Embargo: Immediate Wednesday 25 July 2007
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659
EUROPEAN SUPERVISION ORDERS WELCOME BUT PROPOSAL NEEDS IMPROVEMENT - LORDS EU COMMITTEE
The House of Lords European Union Committee has today welcomed moves by the European Commission to introduce a âËEuropean supervision order' (ESO) for use across the EU.
Thousands of people are detained in custody abroad who would likely have been granted bail if they had been arrested in their home State. This is because of a fear that the âforeignâ? suspect might fail to return to face trial. The ESO could change this situation by allowing many of those accused of crimes in other EU Member States to return home rather than await trial in a foreign jail.
The Committee feels that the ESO has the potential to enhance the right to liberty and the presumption of innocence across Europe, by allowing many suspects to be subject to an alternative non-custodial pre-trial measure in their normal State of residence. The Committee therefore broadly welcomes the Commission's proposal.
The Committee does, however, feel that there are a number of places where the Commission's draft of the proposal needs to be improved. The Committee has concerns regarding the lack of a mechanism for discussion between the trial and supervising States, and asserts that ESOs should not be issued without such consultation.
The Committee also recommends that more time limits should be considered, and the power to modify the ESO should be clearly defined. The Commission's proposal does not set out who should decide whether there has been a breach of an ESO condition, and this omission must be addressed. The supervising State must have a power of arrest if bail conditions are breached.
To date, EU action in criminal law has focussed primarily on enforcement measures at the expense of human rights and civil liberties. The Committee considers that this focus is understandable but has meant that progress on measures aimed at safeguarding and strengthening the rights of the individual has been disappointingly slow.
The Committee has concluded that the proposal deserves prompt attention by Member States, and that it is regrettable that the Council of Ministers has not yet given it priority.
Commenting, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Chairman of the Committee, said:
âThe European supervision order proposal is welcome and it could well improve the situation for many awaiting trial abroad.
âThis proposal addresses a serious issue affecting the liberty of the individual. The possibility of a suspect in pre-trial detention abroad being returned to his own country and later being sent back to the prosecuting country for trial has the potential to reduce hardship for many thousands of EU citizens. The proposal would mean that people who have yet to be convicted of any crime would not spend unnecessary time in jail abroad, away from their families, jobs and homes.
âHowever, we have concerns regarding some aspects of the proposal, in particular the provisions relating to breaches of an ESO and the responsibility of Member States for enforcing ESOs. If these concerns can be dealt with then we are clear that ESOs could provide substantial benefits in cross-border criminal proceedings.â?
Notes to Editors
1. The report
European Supervision Order, is published by The Stationery Office, House of Lords European Union Committee (Sub-Committee on Law and Institutions), 31st Report of 2006/07, HL Paper 145.
2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at:
For copies of the report please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Officer on 020 7219 8659.