Assange v The Swedish Prosecution Authority
Lord Phillips, President
JUDGMENT GIVEN ON
30 May 2012
Heard on 1 and 2 February 2012
Dinah Rose QC
(Instructed by Birnberg Peirce and Partners)
Clare Montgomery QC
(Instructed by Special Crime Division, Crown Prosecution Service)
|Interveners (Mr Gerard Batten MEP and Mr Vladimir Bukovsky)|
(Instructed by Chambers of Paul Diamond)
|Intervener (Lord Advocate)|
P Jonathan Brodie QC
(Instructed by The Appeals Unit, Crown Office)
- On 2 December 2010 the Swedish Prosecution Authority (“the Prosecutor”), who is the respondent to this appeal, issued a European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”) signed by Marianne Ny, a prosecutor, requesting the arrest and surrender of Mr Assange, the appellant. Mr Assange was, at the time, in England, as he still is. The offences of which he is accused and in respect of which his surrender is sought are alleged to have been committed in Stockholm against two women in August 2010. They include “sexual molestation” and, in one case, rape. At the extradition hearing before the Senior District Judge, and subsequently on appeal to the Divisional Court, he unsuccessfully challenged the validity of the EAW on a number of grounds. This appeal relates to only one of these. Section 2(2) in Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”) requires an EAW to be issued by a “judicial authority”. Mr Assange contends that the Prosecutor does not fall within the meaning of that phrase and that, accordingly, the EAW is invalid. This point of law is of general importance, for in the case of quite a number of Member States EAWs are issued by public prosecutors. Its resolution does not turn on the facts of Mr Assange’s case. I shall, accordingly, say no more about them at this stage, although I shall revert briefly to them towards the end of this judgment.
- Part 1 of the 2003 Act was passed to give effect to the Council of the European Union Framework Decision on the European arrest warrant and surrender procedures between Member States of the European Union 2002/584/JHA (“the Framework Decision”). I annexe a copy of the English version of the Framework Decision to this judgment. As can be seen, the phrase “judicial authority” is used in a number of places in the Framework Decision. In particular it is used in article 6, which provides:
“1. The issuing judicial authority shall be the judicial authority of the issuing Member State which is competent to issue a European arrest warrant by virtue of the law of that State.”
- It is Mr Assange’s primary case, as presented by Miss Dinah Rose QC, that “judicial authority” bears the same meaning in the Framework Decision as it bears in the 2003 Act, so that the Prosecutor does not fall within the definition of “issuing judicial authority” within article 6 of the Framework Decision. Alternatively Miss Rose submits that, if “judicial authority” in article 6 of the Framework Decision has a meaning wide enough to embrace the Prosecutor, it has
a different and narrower meaning in the 2003 Act. She seeks to support that meaning by reference to parliamentary material.
- Miss Rose contends that a “judicial authority” must be a person who is competent to exercise judicial authority and that such competence requires impartiality and independence of both the executive and the parties. As, in Sweden, the Prosecutor is and will remain a party in the criminal process against Mr Assange, she cannot qualify as a “judicial authority”. In effect, Miss Rose’s submission is that a “judicial authority” must be some kind of court or judge.
- Miss Clare Montgomery QC for the Prosecutor contends that the phrase “judicial authority”, in the context of the Framework Decision, and other European instruments, bears a broad and autonomous meaning. It describes any person or body authorised to play a part in the judicial process. The term embraces a variety of bodies, some of which have the qualities of impartiality and independence on which Miss Rose relies, and some of which do not. In some parts of the Framework Decision the term “judicial authority” describes one type, in other parts another. A prosecutor properly falls within the description “judicial authority” and is capable of being the judicial authority competent to issue an EAW under article 6 if the law of the State so provides. Judicial authority must be given the same meaning in the 2003 Act as it bears in the Framework Decision.
The approach to the interpretation of Part 1 of the 2003 Act
- Part 1 of the 2003 Act has unfortunately spawned more than its share of issues of law that have reached the highest level. In Office of the King’s Prosecutor, Brussels v Cando Armas  UKHL 67;  2 AC 1 Lord Bingham of Cornhill remarked at para 8 that interpretation of Part 1 of the 2003 Act
“must be approached on the twin assumptions that Parliament did not intend the provisions of Part 1 to be inconsistent with the Framework Decision and that, while Parliament might properly provide for a greater measure of cooperation by the United Kingdom than the Decision required, it did not intend to provide for less.”
- Lord Hope of Craighead at para 24 adopted what might appear to be a conflicting approach. He expressed the view that the task of interpreting Part 1 so as to give effect to the Framework Decision should be approached on the
assumption that, where there were differences, these were regarded by Parliament as a necessary protection against an unlawful infringement on the right to liberty. Both Lord Bingham and Lord Hope in Dabas v High Court of Justice in Madrid, Spain  2 AC 31 returned to this topic after the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice had commented on it when giving a preliminary ruling in Criminal proceedings against Pupino (Case C-105/03)  QB 83, to which I shall shortly refer. The House was concerned with the effect of section 64(2)(b) of the 2003 Act, which on its face appears to require an EAW to be accompanied by a separate certificate that the conduct in respect of which surrender is sought falls within the Framework list. The issue was whether it was sufficient that the warrant itself so certified. In holding, in agreement with the rest of the House, that it was, Lord Hope, after citing from Pupino, referred with approval to Lord Bingham’s statement in Cando Armas and remarked that the imposition of additional formalities not found in the Framework Decision by one member state to suit its own purposes would tend to frustrate the objectives of the Decision.
- Article 34.2(b) of the EU Treaty provides:
“Framework decisions shall be binding upon the Member States as to the result to be achieved but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods. They shall not entail direct effect. ”
In Pupino the European Court of Justice held at para 43:
“When applying the national law, the national court that is called on to interpret it must do so as far as possible in the light of the wording and purpose of the framework decision in order to attain the result which it pursues and thus comply with article 34.2(b) EU.”
- In a well reasoned written joint intervention Mr Gerard Batten MEP and Mr Vladimir Bukovsky comment on the uncertainty of the scope of the phrases “result to be achieved”, “purpose of the framework directive” and “result which it pursues”. They argue that these should be treated as referring to the specific objectives of the particular Framework Decision and not the wider objectives of the EU Treaty that the specific objectives may be designed to serve. I have concluded that their interesting discussion does not bear on the issue that this Court has to resolve. What is in issue in respect of the construction of the 2003 Act is not a suggestion that the English Court ought, when interpreting the 2003 Act, to follow some general objective that the Framework Decision is designed to advance. It is the narrow issue of whether the words “judicial authority” in section 2(2) of the 2003 Act should, if possible, be accorded the same meaning as those two words bear in the parallel requirement in article 6 of the Framework Decision.
