Problems ahead with European arrest warrant

One of the major items under discussion at Friday's team bosses meeting was the new European arrest warrant which is due to replace the current system of extradition between countries. This is aimed to simplify and speed up procedures. The European Council meeting in Tampere in 1999 first proposed the idea of creating a true European law-enforcement area and the legislation is due to come into effect on July 1 2004.

The Formula 1 team bosses are worried because in some countries, notably Italy, there are laws which would come under the European arrest warrant, relating to sporting incidents, such as the death of a driver. They are worried that they could find themselves extradited and jailed in a foreign country, despite the fact that an accident is not considered to be a criminal offence under British law.

The F1 circus was upset by the legal problems which followed the death of Ayrton Senna 10 years ago and are worried that if there was a similar situation again, team bosses and engineers might be arrested in their home country and imprisoned in Italy while awaiting trial. Such a procedure would not happen in Britain, where the majority of the F1 teams are based.

There is pressure from the teams to insist that the promoters of each race get agreement from the judiciary in the various countries to stick to the standard extradition rules or face the cancellation of the races. With the demand for races currently outstripping the number of events available, this could be another nail in the coffin of European races which cannot work out deals with the local governments.

The question was first raised in the summer of 2002 but nothing appears to have been done by any of the governments concerned and it looks like F1 team bosses are going to have to get tough to protect themselves against the eccentricities of Italy's manslaughter rules.

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