The Judges’ Council of England and Wales has voiced concern over developments which are taking place in Poland in relation to the country’s judiciary. The council said it is worried about growing tensions between the judiciary and government in Poland, particularly about the impact on judicial independence. Legal experts say ‘the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary’s (ENCJ) grave concerns specifically refer to the mutual trust and recognition between judicial authorities in the EU’.

The concerns follow those raised by the ENCJ for the Judiciary in April 2017, over colleagues in Poland. The main issue for both groups is the draft legislation currently being considered by the government. This was announced in April 2017 by the Polish Judiciary and proposes:

  • the possible dismissal of all presidents and vice-presidents of common courts; 
  • the subsequent appointment of new presidents by the executive;
  • the setting up of disciplinary chambers consisting of peoples’ representatives in the Supreme Court;
  • the dismissal of the Presidents and a substantial number of judges of the Supreme Court The ENCJ’s full statement can be found here.

Gemma Lindfield, from 5 St Andrew’s Hill, says ‘It emphasises that the basis of mutual recognition is independence, quality and efficiency of the judicial systems and rule of law. It is that mutual trust and recognition that underpins the European arrest warrant system. The EAW system is effectively a surrender between judicial authorities, rather than a Part 2 Extradition Act 2003 extradition request through diplomatic channels between two states.’

She continues: ‘It is vital that there is confidence in the judiciary of each signatory to the Framework Decision. If the situation in Poland deteriorates and the draft law is passed then this will have a serious impact on the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers. This will place Poland’s position in the EAW scheme at peril.’

Gemma Lindfield is an experienced extradition barrister and has been involved in some of the most complex and high-profile cases. She frequently appears in the High Court on matters of complexity. Gemma is ranked in Chambers and Partners 2017 as a leader in the field of extradition at the London Bar.

This article was first published on Lexis®Library on 10 May 2017.  The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.