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European arrest warrant used on previously acquitted man

20 March 2012

A British man has been held under a European arrest warrant relating to an alleged crime of which he was acquitted in Portugal in 1995.

Graham Mitchell was arrested at his Canterbury home and detained overnight before being released on bail in connection with the attempted murder of a German tourist in 1994. Mr Mitchell and a friend were on holiday in Portugal at the time and were arrested by police. After being held in custody for over a year they were tried and acquitted. 

In a BBC interview he said he believed the Portuguese authorities had made an administrative blunder in issuing the warrant.

Mr Mitchell has to appear again before Westminster Magistrates Court next week. It has not been disclosed whether the Portuguese authorities believe they have new evidence relating to the case.

Concerns have been expressed whether the European arrest warrant system, which provides a streamlined process for returning suspects to a country where they are alleged to have offended, contains sufficient safeguards against its unreasonable use. Alex Tinsley of Fair Trials International said his organisation regularly dealt with cases where judges felt that cases should not proceed to extradition but  felt powerless to stop it.

The UK Government wants to see the procedure used less in more minor cases, but a review last year under Lord Justice Scott Baker concluded that overall the system was working satisfactorily with proper safeguards against abuse.

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