- I have read with admiration Lord Mance’s analysis of the effect of the decision in Pupino and I accept, for the reasons that he gives, that it does not bind this Court to interpret Part 1 of the 2003 Act, in so far as this is possible, in a manner that accords with the Framework Decision. I consider, none the less that it is plain that the Court should do so. This is not merely because of the presumption that our domestic law will accord with our international obligations. As Lord Mance himself acknowledges at para 201 of his judgment Part 1 of the 2003 Act was enacted in order to give effect to the Framework Decision. The immediate objective of that Decision is to create a single uniform system for the surrender of those accused or convicted of the more serious criminal offences. That objective will only be achieved if each of the Member States gives the same meaning to “judicial authority”. If different Member States give different meaning to those two words, that uniformity will be destroyed. In these circumstances it is hard to conceive that Parliament, in breach of the international obligations of this country, set out to pass legislation that was at odds with the Framework Decision. It is even more difficult to conceive that Parliament took such a course without making it plain that it was doing so. For this reason it is logical to approach the interpretation of the words “judicial authority” on the presumption that Parliament intended that they should bear the same meaning in Part 1 of the 2003 Act as they do in the Framework Decision.
- Counsel for both parties placed before us a substantial volume of parliamentary material without any close analysis as to whether this was admissible as an aid to interpretation of the 2003 Act under the doctrine of Pepper v Hart  AC 593 or for any other reason. I add those last words because some of this material related to proceedings of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and the House of Lords Select Committee on European Union which predated both the final Framework Decision and, of course, the Extradition Bill which became the 2003 Act. While this material may provide some insight into the approach of the United Kingdom in negotiations that preceded the Framework Decision and into the understanding of Members of Parliament as to the effect of that Decision, I do not see how it can be directly admissible under Pepper v Hart, save to the extent that it was referred to in parliamentary debate on the Bill.
- More generally it is open to question whether there is room for the application of Pepper v Hart having regard to the requirement to give the words “judicial authority” the same meaning in the Act as they bear in the Framework Decision. That requirement should resolve any ambiguity in the language of the statute. Having said this I shall summarise shortly the effect of the parliamentary material. It evidences a general understanding and intention that the words “judicial authority” would and should bear the same meaning in the Act as they
bore in the Framework Decision. As to that meaning there are statements in debate in the House of Lords, on the part of both members and a minister, that appear to reflect an understanding that the “judicial authority” would be a court or judge. The clearest ministerial statement is, however, that of the Under Secretary of State, Mr Ainsworth, on 9 January 2003 to Standing Committee D (Hansard, col 48), referred to by the Divisional Court at para 26:
“We expect that European arrest warrants will be issued in future by exactly the same authorities as issue warrants under the current arrest procedures. We intend to do that in the United Kingdom. There is no reason to suppose that our intentions are different from those of any other European country. The Bill is drafted in such a way as to include all those authorities that currently issue arrest warrants, as issuing authorities. I have yet to hear an argument that says that we should change that.”
- If the parliamentary material to which I have referred were admissible, I would find it inconclusive. For the reasons that I have given I approach the interpretation of the words “judicial authority” in Part 1 of the 2003 Act on the basis that they must, if possible, be given the same meaning as they bear in the Framework Decision. I turn to consider that meaning.
The meaning of “judicial authority” in the Framework Decision
- It is necessary at the outset to decide how the task of interpreting the Framework Decision should be approached. Craies on Legislation, 9th ed (2008), remarks at para 31.1.21 that the text of much European legislation is arrived at more through a process of political compromise, so that individual words may be chosen less for their legal certainty than for their political acceptability. That comment may be particularly pertinent in the present context in that, as we shall see, an earlier draft of the Framework Decision left no doubt as to the meaning of “judicial authority” but a subsequent draft expunged the definition that made this clear. The reason for and effect of this change lies at the heart of the problem of interpretation raised by this appeal. How does one set about deciding on these matters?
- The approach to interpretation must be one that would be acceptable to all the Member States who have to strive to identify a uniform meaning of the Decision. Craies rightly comments at para 32.5.1 that one cannot simply apply the canons for construction or even the principles that apply to interpreting domestic legislation. In the next paragraph Craies identifies the approach of the European
Court of Justice to interpreting European legislation as involving the following stages, to be followed sequentially in so far as the meaning has not become clear.
“Start with the terms of the instrument in question, including its preamble;”
“Turn to preparatory documents;”
“Consider the usual meaning of expressions used and [compare] different language texts of the instrument;”
“Consider the purpose and general scheme of the instrument to be construed.”
While I shall consider these matters I propose to adopt a different order.
The natural meaning
- As we are here concerned with the meaning of only two words, I propose at the outset to consider the natural meaning of those words. It is necessary to do this in respect of both the English words “judicial authority” and the equivalent words in the French text. Those words are “autorité judiciaire”. In the final version of the Framework Decision the same weight has to be applied to the English and the French versions. It is, however, a fact that the French draft was prepared before the English and that, in draft, in the event of conflict, the meaning of the English version had to give way to the meaning of the French. The critical phrase does not bear the same range of meanings in the English language as in the French and, as I shall show, the different contexts in which the phrase is used more happily accommodate the French rather than the English meanings.
- The first series of meanings of “judicial” given in the Oxford English Dictionary is:
“Of or belonging to judgment in a court of law, or to a judge in relation to this function; pertaining to the administration of justice; proper to a court of law or a legal tribunal; resulting from or fixed by a judgment in court”.
In the context of “a judicial authority” the more appropriate meanings are: “having the function of judgment; invested with authority to judge causes”; a public prosecutor would not happily fall within this meaning.
- “Judiciaire” is capable of bearing a wide or a narrow meaning. Vocabulaire Juridique (6th ed, 1996) states that it can be used “(dans un sens vague). Qui appartient à la justice, par opp à legislative et administrative”, or “(dans un sens précis). Qui concerne la justice rendue par les tribunaux judiciaires”. A computer dictionary search discloses a number of examples of its use in the “sens vague”, for instance “affaire judiciaire/legal case; aide judiciaire/legal aid; annonce judiciaire/legal notice; poursuite judiciaire/ legal proceedings” and last but not least, “autorité judiciaire/legal authority”.
- Having regard to the range of meanings that “autorité judiciaire” is capable of embracing, it is no cause for surprise that the phrase often receives some additional definition. Examples of particular relevance in the present context are found in the “Rapport explicatif” of the 1957 European Convention on Extradition
– see para 26 below and in the definition of “autorité judiciaire” in article 3 of the first draft of the Framework Decision itself – see para 46 below. Another example is found in article 18.7 of the 1990 European Convention on money laundering: “…soit autorisée par un juge, soit par une autre autorité judiciaire, y compris le ministère public” (my emphasis). Miss Rose in her written case referred to a further example, in the English version, in the definition of an “issuing authority” in respect of a European Evidence Warrant under article 2(c) of the relevant Framework Decision (2008/978/JHA), namely :
“…(i) a judge, a court, an investigating magistrate, a public prosecutor; or (ii) any other judicial authority as defined by the issuing State and, in the specific case, acting in its capacity as an investigating authority in criminal proceedings…” (my emphasis)
- These definitions demonstrate the width of meaning that “autorité judiciaire” is capable of bearing and the fact that the ambit of the phrase can vary according to its context.
- Article 5.1(c) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in the English version, provides that deprivation of liberty may be lawful where it results from
“the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence… ”
The French version of “legal authority” is “autorité judiciaire”. Miss Rose submitted that a line of Strasbourg authority on the meaning of that phrase in the context of article 5 provided the key to its meaning in the context of the
Framework Decision. That submission calls for a comparison of the functions of the “autorité judiciaire” in the two different contexts. I shall postpone that exercise to later in this judgment. First I propose to consider the purpose and the general scheme of the Framework Decision and then the preparatory documents and their genesis.
