In the Media

£50m a year bill to extradite Poles wanted for minor offences

PUBLISHED April 10, 2012

Each week, suspects wanted for crimes in Poland are extradited by an 80-seater Polish military transport plane from Biggin Hill airport in Kent.

While Poland pays for the cost of the flights, the administration expenses and cost of holding the fugitives for weeks as they are processed through UK courts is estimated to have cost £50m last year, up from £25m two years previously.

Last year a total of 986 suspects were flown to Poland on 65 flights.

While some are wanted for serious offences, many are extradited for motoring offences and minor crimes such as spraying graffiti or even stealing a chicken. Many are thought to return to Britain within days of being dealt with by Polish courts, with some handed only a fine when sentenced.

The frequency of flights has been increased from every fortnight in 2009 to once a week, with two flights a week during 'peak periods'.

The suspects are removed from Britain under the European Arrest Warrant, a 2004 agreement which ruled EU member states must hand over people wanted in other countries with a "minimum of formalities".

The flights are not published on usual flight schedules at Biggin Hill airport, which closes for other business flights. Prisoners are led handcuffed across the runway carrying their possessions in plastic bags, before being shackled to the seats of the military twin-propeller aeroplane.

Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the House of Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, said: "The European Arrest Warrant is full of faults, but it was introduced for a sensible purpose.

"It is mildly abused and the Government needs to tackle this and levy the whole cost against the warrant-issuing country rather than the British taxpayer."

A senior police source told the Daily Mail: "We've had requests to arrest people who are wanted for motoring offences and it's cost a fortune on interpreters, transport and the man hours processing them for the flight only for them to return a few days later.

"It's insane that we're wasting our time and resources processing these people for such trivial crimes. The Poles want all their offenders tracked down no matter what."

British officials have asked the Polish authorities to cut down on the number of people wanted for minor offences, without success. The country is bound by its constitution to track down every offender.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We will always ensure that those who attempt to evade justice by crossing a border within the EU are quickly brought to justice. We will continue to press EU countries to consider proportionality when issuing European Arrest Warrants."