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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
EU law 'could ban' Biggles
Spitfire Mx XVIII
Biggles was a fictional flying ace
People who distribute stories about fictional children's hero Biggles or the Old Testament could be criminalised under a European anti-racism law, a top Law Lord has suggested.

Lord Scott told peers that a proposed framework directive for the harmonisation of EU member states' laws against racism and xenophobia "would almost certainly cover Biggles".

Extradition of a person accused of the offence could be sought under the arrest warrant

Lord Scott
"It would probably cover the distribution of the Old Testament as well," he said.

"I don't know what the government's reaction to this particular proposal will be.

"I imagine it will be a mixture of horror and laughter."

Terror fears

Dashing World War I flying ace James Bigglesworth, nicknamed Biggles was created by Captain WE Johns in the 1930s and spawned dozens of adventure novels, but its seemingly racist terms offended many.

Lord Scott was speaking during a debate on proposals for a Europe-wide arrest warrant.

He said: "If any member state creates offences on these lines ... and prescribes three years' imprisonment as a possible penalty, we in this country would be expected to extradite the accused under a European arrest warrant."

Categories of offences such as racism or xenophobia needed to be made "much more specific".

Plans for a Europe-wide arrest warrant were agreed by ministers in the wake of the 11 September US terror attacks for introduction by 2004.

Although the UK hopes for an earlier arrangement with five other member states.

Extradition fear

According to Lord Scott, the European Commission's proposals for an offence included "public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material containing expressions of racism or xenophobia".

"So distribution of, for example, literature containing expressions of belief in race, colour, national origins etc as a factor determining aversion to individuals or groups would be a criminal offence," Lord Scott argued.

"And extradition of a person accused of the offence could be sought under the arrest warrant."

Former Euro-MP Lord Kingsland QC, for the Tories, said: "I believe the EU is making a serious mistake in extending the terms of this arrest warrant beyond the issue of terrorism."

Home Office minister Lord Rooker, replying to the debate, confirmed that a draft Extradition Bill would be introduced before the summer recess in August, ahead of full legislation next session.

Lord Rooker, who did not comment on Lord Scott's comments about Biggles and the Bible, assured peers: "We are not inventing extradition."

The Bill aimed to speed up extradition procedures within the EU.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | Europe
Fast track for EU arrest warrants
09 Jan 02 | UK Politics
EU arrest warrant pledge
13 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Battle looms over EU arrest warrant
11 Dec 01 | Europe
Italy U-turn on arrest warrant
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