EU warrant scheme ‘has taken hundreds of foreign criminals off Yorkshire streets’

MORE than 300 convicted or suspected foreign criminals, including five wanted for murder, have been extradited after being detained by Yorkshire’s two biggest police forces in the last five years using the controversial European Arrest Warrant, new figures have revealed.

Theresa May has defended the European Arrest Warrant scheme

Statistics for the use of the measure in the region were released by the Home Office days after David Cameron promised to remain part of the scheme amid pressure from members of his own party to abandon it.

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which allows for the speedy extradition of suspects from one European country to another to face trial or serve a jail term, has seen 224 arrests in West Yorkshire since 2009/10.

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Poland was responsible for more than half of the requests to surrender, making 126 over five years, with 35 made by authorities in the Czech Republic and 18 by Slovakia.

Foreign offenders were most likely to be arrested for theft, robbery or fraud, though five were detained for rape and four for murder. Four were arrested for immigration and human trafficking offences and three over child sex offences.

West Yorkshire Police’s total is the second highest in the country over this period, behind the Metropolitan Police and slightly ahead of West Midlands Police and Greater Manchester Police.

In South Yorkshire there were 83 arrests of foreign criminals over the same period, including one arrest for murder and four for rape. The Home Office only released figures for police forces covering major urban centres.

It emerged this week that up to 100 Conservative backbenchers are poised to rebel against the Government’s plan to opt back in to a range of European Union criminal justice measures, including the warrant.

The Prime Minister has said he will hold a Commons vote on the controversial measure, which he said protects Britain from terrorists and organised criminals, while Home Secretary Theresa May has claimed the country will become a “safe haven for European criminals” without it.

It is thought the British taxpayer has footed a bill of the best part of £100 million over the last five years for the extradition warrants. Opponents have also criticised it for making it too easy to pursue minor offenders.

James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, told a House of Lords committee which is investigating extradition that each warrant costs £13,000 to process.

But a Home Office spokesman said the EAW was vital for removing foreign offenders and protecting the public.

He said: “European criminals will use the UK to avoid justice if we do not opt back into the arrest warrant by the 1 December deadline. The measure is vital in providing the public with the maximum possible protection.”

He cited the case of Leopold Kmiecik, who was wanted by Polish authorities for four counts of Actual Bodily Harm. He was arrested by West Yorkshire Police in February and extradited the following month.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Thanks to the arrest warrant, more than 2,500 people wanted for crimes abroad are no longer roaming the streets of Britain’s major cities and putting the lives of law-abiding citizens at risk. A decision not to rejoin the warrant would significantly diminish our power to remove these people, risking our biggest cities becoming safe havens for European criminals.”