The purpose of the Framework Decision
- The purpose of the Framework Decision is stated in recital (5) of its preamble:
“The objective set for the Union to become an area of freedom, security and justice leads to abolishing extradition between Member States and replacing it by a system of surrender between judicial authorities. Further, the introduction of a new simplified system of surrender of sentenced or suspected persons for the purposes of execution or prosecution of criminal sentences makes it possible to remove the complexity and potential for delay inherent in the present extradition procedures. Traditional cooperation relations which have prevailed up till now between Member States should be replaced by a system of free movement of judicial decisions in criminal matters, covering both pre-sentence and final judicial decisions, within an area of freedom, security and justice.”
- What were “the present extradition procedures” that gave rise to “complexity and potential for delay”? They were those provided for by the European Convention on Extradition 1957. This was a Convention between members of the Council of Europe. As in the case of other post-war European Conventions the United Kingdom played a major role in its negotiation. The general scheme under this Convention was one whereby, after an antecedent process to which I shall return at a later stage, the executive of a requesting State would make a request for extradition to the executive of the requested State. The Convention laid down the criteria that had to be satisfied if the requested State was to be obliged to comply with the request. As to the procedure for considering whether or not to comply with a request, which I shall call the process of execution, the Convention provided by article 22 that this should be governed solely by the law of the requested State.
- The complexities and potential for delay that the Framework Decision sought to avoid were those that arose out of the involvement of the executive in the extradition process. I do not believe that this had much relevance in this jurisdiction, for although the process of extradition had great potential for delay,
this was seldom attributable to the fact that the decision to extradite was ultimately political. A hint of the delays that were endemic on the Continent is given by a comment in the Explanatory Memorandum dated 25 September 2001 that accompanied the first draft of the Framework Decision, at 4.5.4:
“The political phase inherent in the extradition procedure is abolished. Accordingly, the administrative redress phase following the political decision is also abolished. The removal of these two procedural levels should considerably improve the effectiveness and speed of the mechanism.”
- Thus the Framework Decision did not set out to build a new extradition structure from top to bottom, but rather to remove from it the diplomatic or political procedures that were encumbering it. The objective was that the extradition process should involve direct co-operation between those authorities responsible on the ground for what I have described as the antecedent process and those authorities responsible on the ground for the execution process. It is important for the purposes of this appeal, to consider the manner in which extradition used to work under the 1957 Convention and, in particular, to identify those who, under the operation of that Convention, were responsible for the antecedent process.
The 1957 Convention
- Article 1 of the 1957 Convention provided that the contracting parties undertook to surrender to each other, subject to the provisions of the Convention, all persons against whom the “competent authorities” of the requesting party were proceeding for an offence or who were wanted by “the said authorities” for the carrying out of a sentence or detention order. I shall refer to such persons as “fugitives”. The Council of Europe Explanatory Report commented:
“Le terme “competent authorities” contenu dans le texte anglais correspond aux mots “autorités judiciaires” contenus dans le texte francais. Ces expressions visent les autorités judiciaires proprement dites et le Parquet à l’exclusion des autorités de police”.”
- Article 12.2 provided that a request for extradition should be supported by
“(a) the original or an authenticated copy of the conviction and sentence or detention order immediately enforceable or of the warrant of arrest or other order having the same effect and issued in
accordance with the procedure laid down in the law of the requesting Party;
- a statement of the offences for which extradition is requested. The time and place of their commission, their legal descriptions and a reference to the relevant legal provisions shall be set out as accurately as possible; and
- a copy of the relevant enactments or, where this is not possible, a statement of the relevant law and as accurate a description as possible of the person claimed, together with any other information which will help to establish his identity and nationality.”
- Thus, where the fugitive was someone accused of a crime, the Convention required that there should have been an antecedent process that resulted in “a warrant of arrest or other order having the same effect”. This had to be issued in accordance with the law of the requesting State. The Convention itself did not impose any specific requirement as to the status of the authority responsible for the “warrant of arrest or other order”. As to this, the Council of Europe Explanatory Report commented:
“Some of the experts thought that the warrant of arrest or any other order having the same effect should be issued by an authority of a judicial nature. This point arises from article 1, in which the Parties undertake to extradite persons against whom the competent authorities of the requesting Party are proceeding or who are wanted by them….During the discussion of article 12 it was found that most of the States represented on the Committee of Experts do not extradite a person claimed until after a decision by a judicial authority.”
- It is noteworthy that there was no requirement under the 1957 Convention for a requesting State to adduce any evidence to support the allegation that the fugitive had committed the crime in respect of which he was accused. This had never been a requirement that European States imposed, perhaps because they were not prepared to countenance the extradition of their own nationals. In contrast, when concluding bilateral extradition treaties, this country had always insisted on evidence being produced that would have been sufficient to lead to a defendant within the jurisdiction being committed for trial. According to Jones on Extradition and Mutual Assistance, 2nd ed (2001) at 10-004 the lack of any evidence requirement in the Convention was one of the reasons why the United
Kingdom allowed over 30 years to pass between signing the 1957 Convention and embodying its provisions in our domestic law.
- The 1957 Convention contained provisions for provisional arrest, which had always been a feature of English extradition law. This important procedure enabled a fugitive to be apprehended and detained before the diplomatic formalities of inter State extradition were implemented. Thus article 16 provided:
“1. In case of urgency the competent authorities of the requesting Party may request the provisional arrest of the person sought. The competent authorities of the requested Party shall decide the matter in accordance with its law.
- The request for provisional arrest shall state that one of the documents mentioned in article 12, paragraph 2(a), exists and that it is intended to send a request for extradition. It shall also state for what offence extradition will be requested and when and where such offence was committed and shall so far as possible give a description of the person sought.
- A request for provisional arrest shall be sent to the competent authorities of the requested Party either through the diplomatic channel or direct by post or telegraph or through the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) or by any other means affording evidence in writing or accepted by the requested Party. The requesting authority shall be informed without delay of the result of its request.”
In contrast to article 1, the French version of “competent authorities” was “autorités compétentes”.
- The United Kingdom acceded to the 1957 Convention in 1991. By the European Convention on Extradition Order 2001 (SI 2001/962), passed pursuant to section 3(2) of the Extradition Act 1989, it was incorporated into domestic law. Para 3 of this Order removed the requirement to produce evidence of the commission of the offence in respect of which extradition was sought. By way of reservation the United Kingdom required foreign documents supplied pursuant to article 12 to be authenticated by being signed by a judge, magistrate or officer of the State where they were issued and certified by being sealed by a Minister of State.
- Thus, when negotiations began in relation to the terms of the Framework Decision, the United Kingdom had given effect to a European Convention that required it to surrender fugitives on proof of an antecedent process, namely that there had been issued in the requesting State a warrant of arrest or other order having the same effect, notwithstanding that, at least in 1957 when the Convention was negotiated, this might not have resulted from a judicial process and where the authority initiating the request might be a court or a public prosecutor.
