'Corpus Juris' and the threat to British Common Law Rights
Many people see Britain as
being the home of FREEDOM as we created our unique system
of parliamentary democracy backed by our COMMON LAW. The
latter has been adopted, in various forms, by the other
English speaking nations, notably the USA, Australia,
New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Malta. Our legal system
is unique in that it embodies our concept of the individual's
freedom (Power of the People as embodied in our Common
Law) and makes our laws quite different to those of our
friends in Continental Europe. These ancient rights are
now under imminent threat from Brussels under a proposal
known as 'Corpus Juris' ("CJ").
How our law differs from that of Continental
1. Our Common Law, as far back
as 1215 with Magna Carta, states that a citizen can only
be judged by his peers (Section 39). These rights protect
the individual against arbitrary conviction and imprisonment.
Our Common Law recognises several vital rights to the
- The right of Habeas Corpus
(that the accused must be taken to a public court within
a very short period of time, usually 24 hours, and the
accusers must produce their evidence then and there)
- The right to Trial by Jury
at which jurors can in fact even disregard the law if
they think it would give an unjust conviction. The jurors
are thus 'sovereign'
- If found innocent, the accused
cannot be tried again on the same charge ('double jeopardy')
- In other words our process
is 1) suspicion, 2) investigation, 3) arrest, 4) charge
2. Under the Continental system,
know as the Inquisitorial System (often loosely referred
to as the Napoleonic system) things are quite different:
- In Europe the sequence of
events is 1) suspicion, 2) arrest, 3) investigation
and 4) charge. In other words the citizen can be arrested
and imprisoned without anyone having to produce any
evidence against him. There is therefore:
- No Habeas Corpus so one can
be imprisoned for very long periods (weeks, months,
occasionally years) without any evidence being produced
- No right to Trial by Jury
as their system involves judgements being made by a
career judiciary who are the judges and prosecutors
and who are, to all intents and purposes, 'colleagues'
(a quite separate body of lawyers makes the defence
and are often treated as inferiors)
- In most instances the accused
can be tried a second time for the same offence, since
the prosecution has the right of appeal against acquittal.
What is Corpus Juris?
In April 1997 a seminar was
held in San Sebastian, Spain, to discuss a proposal for
the 'Criminal protection of the financial interests of
the European Union' (CJ) under the auspices of the Directorate
General XX of the European Commission. Subsequently there
have been numerous attempts at denying that the European
Commission has been involved in these proposals and that
the meeting was just a non related discussion group. "The
objectives of the seminar were twofold: to seek to call
the attention of jurists in general to the need for effective
protection of the Community budget, particularly in connection
with fraud against subsidies: and to make known the contents
of the CJ for protection of these financial interests,
which has been conceived as the embryo of a future European
The proposals aim to:
- Introduce a single legal
area with the European union
- Introduce a European Public
Prosecutor ("EPP") with national public prosecutors
being "under a duty to assist" him or her (Article 18.5)
- There will be a "Judge of
Freedoms" whose function is ostensibly to protect the
citizen's rights, which however do not include the right
to demand that evidence be produced. This means, of
course, that an enforceable arrest warrants can be granted
without there actually being any evidence at all, since
there is no right to verify it at that stage.
- A European Warrant of arrest
shall be issued by a national judge on "instructions"
of the EPP, and any police force in any member State
can be required to enforce it.
- A suspect can be imprisoned
without charge for 6 months, renewable for a further
3 months without any limit to the number of renewals
- The 'trial' shall be heard
by professional judges, specifically without "simple
jurors" or "even lay magistrates" (a clear and specific
reference to the British trial system where the crucial
decisions are taken by ordinary people)
- An accused can be retried
on the same charge if found innocent (i.e. the prosecution
can appeal against an acquittal)
How can it be imposed on Britain?
- Speaking for the government
in Parliament Kate Hoey stated that CJ proposals would
infringe on civil liberties and could not be introduced
into Britain as the government would veto any such move.
