EIO? Nothing To Fear?

Thanks to the Tory Government choosing to opt in to the European Investigation Order, we can now be subjected to investigations by other countries for crimes which aren’t even illegal in this country. A classic example is denying the Holocaust, something which is illegal in Germany, but not here in the UK. The EU Observer says (my emphasis):

In particular, Statewatch, the UK-based civil liberties monitor, says there is no longer a basis for refusal on the grounds of territoriality and what is called “dual criminality” – that the act for which information is sought must constitute a crime punishable in both states.

This would now mean that a person who committed an act which is legal in the member state where the act was carried out could, according to critics, be subject to body, house and business searches, financial investigations, and some forms of covert surveillance, if the act is regarded as a crime under the law of another member state.

For example, Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany and 12 other EU countries but not in the UK, Sweden or Spain – each of which back the new proposals. The EIO could thus in theory used by Germany to someone who denied the Holocaust in a country where to do so is legal.

Use of EU powers like this to prosecute people for actions not illegal in other EU states already has a precedence. In 2008 UK Police arrested an Australian, under the European Arrest Warrant in order to deport him to Germany for denying the Holocaust:

A leading holocaust denier who runs a website insisting the Nazis did not murder millions of Jews will face an extradition hearing tomorrow after being arrested as he flew into Britain.

Dr Fredrick Toben was seized at Heathrow at the request of the German authorities for publishing ‘anti-Semitic and/or revisionist’ material between 2000 and 2004.

Dr Toben – who claims to be facing a ‘witch-trial’ – has committed no crime in Britain, where Holocaust denial is not an offence.

But, under the terms of a European Arrest Warrant designed to fast-track extraditions, the Australian citizen can be held in the UK pending possible deportation to Germany – where he faces five years in prison.

The EAW already has well documented abuses attached to it, the EIO will add to this, especially with its lack of safeguards, as Tory MP Dominic Raab points out:

…that there are no proper limits on the nature of the crimes involved – so they could be trivial, or not even offences under UK law…the Order even provides legal authority for European police to carry out investigations on British soil.

It’s also not beyond the possibility that other member states could pass legislation that bars criticism of the EU which then could be applied to other member states via these instruments. Don’t believe me? Here’s yesterday’s EUObserver regarding a proposed Italian ‘gag law’:

Bloggers, podcasters and even anyone who posts updates on social networks such as Facebook all face being slapped with fines of up to €25,000 for publishing incorrect facts, if a bill that journalists’ organisations are calling “authoritarian” currently before the Italian parliament is passed.

A provision within the government’s Media and Wiretapping Bill will extend Italy’s “obbligo di rettifica”, or rectification obligation – a law dating back to 1948 that requires newspapers to publish corrections – to the internet and indeed anyone “responsible for information websites”.

According to the draft law, bloggers and other online publishers – which lawyers believe includes users of Facebook and Myspace – will be obliged to post corrections within 48 hours of any complaint regarding their content.

If authors do not comply, they face fines of up to €25,000.

Should the Italian Government pass this legislation, then it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see where this could logically end up using EU instruments.

And the Tories have opted in to only the draft version of the EIO, the final version can end up being much much worse, with no exit being possible. I hope anyone who voted Tory feels pleased with themselves.


More On The EIO

My frustration at the recent capitulation of the Tory Government (strangely ignored by most Tory bloggers) is so great that it means that I have avoided Hansard for a couple of days. However Ironies Too has a couple of ‘wonderful’ excerpts here (my emphasis in the text):

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Many of us were elected on a programme of no more powers whatever passing to the European Union. Given that the Home Secretary promised us that no sovereignty would be transferred by the EIO, will she reassure us of that by putting into the draft proposal a simple clause that says that Britain can withdraw from the arrangement at any time if it proves to be not as advertised? If we have that clause, we are sovereign; if we do not have it, we are not sovereign. [ Interruption. ]

Mrs May: I thank the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) for that sedentary intervention.

I did make that statement on sovereignty in relation to the EIO. We are opting in to the draft directive, over which there will be negotiations in the coming months. However, I said what I said because the order and the directive are not about sovereignty moving to Europe, but about making a practical step of co-operation to ensure that it will be easier for us not only to fight crime, but crucially, to ensure that justice is done.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I am disappointed but not surprised by the Government’s decision to opt in to the EIO. I was a Home Office Minister some years ago, and even then officials tried push all kinds of things by which more power was taken away from this country. Following the Secretary of State’s previous answer, is she saying-let us let the public know the truth-that once we opt in, no matter how much we find that it is not working in our interest or that it is costing huge amounts of money, there is absolutely nothing we can do?

Democracy in the UK is simply not working.

Why I Now Quite Like The Psychic Octopus

My contempt for the so-called ‘Psychic Octopus’ was expressed here, a feeling made worse by the fact that he had the same name as me. But my views have slightly changed, because apparently the Iranian President is not a fan:

[Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader] claims that the octopus is a symbol of decadence and decay among “his enemies”… the Iranian president accused the octopus of spreading “western propaganda and superstition.”

Paul [the octopus] was mentioned by Mr Ahmadinejad on various occasions during a speech in Tehran at the weekend. Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values,” he said.

Anything that winds up the daft and mad Iranian President must surely be a good thing, on reflection.

UKIP And The Electoral Commission

I’m not sure how Iain Dale has got a UKIP press release before me (a member) but UKIP has won its court case over party donations. The press release is below:

UKIP forum e-newsletter: UKIP wins Supreme Court case

The Supreme Court today ruled in favour of UKIP over a case of party donations.