- It is worth pausing at this point to consider the nature of the antecedent process. In this country the liberty of the subject has long been recognised as a fundamental right, as demonstrated by the remedy of habeas corpus. Save in the limited circumstances where arrest without warrant is lawful, arrest of a person suspected of a criminal offence has required a warrant of arrest issued by a magistrate. After arrest the suspect has had to be brought before a court. Detention before charge is only permitted for a very short period and remand in custody after charge will be pursuant to a court order.
- These protections of the liberty of the subject did not exist in all Continental States and notably had not existed in those that were, or fell, under the domination of Germany before and during the Second World War. Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights was designed to make universal protections that already existed in this country. Article 5.1(c) permits the lawful arrest or detention of a person for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence. “Lawful arrest or detention” is not defined. What this involves in other Member States was not explored in argument before us, but we were provided with Evaluation Reports in respect of the working of the EAW in 15 Member States prepared by the Commission pursuant to the requirement of article 34.4 of the Framework Decision. In the case of most of these the issue by a court of a domestic arrest warrant or a similar order, such as an order for detention in absentia, was a precondition to the issue of an EAW. It seems likely that these domestic procedures were in place when the Framework Decision was negotiated and that in the case of the majority of Member States, the power to arrest was subject to judicial safeguards similar to, or even more stringent than, our own.
- As I have shown above, in 1957 a minority of the parties to the European Convention on Extradition had no judicial involvement in the issue of an arrest warrant. It may well be that, as a consequence of the ECHR and the series of Strasbourg decisions to which I refer below, this minority had reduced by the time that the Framework Decision was negotiated.
- As the issue on this appeal is whether a public prosecutor constitutes a “judicial authority” under Part 1 of the 2003 Act, it is appropriate to consider the nature of that office. Public prosecutors as their name suggests are public bodies that carry out functions relating to the prosecution of criminal offenders. On 8 December 2009 the Consultative Council of European Judges and the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors published for the attention of the Committee of Ministers a joint Opinion (2009) that consisted of a Declaration, called the Bordeaux Declaration together with an Explanatory Note. This comments at para 6 on the diversity of national legal systems, contrasting the common law systems with the Continental law systems. Under the latter the prosecutors may or may not be part of the “judicial corps”. Equally the public prosecutor’s autonomy from the executive may be complete or limited. Para 23 of the Note observes:
“The function of judging implies the responsibility for making binding decisions for the persons concerned and for deciding litigation on the basis of the law. Both are the prerogative of the judge, a judicial authority independent from the other state powers. This is, in general, not the mission of public prosecutors, who are responsible for bringing or continuing criminal proceedings.”
- A recurrent theme of both the Declaration and the Note is the importance of the independence of the public prosecutors in the performance of their duties. Para 3 of the Declaration states that judges and public prosecutors must both enjoy independence in respect of their functions and also be and appear to be independent of each other. Para 6 states:
“The enforcement of the law and, where applicable, the discretionary powers by the prosecution at the pre-trial stage require that the status of public prosecutors be guaranteed by law, at the highest possible level, in a manner similar to that of judges. They shall be independent and autonomous in their decision-making and carry out their functions fairly, objectively and impartially.”
The Note comments at paras 33 and 34 that public prosecutors must act at all times honestly, objectively and impartially. Judges and public prosecutors have, at all times, to respect the integrity of suspects. The independence of the judge and the prosecutor is inseparable from the rule of law.
- Later the Note deals with the roles and functions of judges and public prosecutors in the “pre-criminal” procedures:
“48 At the pre-trial stage the judge independently or sometimes together with the prosecutor, supervises the legality of the investigative actions, especially when they affect fundamental rights (decisions on arrest, custody, seizure, implementation of special investigative techniques, etc).”
Both the function and the independence of the prosecutor must be borne in mind when considering whether, under the Framework Decision, the term “judicial authority” can sensibly embrace a public prosecutor.
The more recent genesis of the Framework Decision
- Stepping stones towards the Framework Decision were the Convention of 10 March 1995 on a simplified extradition procedure between Member States of the EU and the Convention of 27 September 1996 relating to extradition between the Member States. Of more relevance in the present context was the integration into the European Union under the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 of the Schengen Agreement of 1985. Title 1V of the 1990 Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement established the Schengen Information System (“SIS”). Article 95 provided for the “judicial authority” of a Member State to issue an alert requesting the arrest of a person for extradition purposes. This had to be accompanied by, inter alia, information as to whether there was “an arrest warrant or other document having the same legal effect”. Article 98 made provision for the “competent judicial authorities” to request information for the purpose of discovering the place of residence or domicile of witnesses or defendants involved in criminal proceedings.
- Article 64 provided that an alert under article 95 should have the same force as a request for provisional arrest under article 16 of the 1957 Convention. We were not provided with any information as to the nature of the “judicial authorities” who sought provisional arrest under article 95. We were, however, provided with a Report dated 13 October 2009 of the Schengen Joint Supervisory Authority on an inspection of the use of article 98 alerts. This provided the following answer to the question “which competent authorities may decide on an article 98 alert?”
“While public prosecutors and judicial authorities obviously play a major role in the decision leading to article 98 alerts, in some
Schengen States the police, security police, tax and customs authorities, border guard authorities and other authorities competent for criminal investigations are also competent to decide on article 98 alerts. ”
- It seems certain that public prosecutors must, in some Member States, have been responsible for initiating an article 95 alert and not unlikely that some of the other authorities competent to decide on an article 98 alert may have done so.
- On 15 and 16 October 1999 the European Council met at Tampere. Proposals made at this meeting under the heading of “Mutual recognition of judicial decisions” included that consideration should be given to fast track expedition procedures, without prejudice to the principle of fair trial. This led to the Commission submitting to the Council on 19 September 2001 a proposal for a Framework Decision. I shall call this the “September draft”. I propose to consider this in conjunction with the Explanatory Memorandum which accompanied it.
- The Preamble stated that the EAW aimed to replace the traditional extradition arrangements and had to have the same scope of application as the system of extradition built on the 1957 Convention (recital 5). The EAW was based on the principle of mutual recognition. If a judicial authority requested a person for the purpose of prosecution for an offence carrying a sentence of at least twelve months detention, the authorities of other Member States should comply with the request (recital 7). The decision on the execution of the EAW required “sufficient controls” and had, in consequence, to be taken by a “judicial authority” (recital 8). The role of central authorities was limited to practical and administrative assistance (recital 9).
- Article 1 of the September draft provided:
“The purpose of this Framework Decision is to establish the rules under which a Member State shall execute in its territory a European arrest warrant issued by a judicial authority in another Member State.”
- Article 2 provided:
“A European arrest warrant may be issued for:
- final judgments in criminal proceedings, and judgments in absentia, which involve deprivation of liberty or a detention order of at least four months in the issuing Member State;
- other enforceable judicial decisions in criminal proceedings which involve deprivation of liberty and relate to an offence, which is punishable by deprivation of liberty or a detention order for a maximum period of at least twelve months in the issuing Member State.”
Thus, so far as a fugitive from prosecution was concerned, this article envisaged that before the issue of the EAW there would be an enforceable “judicial” decision involving deprivation of liberty. The issue of an arrest warrant is an obvious example of such a decision.
