Almost 50 'hot pursuit' police chases stalled at the border
Suspected criminals are not being pursued across the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
According to Northern Ireland investigative news website, The Detail, 47 police vehicle chases were ended at the border in the past five years.
The majority of the pursuits were from the North into the Republic, with only six of the chases ending in arrests.
The Detail reported that the figures do not include the numbers of those who crossed the border before a police chase was commenced and those who moved from one side to the other by foot.
In a statement to Independent.ie, An Garda Síochána said it had an “agreed Cross-Border Policing Strategy” with the PSNI “to continue the excellent levels of cooperation between both police services in addressing crime and terrorist activities in all its manifestations”.
The statement explained: “Cross border cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland plays a key role in the fight against the various criminal activities which cause harm to communities on both sides of the border.”
In an All-Island Economy report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in January this year, it was recommended that new protocols be put in place in relation to cross-border police pursuits.
Under the heading ‘Island-wide harmonisation will reduce Black Market Activity’, the report says: “This Committee…recommends that protocols be constituted that will allow for both the PSNI and An Garda Síochána to pursue criminals into the opposite jurisdiction and in keeping with the law of that jurisdiction make an arrest.”
The Irish Department of Justice said in a statement: "There is no legal basis for police in either jurisdiction to exercise power in the other jurisdiction.
"There is, however, excellent cooperation between the two police forces, north and south of the border, and the cross border activities of criminals are dealt with as appropriate by the relevant police force. Where it arises that there is a danger of suspects seeking to cross the border to evade apprehension, the other police force can be notified and a coordinated response put in place.”
In a statement to Independent.ie, Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice said the PSNI and An Garda Síochána have an “excellent working relationship”.
The statement said: “The PSNI and An Garda Síochána have an excellent working relationship which provides a firm basis for practical and strategic co-operation between both services, including in emergency situations such as a hot pursuit.
“The Cross Border Policing Strategy, which has just been reviewed and updated, highlights the breadth of co-operation that exists. Both police services use all the tools available to them to ensure that those who would seek to exploit the border for criminal ends will not succeed.”
The department also said: “The Schengen Convention supplements the provisions of the Strasbourg Convention. Article 41 of the Schengen Convention (which is not a devolved matter) provides for hot pursuit by police from one state into another.
“This provision does not apply to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as neither the United Kingdom nor the Republic of Ireland signed up to Article 41.”
The department confirmed there were no plans by either the UK or Irish governments at present to sign up to the Convention “as neither is convinced that it would enhance or materially assist cross border policing in any way”.