With the imminent European referendum looming talk of foreign criminals filling up our prisons or being set free to prey on our homes and families have been bandied about by both Brexiteers and Remainers. Under the auspices of the EU Britain currently benefits from the European Arrest Warrant which allows member states to extradite wanted criminals for trial at home. The idea of extradition is nothing new of course, the principle having been in existence in ancient Egypt, but the EAW supposedly makes the process easier.
In 1872 Adophe Fijax, a French national, appeared before Sir Thomas Henry the sitting magistrate at Bow Street. Fijax, a decorated hero of the Franco-Prussian War (he had earned the Legion D’Honneur) was accused of fraud. He spoke no English and so his counsel (Mr Walter Sleigh) translated for him.
Fijax had been defrauding the insurance company he worked for and offered nothing by way of a defence. Indeed he had already written to his employers to admit his guilt. Mr Sleigh asked the court if his client could be ‘sent back to France immediately’. Sadly. Sir Thomas replied that this was impossible. The terms of the extradition treaty between Britain and France ‘made it imperative that prisoners should remain 15 days after committal at the House of Detention to enable them to enter a petition’. The magistrate thought this to be a ‘great pity’ but his hands were tied.
In consequence poor M.Fijax was committed, sent to prison and bail refused (as was common apparently, in all extradition cases).
[from The Morning Post, Saturday, June 13, 1874]