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Saturday 29 September 2012

Megan Stammers And The Foot In Mouth Brigade

[Update at end of post]

The disappearance of 15 year old schoolgirl Megan Stammers, along with Jeremy Forrest, one of her teachers and twice her age, gave the press a whole week’s feeding frenzy as the two crossed the channel and were eventually detained in the southern French city of Bordeaux. But the means by which the arrest was legitimised presents hacks and politicians with a difficult dilemma.

Why so? Well, Megan might have been below the age of consent in the UK, where it is 16, but she wasn’t in France, where it is just 15. So the couple were not breaking the law there, and so there was no reason for the authorities to detain them. Only when a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued was there any obligation on the French to search for the couple and make an arrest.

And it is that use of the EAW to yield the result that the assembled hacks, pundits and editors had effectively demanded that puts them all in a corner. Because many of them, together with many Tory MPs and MEPs, and UKIP MEPs, had spent the previous years demonising the EAW. Only last week, Dan, Dan the Oratory Man was urging withdrawal as a way of celebrating 800 years since Magna Carta.

So one has to wonder how some of those foot-in-mouth artists will spin the Megan Stammers case, especially the Telegraph’s purveyor of dodgy journalism Andrew Gilligan, who opined “while we kowtow to EU arrest warrants, other countries are shielding citizens with opt-outs”, and that folks “can also be seized for offences which are not even crimes in Britain”. Likewise those that are not crimes in France, then?

The Mail has also been hot on the trail of the EAW, with seasoned ranter James Slack bemoaning the number of eastern Europeans being deported under its provisions, while the paper plays the other side of the field when its legendarily foul mouthed editor decrees it, whining about the EU, er, not allowing us to deport eastern Europeans.

And one also wonders what all those UKIP MEPs will dream up as their get-out card in this case: last year they were jumping on the Julian Assange bandwagon and claiming that the EAW was being “possibly abused. Party leader Nigel Farage has Tweeted that “The EU arrest warrant has made us ... subservient to the EU”. Wonder if many French politicians are making the same complaint?

First Mail priority - select the appropriate wine

There is, to no surprise at all, no criticism of the EAW in the Mail’s report of the arrest of Jeremy Forrest, nor in the Telegraph. But the Mail does manage to illustrate the location of Bordeaux with a wine map, showing that some journalistic habits have survived the move out of Fleet Street. Perhaps the odd case of claret will help them all to get over this latest bout of rank hypocrisy.

Until the EAW gets used by some dastardly foreigners. No change there, then.

[UPDATE 30 September 1105 hours: today's Observer has noted that senior Police officers are telling Young Dave that opting out of EU-wide co-operation on crime is Not A Good Thing. Their case has been significantly reinforced by the arrest of Jeremy Forrest via the issue of an EAW, which has not only enabled him to be detained in a country where the age of consent means his relationship with Megan Stammers is not illegal there, but also shortens the time taken to extradite him back to the UK.

Only last March, those in the Tory Party opposed to the EAW seemed in the ascendancy. Now, they, like the anti-EU tendency in the press, have gone quiet. What they also all too easily forget are those cases in the past where the UK has wanted to extradite terrorist suspects from the Irish Republic, but the requests have failed due to offences such as conspiracy not having an equivalent in Irish law. The EAW would have made a significant difference, and potentially could again, although hopefully not in the case of Ireland]

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