- Article 3 of the September draft included the following important definitions:
“(a) ‘European arrest warrant’ means a request, issued by a judicial authority of a Member State, and addressed to any other Member State, for assistance in searching, arresting, detaining and obtaining the surrender of a person, who has been subject to a judgment or a judicial decision, as provided for in article 2;
- ‘issuing judicial authority’ means the judge or the public prosecutor of a Member State, who has issued a European arrest warrant;
- ‘executing judicial authority’ means the judge or the public prosecutor of a Member State in whose territory the requested person sojourns, who decides upon the execution of a European arrest warrant.”
In dealing with this article the Explanatory Memorandum made the following summary of the effect of the scheme
“(a) The European arrest warrant is a warrant for search, arrest, detention and surrender to the judicial authority of the issuing country. In the previous system, under the 1957 Convention as implemented by the Schengen Convention, the provisional arrest
warrant and the extradition request were two separate phases of the procedure. Pursuant to the principle of mutual recognition of court judgments, it is no longer necessary to distinguish the two phases. The arrest warrant thus operates not only as a conventional arrest warrant (search, arrest and detention) but also as a request for surrender to the authorities of the issuing State. ”
This provides an important insight as to the manner in which it was envisaged that the Framework Decision would alter the extradition process. The “judicial authorities” who were responsible for the article 95 alert requesting provisional arrest were those who might be expected to be responsible for the issue of the new EAW. As I have suggested above, it is not unlikely that in some Member States these included the police or other authorities who were responsible for article 98 alerts. If so, the definition of “issuing judicial authority” in article 3 of the September draft made it clear that this was not acceptable. As to this, the Explanatory Memorandum commented:
“The procedure of the European arrest warrant is based on the principle of mutual recognition of court judgments. State-to-State relations are therefore substantially replaced by court-to-court relations between judicial authorities. The term ‘judicial authority’ corresponds, as in the 1957 Convention…to the judicial authorities as such and the prosecution services, but not to the authorities of police force. The issuing judicial authority will be the judicial authority which has authority to issue the European arrest warrant in the procedural system of the Member State.”
- So far as the process of execution of the EAW was concerned, the Explanatory Memorandum made it plain that the nature of the judicial authority concerned would depend upon whether or not the fugitive was challenging extradition. If he was, the challenge would have to be resolved by a judge. If he was not, the judicial authority responsible for executing the warrant might be the prosecution service.
- Article 4 of the September draft provided:
“Each Member State shall designate according to its national law the judicial authorities that are competent to (a) issue a European arrest warrant…”
- The Explanatory Memorandum commented:
“The judicial authority having the power to issue a European arrest warrant is designated in accordance with the national legislation of the Member States. They will be able to entrust the decision either to the same authority as gave the judgment or the judgment referred to in article 2 or to another authority.”
- The position in respect of the issue of an EAW can be summarised as follows. Before the EAW was issued there would be an antecedent process that would result in an enforceable judicial decision involving deprivation of liberty. In most, but not necessarily all, Member States this would involve a judge. The Swedish process in the present case, which I shall consider in due course, provides a good example of this. The subsequent issue of the EAW would have to be done by a “judicial authority”, but that term embraced both a judge and a public prosecutor. The judicial authority in question might or might not be that responsible for the antecedent process.
- Article 6 of the September draft dealt with the contents of the EAW. These included “whether there is a final judgment or any other enforceable judicial decision, within the scope of article 2.”
- The provisions of the September draft in relation to issue provided a degree of safeguard that the EAW would only be issued in a proper case, but further safeguards were provided in relation to the execution of the EAW. It was, of course, at that stage that the process would result in deprivation of liberty. The Preamble to the September draft provided:
“The decision on the execution of the European arrest warrant must be subject to sufficient controls, which means that a judicial authority of the Member State where the person has been arrested will take the decision whether to execute the warrant.”
- Articles 10 to 23 of the September draft dealt with execution of the EAW. As the Explanatory Memorandum explained when commenting on article 4 and repeated when dealing with the various articles in section 3, the nature of the judicial authority involved in the execution of the EAW could depend upon whether or not the fugitive was challenging surrender. In some cases it might be the prosecuting authority, in others it would be a court. Thus article 18 provided:
“A court in the executing Member State shall decide on whether the European arrest warrant shall be executed after a hearing, held in accordance with the national rules of criminal procedure.
- if the requested person does not consent to his or her surrender;
- in cases referred to in articles 17(2) and (3).
The issuing Member State may be represented or submit its observations before the court.”
- In summary, under the September draft it was beyond doubt that “judicial authority” was a term that embraced both a court and a public prosecutor. It was a precondition to the issue of a valid EAW that there should have been an antecedent process leading to an “enforceable judicial decision which would involve deprivation of liberty.” The subsequent decision to issue the EAW might be taken by the same judicial authority responsible for the antecedent decision, or another. There was nothing to indicate that this could not be a public prosecutor. The scheme had much in common with the 1957 Convention, as implemented under Schengen, stripped of political involvement.
- Had the final Framework Decision followed the September draft, the issue that has led to this appeal could never have arisen. Article 3 expressly provided that the “issuing judicial authority” might be a public prosecutor. Elsewhere the “judicial authority” might or might not be a public prosecutor depending upon the function being performed. The September draft was, however, amended in a manner that obfuscated the position. The relevant changes appear to have been made in the course of discussion in the Council of Ministers. On 6 December the Presidency noted that fourteen delegations agreed on the new draft (“the December draft”), noting parliamentary scrutiny reservations from, inter alia, the United Kingdom. The December draft formed the basis of the final Framework Decision approved by the Council. I turn to consider the manner in which the Framework Decision differs from the September draft.
- Article 1 of the Framework Decision begins by stating that the EAW is “a judicial decision issued by a Member State”. The English version of the December draft read “a court decision issued by a Member State”. The words that I have emphasised were both translations of the French “judiciaire” in the original text. The French version was the original and is to be preferred. Thus I do not consider that the use of the word “court” in the English version of the December draft is of any assistance in determining the meaning of “judiciaire”.
- Most significantly, for present purposes, the definitions of issuing judicial authority and executing judicial authority in the final version no longer define
these as being a judge or public prosecutor. The new definitions, now in article 6, are as follows:
“1. The issuing judicial authority shall be the judicial authority of the issuing Member State which is competent to issue a European arrest warrant by virtue of the law of that State.
- The executing judicial authority shall be the judicial authority of the executing Member State which is competent to execute the European arrest warrant by virtue of the law of that State.
- Each Member State shall inform the General Secretariat of the Council of the competent judicial authority under its law.”
- With the exception of article 19.1, the articles dealing with execution make no reference to a hearing before a court. The phrase “judicial authority” is used throughout. Article 19.3 does, however, give a hint that more than one type of judicial authority may be involved. The article provides:
“The competent executing judicial authority may assign another judicial authority of its Member State to take part in the hearing of the requested person in order to ensure the proper application of this article and of the conditions laid down.”
It is to be noted that article 19.1 refers to “requesting court”. The French version of the word “court” is “juridiction”. The two versions replicate the words used in the French and English versions of the equivalent provision of the December draft. The French draft was the original and it is hard to see any justification for translating “juridiction” as “court”. In these circumstances, while the use of the phrase “requesting court” in the final version lend some support to Mr Assange’s case on the meaning of “issuing judicial authority” it would not be safe to place much weight on that support.