- The House of Lords is the
only public body in Britain to have reviewed CJ in detail
(HofL 9th and 19th Reports, 1998/99 session).
Some of the findings were:
1. They interviewed two EU representatives
who stated that CJ could, and will, be introduced under
Article 280 of the Amsterdam Treaty (pages 84 and 85,
9th Report). Article 280 provides for Qualified Majority
Voting so Britain will have no veto.
2. Advice from the Law Societies
of both England and Scotland stated that CJ was unacceptable
3. In the second HofL report
on page 73 Jack Straw, Home Secretary, stated that he
was unaware of any proposals for the introduction of Justice
& Home Affairs measures by Qualified Majority Voting
- presumably he never read the earlier report!
When may CJ be introduced?
- Basically at any time now
that the new European Commission has been established.
- In March the European Parliament
"welcomed CJ" in principle with support from all Britain's
MEPs bar two Labour MEPs. Subsequently the Conservative
MEPs claimed that they had voted the wrong way by mistake!
Presumably the Labour and LibDem MEPs meant to support
the CJ proposals, although Blair has not yet been asked
why his MEPs all flouted his government's stated policy
which is to reject CJ. One of the motions approved stated
that CJ could be applied to 'serious crimes', undefined
of course, opening the door to CJ being applied to areas
outside EU fraud.
- On 11th September the Wise
Men, who had previously revealed fraud in the European
Commission, recommended that CJ be introduced in a three
step programme - clearly designed to sugar the pill
so that the British will swallow it:
1. Step 1: should just apply
to the European Commission and its employees
2. Step 2: establish a Prosecutor's
office in each member state to work with the national
police & courts
3. Step 3: link the central
and peripheral offices and establish a European Prosecutor's
office after holding an Intergovernmental Conference which
would clearly be to ratify the introduction of CJ
- The next European Council
of Heads of State & Government takes place in Finland
on 15/16 October 1999. On the agenda is the creation
of a "single judicial space" - i.e. all of the above.
Can CJ be stopped?
On the face of it - probably
not. CJ can be brought in regardless of whether we adopt
the Euro or not A compromise proposal appears to be on
the table from Britain which would introduce the concept
of 'mutual recognition' of every EU country's legal decisions
by criminal courts. This proposal would remove our Habeas
Corpus safeguards and we would accept that a judge in
another EU country could order the arrest of a UK citizen
on UK soil under their laws, without having to produce
any evidence (in fact this situation already exists in
the case of extradition within the EU) or any formality
whatsoever (it is still possible to produce arguments
to resist extradition requests. This last possibility
will be eliminated) CJ is coming whatever our government
may say. It looks likely that it will be introduced in
the time-honoured EU fashion - by stealth. Initially it
may well look innocuous, indeed even desirable. After
all, who is going to stand up and say that fraud with
the European Commission itself should not be tackled?
Once the principal has been accepted then it will be much
easier for them to apply it as an overall EU Code of Criminal
Law. If CJ is imposed and Britain refuses to accept then
the issue will go before the European Court of Justice
which surely will uphold the majority decision to introduce
it under Article 280 of the Amsterdam Treaty.
What can be done about this?
As with so many dickats from
Brussels CJ is following a well worn path: a secretive
start to the proposal, then disclosure by a whistle blower,
then government and often EU denials ("it is only a discussion
paper" - "nothing to worry about" - "we can stop it anyway"),
followed by its introduction into legislation by stealth;
and then, when the full horror is revealed, a shrug of
the shoulders ("well, it is too late now to do anything")
So what can be done?
- Write to the press, nationally
(especially the Sun) and local newspapers
- Complain to your MP and MEP,
and demand that they state their position on CJ
- Speak to local lawyers
- Keep up-to-date by following
CJ developments in the press
- On the internet follow CJ
developments on EuroFAQ
- Write to friends and relatives
in the USA and Commonwealth, tell them to alert their
4 October 1999
Corpus Juris - the European
Union proposal to abolish trials by jury