suspects subject to European arrest warrants were released in 2008 due to processing delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31688/09]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The three cases referred to by the Deputy were reported by Ireland in response to an EU questionnaire on the operation of the European arrest warrant. In two of the cases, the subjects were released in 2008 and the third subject was released in March 2009. The three subjects were released because the issuing authority in the country that sought the extradition failed, in each case, to collect the subjects within the statutory time limit.

Under the provisions of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, as amended, a person whose surrender has been ordered by the High Court must be surrendered to the requesting state within ten days from the date the order takes effect. The Act provides for an extension of the time limit in circumstances where a date is agreed between the issuing authority and the Irish central authority for the European arrest warrant. The courts in this jurisdiction have ruled that applications for such extensions must be made to the courts and that the issuing authorities must show good reason why it was not possible to collect the subject within the time limit. If no extension is sought or, if sought, the extension is refused, the subject must be released on expiration of the order. In each of the three cases in question, the Irish central authority notified the issuing authorities of the order for surrender and the time limit in accordance with standard procedures. In each case, the issuing authority was unable to collect the subject within the statutory time limit.

Following legal proceedings in two of the cases, the courts ordered release of the subjects on the grounds that the reasons advanced by the issuing authorities for failure to collect within the time-limit were not sufficient. The courts are, subject to the law and the Constitution, independent in the exercise of their functions and it is not open to me to make any comment on these proceedings. In the third case, the subject was released on legal advice after the issuing authority failed to respond to the Irish central authority.

In a response to the Deputy last week in this matter, I stated that the courts had ordered release in all three cases. I am now advised, however, that legal proceedings seeking an extension were not, in fact, commenced in the third case as the issuing authority failed to provide any response to the central authority's notification and, therefore, there was no need to bring the matter before the courts as the issue of an extension did not arise. I regret this error but it does not change the substance of my reply. Since the European Arrest Warrant Act came into force, Ireland has surrendered 234 persons on foot of warrants.

The central authority has raised the issue of non-collection with the authorities of a particular member state. In response, the authorities in the state concerned have assured the Irish authorities that subjects will be collected on time. The central authority will continue to monitor the situation and take action as appropriate.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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A Council of Europe report recently singled out this country as being somewhat less than vigilant in dealing with these issues. Of all countries in the EU, only Slovenia, Poland, Sweden on one occasion and Ireland attracted criticism. What is the reason for this? Why does the report pick Ireland out as the country with the worst record in processing? Is this a resource issue and why is there a delay? If matters are such that there is no culpability on the part of Ireland, why has the Council of Europe not been so informed?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I do not see difficulties in respect of Ireland. Everything is subject to the adjudication of the courts in respect of this and people are entitled to take cases. We may have a different system to some of the comparative countries in Europe. Unlike a number of member states, Ireland can provide required information more quickly. Regarding the portent of this question, it was a failure of another member state to collect the people involved within the time limit specified. One country has accepted that it must endeavour to produce the information required within the time limit. When people challenge the European arrest warrant it must go to the court, which makes an adjudication in that respect.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Did the Minister respond to the quite explicit criticism by the Council of Europe of the manner in which we organise our affairs?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We must accept that the Council of Europe produces reports but ultimately,-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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That means "No".

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----implementation of European arrest warrant is done by the central authority. It is subject to the imprimatur of the courts, independent of the Minister.