- The overall scheme of the EAW did not change from that proposed in the September draft. In particular there remained a requirement for an antecedent process before the issue of the EAW. Article 2, under the heading “Scope of the European arrest warrant” set out the offences in respect of which an EAW could be issued. Article 8 specified the content of the warrant, which included
“(c) evidence of an enforceable judgment, an arrest warrant or any other enforceable judicial decision having the same effect, coming within the scope of articles 1 and 2.
This simplified the description of the antecedent process in articles 2 and 6 of the September draft. It adopted the description of the antecedent process in the 1957 Convention.
The critical question
- The critical question is whether the changes made to the draft Framework Decision between September and December altered the meaning of “judicial authority” so as to exclude a public prosecutor from its ambit. There would seem to be two possible reasons for removing the precise definition of “judicial authority” that had been included in article 3 of the September draft. The first was to restrict the meaning by excluding from its ambit the public prosecutor. The second was to broaden the meaning so that it was not restricted to a judge or a public prosecutor. For a number of reasons I have reached the firm conclusion that the second explanation is the more probable.
- In the first place, had the intention been to restrict the power to issue an EAW or to participate in its execution to a judge, I would expect this to have been expressly stated. The change would have been radical, and would have prevented public prosecutors from performing functions that they had been performing in relation to the issue of provisional arrest warrants since 1957.
- In the second place it is hard to see why the majority of Member States would have wished to restrict the ambit of the issuing judicial authority in this way. The significant safeguard against the improper or inappropriate issue of an EAW lay in the antecedent process which formed the basis of the EAW. If there had been concern to ensure the involvement of a judge in relation to the issue of an EAW, the obvious focus should have been on this process. The function of the issuing authority was of less significance. That fact is underlined by the only case outside the United Kingdom to which we have been referred where a challenge was made to the issue of an EAW by a public prosecutor. In Piaggio (Germany) (14 February 2007, Court of Cassation Sez 6 (Italy)) the appellant challenged the issue by the Hamburg Public Prosecutor’s Office of an EAW on the ground that it should have been issued and signed by a judge. The Court rejected this contention for the following reasons:
“The claim alleging breach of article 1(3) of Law no 69 of 2005 on the ground that the EAW was not signed by a judge is completely unfounded.
The provision allegedly requiring signature by a judge does not refer to the EAW, as the appellant mistakenly claims, but to the precautionary measure on the basis of which the warrant was issued: in the present case, it is in fact the arrest warrant issued by the Hamburg District Magistrate’s Court on 24 August 2005, regularly signed by Judge Reinke.
The guarantee specified in the aforesaid article1(3) does not relate to the act requesting the Member State to grant extradition but is directly connected with the custodial measure, that is to say it is a substantial guarantee concerned with the basic conditions underlying the EAW, which must be subject to jurisdiction. In this procedure, the true guarantee of personal freedom is not the fact that the EAW is issued by a judicial authority but the fact that the warrant is based on a judicial measure.
Moreover, article 6 of the framework decision leaves to the individual Member State the task of determining the judicial authority responsible for issuing (or executing) a European Arrest Warrant, and the Italian implementing law, with regard to the active extradition procedure, provides for certain cases in which the Public Prosecutor’s office is to be responsible for issuing the EAW (article 28 of Law no 69/2005).
Essentially, the alleged breach of the law in respect of the fact that the EWA was signed by the Hamburg Public Prosecutor’s Office, must be excluded.”
- On 23 February 2009 this decision was acknowledged with approval in the Experts’ Evaluation Report on Italy’s procedures in relation to the EAW (5832/2/09 REV 2) The final comment made at 18.104.22.168 is of particular significance:
“Under article 1(3) of the Italian implementing law, ‘Italy shall implement the EAW … as long as the preventative remedy on the basis of which the warrant has been issued has been signed by a Judge and is adequately motivated’.
The expert team notes that this provision gave rise to at least two difficulties:
- the requirement that the domestic arrest warrant must be signed by a ‘judge’ could wrongly be interpreted in the sense that the Italian executing authority should refuse the execution of an EAW if the domestic arrest warrant on which it was based is issued by a judicial authority other than a judge, in particular by a prosecutor;
- the requirement that the domestic arrest warrant must be adequately motivated could be interpreted in the sense that the Italian executing authority should proceed to a factual verification of the case it is not supposed to do. On this point, the requirement seems in contradiction with the principle of mutual recognition on which the Framework Decision is based.
However, the Court of Cassation has given an interpretation of this provision in line with the Framework Decision” (my emphasis).
- Miss Rose suggested that the issuing judicial authority had a role to play in ensuring that it was proportionate to issue the EAW. Since the EAW was introduced there has been concern that some EAWs are being issued in respect of trivial offences. The Council, in a note dated 28 May 2010 (8436/2/10 REV 2) commented on the need for Member States to conduct a proportionality check before issuing an EAW. It stated, however
“It is clear that the Framework Decision on the EAW does not include any obligation for an issuing Member State to conduct a proportionality check…”
In the light of this statement it would not be right to infer that when the EAW was being negotiated Member States agreed to restrict its issue to a judge in order to ensure that proportionality received proper judicial consideration.
- In the third place I find it likely that the removal of the definition of judicial authority as being a “judge or public prosecutor” was not because Member States wished to narrow its meaning to a judge, but because they were not content that its meaning should be restricted to a judge or a public prosecutor. Member States had
existing procedures for initiating an extradition request and for requesting provisional arrest in another Member State which involved their domestic arrest procedures. They also had existing procedures for giving effect to extradition requests. The authorities involved in these procedures were not restricted to judges and prosecutors. It seems to me likely that the removal of a precise definition of judicial authority was intended to leave the phrase bearing its “sens vague” so as to accommodate a wider range of authorities.
- In the fourth place aspects of the December draft suggest that the meaning of judicial authority was not restricted to a court or judge. The requirement that became article 6.3 of the final version to inform the General Secretariat of the Council of “the competent judicial authority under its law” makes more sense if there was a range of possible judicial authorities. And, as I have pointed out in para 58 above, article 19.3 of the final version suggests the co-operation of different types of judicial authority in the execution process.
- In the fifth place the manner in which not merely the Member States but also the Commission and the Council acted after the Framework Direction took effect was in stark conflict with a definition of judicial authority that restricted its meaning to a judge. Article 31.3(b) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties permits recourse, as an aid to interpretation, to “any subsequent practice in the application of the treaty which establishes the agreement of the parties regarding its interpretation”. The EAW processes of the Member States were subject to Reports by the Commission and Evaluation Reports on the working of the EAW were prepared by experts and submitted to the Council (see below). The practices of the Member States in relation to those they appointed as issuing and executing “judicial authorities” coupled with the comments of the Commission and the Council in relation to these, provide I believe a legitimate guide to the meaning of those two words in the Framework Decision.