Between December 2004 and February 2006, Alan Bown, a retired businessman had donated a total of £349,216 to the party. During that time, due to an oversight Mr Bown was not on the UK electoral register which, under the law suggested that he was not a British resident. This was obviously not the case.

UKIP had argued that the forfeit should amount to £14,481 donated after the party became aware of the oversight, as did the initial Court ruling. The Electoral Commission believed that the whole sum should be forfeit.

In a 4-3 judgement the Supreme Court found that the spirit of the law counted more than the letter.

Speaking after the judgement Alan Bown said, “I am pleased and relieved that all this is over. We will now launch a massive UKIP membership drive, through a concerted leafleting campaign”.

He went on,

“I feel no animosity towards the Electoral Commission, we understand they have a job to do. I always had confidence that British Justice would play fair. Now I have evidence that this is the case”

Michael Crick has a great post here at the injustices of this case:

Spot the difference(s)

Case A: Alan Bown gave a political party £363,697

1) It was his money
2) He had a business trading in this country, making him eligible to donate money
3) He was not on the electoral register when he donated although he was the year before, and also the year afterwards.

Case B: Michael Brown gave a political party £2.4m
1) It was not his money, he had defrauded it
2) His business was not trading in the UK, so therefore he was ineligible to donate money
3) He was not on the electoral register; neither was he the year afterwards, nor the year before.

Do you see the difference(s)?
Well the main difference is that the Electoral Commission has doggedly pursued the Alan Bown donation, and today won an appeal forcing the party to give up the money, despite a judge previously ruling that the political party that received it had acted in good faith.

In the Michael Brown case the Electoral Commission has always maintained the political party acted in good faith and need not repay money. Although following the criminal proceedings against Mr Brown they have re-opened an investigation, it has not had yet had any result and they have not managed to say when, if ever, it will.

Oh yes there is one other difference:

This year the Political Parties and Elections Act went through Parliament, and among other things it restructured the Electoral Commission and gave it new funding and powers.

The political party in Case A, UKIP, has no MPs and only three representatives in the House of Lords (where the government has no majority and is particularly vulnerable to amendments).

The political party in Case B, the Liberal Democrats, has 63 MPs and 71 members of the House of Lords (where the Government has no majority and is particularly vulnerable to amendments).

At least those are the difference that I can see. Perhaps you can you suggest others?

I like to think that UKIP posses such a threat to the establishment that ‘anomalies’ like this are bound to happen.

Five Days

Tonight on BBC 2 is a one off documentary on the 5 days of negotiation to form the coalition government. Nick Robinson has the details here, and aside from a very unflattering photograph of Gordon Brown, is this rather telling paragraph (my emphasis):

There was another factor beyond the personal – the economic context on that post-election weekend. The crisis talks over how to prevent the Greek debt crisis spreading contagion throughout the eurozone were little reported in Britain, but officials in the Treasury and the Bank of England were focused on little else. Their fear was what one official describes as a “perfect storm” if the EU failed to agree a bail-out plan and Britain failed to produce a stable government by the time the markets opened on the Monday morning after the election.

Even the BBC political reporter notices the lack of coverage on EU issues. It must have been bad.

Failed Asylum Seekers Given Right To Work

Reported today by the Telegraph, and others, the UK Government has lost a court challenge to EU Directive 2003/9/EC which allows asylum seekers to look for work if their claim has not been processed within a year:

The dispute centred on the rights of asylum seekers who have already had one application for shelter rejected but then submit a fresh claim – individuals who the Home Office argued were not covered by the directive and were therefore not entitled to seek employment.

But under the European Council’s Reception Directive, which the UK Government signed up to the after it was introduced in 2003, those same applicants are entitled to work if the claim is still outstanding after 12 months.

Yesterday, Supreme Justices, the country’s most senior judges, concluded the same rules apply to any asylum seeker who has already had at least one claim rejected but has submitted a fresh one.

I like the irony of the Telegraph reporting a case of the UK losing a case against the EU, but deciding that the judges in the Supreme Court are our most senior judges. I think not. Our most senior judges reside here, oh and here.

The Government’s position was that the potential for abuse would be greatly increased if they lost the case. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said:

“Yet again a European Directive is having unintended and thoroughly unwelcome consequences.”

Indeed. Still, we can take comfort in the fact that Cameron is going to get tough on immigration.

NHS Staff Stripped Of Microsoft Office

In this month’s copy of PC Pro is the story that since the coalition ended the NHS contract with Microsoft 3 years early, it’s meant NHS staff will lose their home copies too:

Tens of thousands of NHS staff are to lose their personal copies of Microsoft Office after being caught out by a confusing licensing agreement.

Earlier this month, the NHS ended its £80 million Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft three years early. The agreement licensed 800,000 desktops across the health service, and offered software discounts to staff.

One discount was via the Home User Programme, which let NHS staff have a copy of Office 2007 for £8.95 for download or £17.95 for a disc. The full version of Office retails at £109.

The move appears to have angered some:

The sudden withdrawal of the Office licence has angered one PC Pro reader, who asked to remain anonymous. “Of course, I should have read the terms and conditions, but let’s be honest, life’s too short,” he said.

“I suppose I should also have guessed that £8.95 for a copy of Office or £17.95 for a physical disc was too good to be true,” he added, saying tens of thousands of NHS staff could be affected.

Too good to be true? Well it was only taxpayers’ money. I’m not sure why the taxpayer is expected to contribute to software on people’s personal computers, for what must only be of very limited benefit.

Never mind, I guess they’ll now have do what everyone else does; buy it, use a free alternative or discover the delights of a torrent client.