Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Police chief fears criminals could escape in no-deal Brexit scenario

Richard Martin emphasised it was crucial to share data with EU partners

There are fears that criminals would exploit any Brexit-related delays for police. AFP.
There are fears that criminals would exploit any Brexit-related delays for police. AFP.

Any form of Brexit will harm UK police efforts to combat crime and detain alleged offenders, a senior officer has warned. At risk are the ability to share information with EU partners over wanted or missing people and the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which allows the speedy extradition of suspects from member states.

Deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin urged EU and British officials to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and instead hammer out an agreement that supported the “vital” sharing of data with European partners.

“We have been working closely with the Home Office to prepare for all eventualities including losing access to current EU law enforcement tools. We have contingencies in place for each of the EU tools but they are not like-for-like replacements and will not be as efficient or effective as the tools we currently use,” he said in a statement.

“We are prepared for the worst-case scenario, as the public would expect. Forces will be ready to respond to the challenges a no deal EU exit would bring but we continue to hope a deal that protects vital data-sharing and cooperation is reached - it is in the interests of both UK and EU citizens.”

The loss of the EAW would mean police could not arrest wanted persons on the spot and have to go to a magistrates court to obtain the permission to do so.

Among the other tools the UK is worried could be affected are the Schengen Information System, which allows member states to share information on wanted or missing people. British police accessed this 539 million times in 2017.

“My fear is if we don’t get information back in a timely fashion there is a real risk criminals could abscond. Those criminal records are so crucial,” Mr Martin told journalists in London.

There are also concerns about Europol, the EU-wide agency that allows greater cooperation, and the European Criminal Records Information System which conducts criminal record checks on individuals from member states. On average this currently takes six days – compared to 66 outside the EU.

While ]officials are hard at work formulating an alternative systems, including creating a new no-deal Brexit unit, Mr Martin admitted they were “more bureaucratic and slower”.

He warned that criminals would be able to use the changes and potential delays to their advantage.

“Criminals are entrepreneurs of crime and I’m sure they’re looking at their business model. If there’s a gap to exploit, I’m sure they would.”

“If something takes two or three times as long, that will be another two or three hours you’re not on the streets.”

Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29 but the government has thus far failed to agree a deal that the UK parliament has voted through – raising the prospects of a no-deal Brexit, a catastrophic event in the eyes of many.

Updated: February 20, 2019 04:56 PM

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