Implementation of the Framework Decision by the Member States
- Had the omission of the definition of “judicial authority” in the final version of the Framework Decision reflected an intention on the part of the Member States that negotiated it that only a judge or court could act as an issuing or executing authority, I would have expected the Member States to have implemented that intention when giving effect to the Framework Decision. I would equally have expected Reports published by the Commission and the Experts’ Evaluation Reports for the Council to have commented critically on any failure by a Member State to appoint a court or judge as the issuing and executing judicial authority. This was far from the case. 11 Member States designated a prosecutor as the issuing judicial authority in relation to fugitives sought for prosecution and 10, not in every case the same, designated a prosecutor as the issuing judicial authority in
respect of fugitives who had been sentenced. 10 Member States designated a prosecutor as the executing judicial authority. Some of these had designated a judge or court as the issuing judicial authority. A handful of Member States had designated the Ministry of Justice as the issuing or executing judicial authority
- Article 34 of the Framework Decision required the Commission to submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the operation of the Framework Decision. We have been provided with two such reports, the First Report dated 24 January 2006 and the Second Report dated 11 July 2007. These Reports commented adversely on the appointment by a small minority of Member States of executive bodies as judicial authorities but made no adverse comment on the use of public prosecutors as judicial authorities.
- Mutual Evaluation Reports into “the practical application of the European Arrest Warrant and corresponding surrender procedures between Member States” were made to the Council by experts nominated by Member States. We have been provided with 15 Reports from the fourth round of these mutual evaluations. Once again, while the Reports contain adverse comment on the use of Ministries of Justice as issuing or executing judicial authorities, there is no adverse comment on the use of prosecutors in this role. Indeed, as I have pointed out in para.63 above, in the case of Italy the report commended this practice.
- On 28 May 2009 the Council published a Final Report on the fourth round of mutual evaluations. Its Conclusions included, in para 3.1, comments on “the role of the judicial authorities”. These commented that in some Member States non-judicial central authorities continued to play a role in cardinal aspects of the surrender procedure. This was criticised as “difficult to reconcile with the letter and the spirit of the Framework Decision.” No criticism was made of the use of prosecutors as judicial authorities. The Council went on to call on Member States to provide “judges, prosecutors and judicial staff” with appropriate training on the EAW. There is once again a clear inference, this time in relation to the Council, that there was no objection to prosecutors performing the role of issuing judicial authorities.
Conclusions on the Framework Decision
- I turn now to Miss Rose’s reliance on the meaning of “autorité judiciaire” (“legal authority”) in the context of article 5, to which I referred at para 21. I there set out article 5.1(c). Article 5.3 provides:
“Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time…”
- Miss Rose referred us to a series of 17 decisions of the Strasbourg Court which establish that the “competent legal authority” referred to in article 5.1(c) is shorthand for the “judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power” in article 5.3. These start with Schiesser v Switzerland (1979) 2 EHRR 417 and finish with Medvedyev v France (2010) 51 EHRR 899. They are, for the most part, cases where prosecutors or those subject to their control, authorised the detention of suspects during pre-trial investigations on the basis that they were “competent legal authorities” within the meaning of that phrase in article 5.1(c). The Strasbourg Court made it plain that those involved in the prosecution of a defendant lacked the necessary independence to qualify as “competent legal authorities”. In Medvedyev the Grand Chamber held at paras 123-124:
“Since article 5.1(c) forms a whole with article 5.3, ‘competent legal authority’ in para 1 (c) is a synonym, of abbreviated form, for ‘judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power’ in para 3.
The judicial officer must offer the requisite guarantees of independence from the executive and the parties, which precludes his subsequent intervention in criminal proceedings on behalf of the prosecuting authority, and he or she must have the power to order release, after hearing the individual and reviewing the lawfulness of, and justification for, the arrest and detention.”
- Miss Rose submitted that this line of authority conclusively established the meaning of “judicial authority” in the Framework Decision. This was coupled with the submission that those two words had to be given the same meaning wherever they appeared in the Decision. I consider that both submissions are unsound. The article 5 authorities apply to the stage of pre-trial proceedings at which the suspect has to be afforded the opportunity to challenge his detention. They have direct application to the stage of the execution of an EAW for which articles 14, 15 and
19 of the Framework Decision make provision. At this stage the “competent judicial authority” must have the characteristics identified in the Strasbourg decisions relied upon. Those decisions do not, however, apply to the stage at which a request is made by the issuing State for the surrender, or as the English statute incorrectly describes it, the extradition, of the fugitive. That is not a stage at which there is any adversarial process between the parties. It is a stage at which one of
the parties takes an essentially administrative step in the process. That is a step that it is appropriate for a prosecutor to take.
- When considering the meaning of a word or phrase that is used more than once in the same instrument one starts with a presumption that it bears the same meaning wherever it appears. That is not, however, an irrebuttable presumption. It depends upon the nature of the word or phrase in question and the contexts in which it appears in the instrument. In the Framework Decision the same phrase is used to describe different authorities performing different functions at different stages of the overall process. The phrase is capable of applying to a variety of different authorities. The contexts in which it is used in the Framework Decision do not require that all the authorities have the same characteristics. On the contrary the contexts permit the issuing judicial authority to have different characteristics from the executing judicial authority and, indeed, for the phrase judicial authority to bear different meanings at the stage of execution of the EAW dependent upon the function being performed.
- The purpose of the Framework Decision, its general scheme, the previous European extradition arrangements, the existing procedures of the Member States at the time that the Framework Decision was negotiated, the preparatory documents and the variety of meanings that the French version of the phrase in issue naturally bears, the manner in which the Framework Decision has been implemented and the attitude of the Commission and the Council to its implementation all lead to the conclusion that the “issuing judicial authority” bears the wide meaning for which Miss Montgomery contends and embraces the Prosecutor in the present case. All that weighs the other way is the narrower meaning that the English phrase naturally bears. That does not begin to tilt the scales in favour of Miss Rose’s submission. For this reason I conclude that the Prosecutor in this case fell within the meaning of “issuing judicial authority” in the Framework Decision.
The 2003 Act
- It is necessary, if possible, to give “judicial authority” the same meaning in the 2003 Act as it bears in the Framework Decision. Is it possible? The manner in which the Act sets out to give effect to the Framework Decision has been vigorously criticised by Professor John Spencer in “Implementing the European Arrest Warrant: A Tale of How Not to Do it” (2009) 30(3) Statute Law Review
184. This appeal will afford him additional grounds of attack. The Act does not make clear the overall nature of the EAW scheme for which the Framework Decision provides. It does not make clear the vital part that the antecedent process plays in the scheme. The scheme is founded on the mutual recognition of the decision that is taken in that process. Article 8 of the Framework Decision
provides that the EAW must contain evidence of “an enforceable judgment, an arrest warrant or other enforceable judicial decision having the same effect”. Section 2 of the 2003 Act requires the arrest warrant to give “particulars of any other warrant issued in the category 1 territory for the person’s arrest in respect of the offence” (my emphasis). I am not surprised that this provision has given rise to some judicial confusion, as evidenced by the series of decisions that culminated in the decision of the House of Lords in Louca v Public Prosecutor, Bielefeld, Germany  UKSC 4;  1 WLR 2550. Only in that case was it appreciated that the provision referred to “any domestic warrant on which the European warrant is based” per Lord Mance at para 15.
- Because the 2003 Act does not make clear the importance of the antecedent decision, it can give the impression that the decision to issue the EAW is the step in the procedure at which are considered all the matters that will be taken into account in the course of the antecedent process. This, in its turn, can lead to the conclusion that the decision to issue the EAW is of such importance that Parliament must have intended it to be taken by a judge, and that “judicial authority” must be interpreted as meaning a judge. As I have sought to demonstrate this reasoning is unsound.
