Policing the European Arrest Warrant: An empirical study of a transnational policing tool

Research Institution / Organisation

King's College London

Principal Researcher

Estelle Marks

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2015

Research Context

This study aims to illuminate the role of policing actors in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system. The EAW has been fully operational for over a decade and although it is ostensibly a system of judicial cooperation it could not function without the active involvement and cross-border cooperation of policing actors. The role of police agencies is noticeably absent from the literature on the EAW and empirical research on cross-border police cooperation in general lags behind rapid developments in the practices it seeks to explain. Examining the role of police agencies in the EAW system represents an opportunity to broaden academic understanding of cross-border police cooperation as well as illustrating the role that policing actors play in the system itself. This study focuses on the implementation and operation of the EAW system in the UK, it will be the first to empirically examine the role of policing actors in the context of the EAW.

This study will help form a better understanding of the EAW system itself and represents an opportunity to investigate a narrow aspect of transnational police cooperation in significant detail. In response to the globalisation of crime and security threats, policing itself is globalising. Police increasingly communicate across borders, exchange information, conduct cross-border operations, and respond to transnational threats. The transnational policing field is complex and characterised by interconnected polycentric power structures. Significant pieces of work have sought to describe the field and the complex nature of the networks that constitute it. This is not a straightforward exercise because, like domestic policing, transnational police activity is in large part informal, discretionary, and takes place in low visibility environments. Partly because of this and partly because practice in the transnational policing field develops very quickly, empirical research into current practices is sparse. Detailed exploration of transnational police cooperation ‘on the ground’ is needed to contribute to theoretical understandings of how policing power is changing, how transnational networks are developing and being utilised, and how those networks co-articulate in practice. An in depth study of policing practice within the EAW framework offers an excellent opportunity to illuminate a tiny slice of transnational police cooperation in detail. It represents a manageable and potentially analytically satisfying route to contributing much needed empirical evidence to wider debates about transnational police cooperation.

The study aims to:

  • Explore the role of policing actors in the EAW system.
  • Describe the processes that policing actors go through when arrest warrants are issued and executed.
  • Describe and explain the modes of communication between policing actors across borders when issuing and executing arrest warrants, paying special attention to the organisations networks that facilitate this communication. 
  • Describe and explain the supporting role that formal methods of cross-border cooperation play in the EAW system. 
  • Explain when and why policing actors will utilise formal methods of cross-border cooperation, including the EAW itself.
  • Explore, describe and explain different national practices of policing actors within the EAW system.

Research Methodology

This research utilises a case study methodology, which is appropriate for the study of contemporary phenomena within its real world context. The case study methodology is both rigorous and flexible, requiring strict adherence to data collection, storage and analysis protocols, whilst admitting multiple forms of evidence. This allows the researcher to build the most complete picture possible of the case under investigation. This study focuses on policing practice relating to the EAW in UK. It also analyses and compares transnational cooperation in the context of the EAW between policing actors in the UK and those Spain, Poland and Ireland.

The study includes data from 63 semi-structure qualitative interviews and a small number of direct observations. The interviews included 92 participants, in 38 organisations, across 7 legal jurisdictions.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

August 2020
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