A specialist lawyer has dismissed concerns that a judgment by Europe’s highest court on European arrest warrants will affect extradition hearings in the UK.  

Earlier this month the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that judges must defer executing a European warrant (EAW) if there is a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment arising from detention conditions in the member state seeking extradition.

The matter was brought to the court’s attention by the Higher Regional Court of Bremen in Germany in relation to warrants issued by Hungary and Romania.

The decision prompted press comment that extraditions to the two countries would become impossible as a result. 

But Jessica Skinns, a crime and fraud associate at London firm Bindmans, said prison conditions were ‘already a much-litigated basis’ for resisting extradition on human rights grounds in England and Wales.

Skinns said: ‘The reality is, though, that there are very few EAW cases where an argument about prison conditions might succeed.

‘This ruling may provide an additional argument for extradition lawyers where there are specific concerns that an individual will be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment in the requesting state due to prison conditions.

‘The argument will centre on whether, in light of these concerns, the EAW has been properly executed by the authorities in England and Wales, and whether the magistrates’ court might properly accept the surrender of a requested person.’

Discussing the European arrest warrant in the House of Commons chamber last week, attorney general Jeremy Wright QC (pictured) said the European Court of Justice’s ruling was ‘broadly consistent with what our own Extradition Act 2003 says’.

Citing one of the countries mentioned in the European court’s judgment, Wright said 268 people had been extradited to Romania since 2010.

He added that there was ‘no doubt’ using the EAW was the ‘quickest and easiest way’ of deporting criminals who face prosecutions in other European nations, adding that other member states ‘would not be bound to cooperate with us in the same way if we left the EU’.