- Under the scheme of the Framework Decision the safeguard against the inappropriate issue of an EAW lies in the process antecedent to the issue of the EAW. I have drawn attention to the uncertainty on the material before us as to whether a court is involved in that process in all Member States, though this material indicates that it is in at least most States. No material has been put before us that suggests that EAW’s are being issued on the basis of an antecedent process that is unsatisfactory for want of judicial involvement. The scheme does not provide for a second judicial process at the stage of the issue of the EAW. To interpret “issuing judicial authority” as meaning a court or judge would result in a large proportion of EAWs being held to be ineffective in this country, notwithstanding their foundation on an antecedent judicial process.
- For these reasons I can see no impediment to according to “judicial authority” in Part 1 of the 2003 Act the same meaning as it bears in the Framework Decision. On the contrary there is good reason to accord it such meaning. I have concluded that the Prosecutor who issued the EAW in this case was a “judicial authority” within the meaning of that phrase in section 2 of the 2003 Act and that Mr Assange’s challenge to the validity of the EAW fails.
The Lord Advocate’s intervention
- The Lord Advocate for Scotland, in a written intervention, submitted that the 2003 Act did not permit the Court to look behind a designation of a judicial authority made by a Member State under article 6.3 of the Framework Decision and accepted by the certificate of the designated authority under section 2 of the 2003 Act. This submission challenged the finding of the Divisional Court in this case that neither the designation by Sweden of its “issuing judicial authority” nor the issue of a certificate under section 2 barred Mr Assange from contending that his EAW had not been issued by a “judicial authority”. This did not discourage Miss Montgomery from aligning herself with the Lord Advocate’s submission at the ninth hour.
- Miss Rose made written submissions after the hearing supporting the reasoning of the Divisional Court. While I found this reasoning persuasive, I was none the less impressed by the opposite view expressed in Sir Scott Baker’s Report, to which I refer below. In the circumstances I think that it would be better not to express a final opinion on the point, leaving it open for oral argument on a future occasion.
The facts of this case
- The point on the meaning of “judicial authority” taken in this case has been technical, in as much as there has been no lack of judicial consideration of whether there is a case that justifies the prosecution of Mr Assange for the offences in respect of which his extradition is sought. I shall give a bare outline of events in Sweden. The proceedings against Mr Assange are founded on complaints made by two women on 20 August 2010. A Preliminary Investigation conducted by the Chief Officer, in which Mr Assange co-operated, concluded that there was no case against him in respect of the alleged rape. The complainants appealed against this decision to the Prosecutor, who re-opened the full Preliminary Investigation. Mr Assange instructed counsel to represent him. He then left the country, which he was free to do. On 18 November the Prosecutor applied to the Stockholm District Court for a domestic detention order in absentia. The Stockholm District Court granted the order. The following day Mr Assange, by his counsel, appealed to the Svea Court of Appeal against the order on the grounds that the domestic arrest was not proportionate and was not based on sufficient evidence to give rise to probable cause. The Prosecutor informed the Court of Appeal that she intended to issue an EAW. The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Assange’s appeal on the papers and without an oral hearing on 24 November. On 26 November the Prosecutor issued an EAW. This was submitted to SOCA and rejected because it failed to specify the potential sentences in respect of the offences alleged. A replacement EAW was
issued on 2 December 2010 and this was certified by SOCA under section 2(7) and
(8) of the 2003 Act on 6 December 2010.
- Under Swedish law the issue of a domestic detention order in absentia was a precondition to the issue of an EAW. That order was issued by a court which, it seems, had to be satisfied that there was sufficient evidence giving rise to probable cause and that domestic arrest was proportionate. The only possible additional area of discretion so far as the issue of the EAW was concerned would seem to be whether this was proportionate. There does not appear to have been a requirement that this should receive judicial consideration.
- On 30 September 2011 a Committee chaired by the Rt Hon Sir Scott Baker presented a report to the Home Secretary that reviewed the United Kingdom’s extradition arrangements. At paras 5.106 to 5.119 the Report considers a criticism that it is possible for an EAW to be issued by non-judicial authorities, most often by public prosecutors. It makes the following comment:
“The rationale which underpins both article 6 and section 2(7) is the obvious need for an internationalist or cosmopolitan approach to the interpretation of the term ‘judicial authority’: it is for the domestic law of each Member State to decide which body or authority is responsible for issuing warrants and it is not for other Member States to question the competence of the body in question, or the institutional arrangements for the issuing of warrants.”
- The Report gave a number of reasons for concluding that this position was satisfactory, not least of which was the statement that the panel was not aware of any cases in which EAWs issued by designated prosecuting authorities had led to oppression or injustice.
- The Report went on, in considerably greater detail, to consider the importance of proportionality. This had been considered in the Council’s Report to which I have referred at para 71 above. The 9th recommendation of this Report was that there should be continued discussion on the institution of a proportionality requirement for the issue of any EAW with a view to reaching a coherent solution at European Union level. The Scott Baker Report agreed that proportionality should be considered at the stage of issuing an EAW. It did not recommend that the question of proportionality should be reviewed as part of the process of execution.
- There are three principal areas of judgment that may be involved in issuing and executing an accusation EAW. The first involves consideration of whether there are reasonable grounds for arresting the fugitive for the purpose of prosecuting him. Under the scheme consideration of this question should form part of the antecedent process. It should not be repeated at the stage of execution. The second involves consideration of whether surrender of the fugitive will involve an infringement of his human rights. This issue will not often arise, and when it does it is likely to involve considering proportionality. Under the scheme of the EAW, consideration of any human rights issue should take place at the extradition hearing, which will necessarily involve a judge.
- The third area of judgment involves consideration of whether, quite apart from any discrete human rights issues, the alleged offence is sufficiently serious to justify the draconian measure of removing the fugitive from the country in which he is living to the country where he is alleged to have offended. The Framework Decision dealt with this to a degree in as much as it provides that an accusation EAW can only be issued where the offence for which the fugitive is to be prosecuted must carry a maximum sentence of at least 12 months. It has become clear that this is insufficient to prevent the issue of an EAW in respect of an offence that is too trivial to justify the process. It seems that EAW’s are being issued in some cases for offences as trivial as stealing a chicken. This reflects the fact that in some States such as Poland, under a constitutional principle of legality, the prosecutor has an obligation to prosecute a person who is reasonably suspected of having committed a criminal offence, however trivial the offence.
- The scheme of the EAW needs to be reconsidered in order to make express provision for consideration of proportionality. It makes sense for that question to be considered as part of the process of issue of the EAW. To permit proportionality to be raised at the stage of execution would result in delay that would run counter to the scheme. It does not necessarily follow that an offence that justifies the issue of a domestic warrant of arrest will justify the issue of an EAW. For this reason the antecedent process will not necessarily consider the proportionality of issuing an EAW. There is a case for making proportionality an express precondition of the issue of an EAW. Should this be done, it may be appropriate to define “issuing judicial authority” in such a way as to ensure that proportionality receives consideration by a judge. At present there is no justification for such a course.
- For the reasons that I have given I would dismiss this appeal.