The European arrest warrant has helped the UK  extradite suspects quicker and more cheaply, the director of public prosecutions said today, highlighting potential challenges with international criminal justice cooperation after the UK leaves the EU. Alison Saunders told the House of Lords EU home affairs sub-committee that up to 150 extraditions to the UK over recent years would not have been possible without the European arrest warrant (EAW).

Highlighting the effectiveness of the warrant, which was introduced in 2004, Saunders recalled a case involving money laundering, fraud and false instrument offences. An EAW was issued in January 2011. Two weeks later the suspect was arrested in Spain. Seven days later he was extradited  to the UK and subsequently sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Saunders told the committee that the UK has one of the busiest desks in Eurojust, an EU agency dealing with judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

As a member of Eurojust, the UK currently has access to its case management system. However, Saunders said she had no idea how long it would take to establish a post-Brexit relationship with the agency, noting the committee’s concerns around the length of time it took Switzerland to negotiate its position with the agency, with talks beginning in 2008 and a prosecutor put in place last year.

Should ‘operational’ gaps arise once the UK leaves the EU, Saunders said the UK would have to fall back on the 1959 convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters for extradition issues, and the 1957 convention for mutual legal assistance.

She told the committee: ‘The difficulty with that, certainly in relation to extradition…is that some states may, when they implemented the EAW, have rescinded their convention.

‘Whether that’s still available for all member states or not we would have to go into some quite detailed research. We would also have to make sure we have the right domestic legislation. It’s not a straightforward picture.’

Among tools the CPS would like to retain post-Brexit, Saunders highlighted the importance of the mutual recognition for recovering proceeds of crime, which the UK joined in late 2014. The UK is currently freezing £170m as a result of 69 requests from other European countries.

Saunders said the recognition priniciple has meant quicker and cheaper enforcement as the UK can enforce a foreign court order without having to go through its own courts. Proceeds are split 50-50 where more than £10,000 is recovered.