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Arresting Developments? Restricting the Enforcement of the UK's Universal Jurisdiction Provisions


  • Sarah Williams

    1. Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales
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    • Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. I wish to thank Robert Cryer, Jamie Glister, Bob Sullivan and Colin Warbrick, as well as the anonymous referees, for their helpful comments on previous drafts. I also wish to acknowledge Eleanor Doyle-Marwick for her research assistance. All errors remain my own. This article was prepared with the assistance of the Law Society of New South Wales Legal Scholarship Support Fund.


Recently introduced legislative amendments limit the issue of arrest warrants on the application of a private prosecutor where jurisdiction is based on universal jurisdiction. The amendments addressed a ‘loophole’ in English law whereby a private prosecutor could seek and be granted an arrest warrant, generally in respect of an individual on a short term visit to the UK, even though the consent of the Attorney General would be required for the prosecution to continue. This article argues that these amendments addressed legitimate evidentiary and diplomatic relations concerns, are consistent with the UK's international obligations, and are in line with the UK's policy on the exercise of universal jurisdiction and with international trends. However, given the limited category of persons who were subject to such arrest warrants under the previous law and the practice of the UK concerning special missions, the amendments may be of limited practical significance.