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Case law

CJEU, C-367/16 Dawid Piotrowski

January 2018 - Belgium

European Arrest Warrant

On 23 January 2018, the Grand Chamber issued its judgment in relation to the execution in Belgium of an EAW issued by Poland against Mr Piotrowski, a Polish national resident in Belgium, for the purposes of executing two prison sentences. In relation to one of the convictions on which the EAW was based, Mr Piotrowski was 17, and therefore a minor under Belgian law, at the time of the offence. As the age of criminal responsibility is 18 in Belgium, the competent Belgian investigating judge refused to execute the arrest warrant. The Belgian public prosecutor challenged the investigating judge’s decision, on the grounds that a minor over the age of 16 may nonetheless be held criminally liable under Belgian law where based upon an individual assessment.

The referring court asked the Court whether a minor may be surrendered in the execution of an EAW. For reference, Article 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the EAW specifies that the grounds for mandatory non-execution of an EAW include, in Article 3(3), where the person who is the subject of the EAW may not, owing to his age, be held criminally liable for the acts on which the arrest warrant is based under the law of the executing State. The Court found that in order to decide whether a minor who is the subject of an EAW is to be surrendered, the executing judicial authority must simply verify whether the person concerned has reached the minimum age required to be regarded as criminally responsible in the executing Member State for the acts on which such a warrant is based, without having to consider any additional conditions, relating to an assessment based on the circumstances of the individual, to which the prosecution and conviction of a minor for such acts are specifically subject under the law of that Member State.

The Court reiterated its previous case-law that the refusal to execute the EAW is an exception which must be interpreted strictly. Therefore, the mandatory ground for refusal to surrender applies only to those minors who are the subject of an EAW and who, under the law of the executing Member State, have not yet reached the age at which they are regarded as criminally responsible for the acts on which the warrant issued against them is based. Moreover, the Court confirmed that it is for the issuing judicial authority to apply the specific rules governing criminal law penalties for offences committed by minors in its Member State. The executing judicial authority is not required to apply the rules of the executing State to determine whether the person subject to the EAW may be held criminally responsible, as a re-examination of the case by the executing judicial authority would infringe and render ineffective the principle of mutual recognition. The Court confirmed that the observance of fundamental rights and the rights of children falls primarily within the responsibility of the issuing Member State, which must be presumed to be complying with EU law.

The Italian and Romanian Governments observed that if the executing judicial authorities consider the information disclosed by the issuing Member State to be insufficient to enable them to adopt a decision on surrender, Article 15(2) of Framework Decision 2002/584 allows them to request necessary supplementary information. The Court indicated that this option should be treated as a last resort in exceptional cases in which the executing judicial authority considers that it does not have the official evidence necessary to adopt a decision on surrender as a matter of urgency.

You can read the full judgment here.

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