Saturday 25 November 2017

Brexit will make it much easier for crime gangs to avoid capture

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton. Photo: Damien Eagers
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton. Photo: Damien Eagers
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The loss of the European Arrest Warrant in the UK following Brexit will impact the ability of police north and south to pursue criminals who use the Border to evade prosecution, the PSNI has warned.

Chief Constable George Hamilton (inset right) said dissident Republicans make extensive use of the Border to frustrate counter terrorism investigations.

He also warned of significant interaction between organised crime gangs on both sides of the Border.

In a detailed note to a House of Lords inquiry looking at the impact of Brexit on Irish-UK relations, the force's top officer said the loss of the European Arrest Warrant, without replacement, will encourage criminals to believe they can escape justice by fleeing from one jurisdiction to another.

Some 43pc of Northern Ireland organised crime groups have a cross-Border dimension, the submission noted.

"The loss of European Arrest Warrants will impact on the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána's ability to pursue those who use the land Border to evade prosecution," the Chief Constable said.

"This will affect counter terrorism, serious/organised crime and volume crime."

Cooperation exists between the PSNI and gardaí at every level, Mr Hamilton wrote, adding that Brexit won't change that. However, he said there were legislative implications from the Brexit vote.

The referendum result means the UK potentially won't be a party to the rules underpinning the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) once it completes the Brexit process.

The EU has used the EAW to speed up extradition procedures since 2004.

"The effect of the withdrawal of the European Arrest Warrant, without replacement, will be to encourage criminals to believe that they can escape justice by fleeing from one jurisdiction to another, which could lead to further abuse of the land Border between the United Kingdom and Ireland," Mr Hamilton said.

The submission points out that the "porous" Border between north and south runs for 360km and that dissident republicans use it to "frustrate counter terrorism efforts".

The Chief Constable said Brexit throws up the potential for "organised abuse" of the common travel area (CTA) as the immigration policy between the UK and Europe diverges.

"There has been a substantial increase in the number of foreign national organised crime groups known to be involved in organised crime across Northern Ireland," he said.

"The nationality of these organised crime groups means they do not operate exclusively in Northern Ireland, but take advantage of the CTA to travel to Ireland and back to Europe. Principal members of some of these organised crime groups reside in Ireland."

Mr Hamilton argued the CTA has "significant vulnerabilities" which can be exploited to enter and exit the UK and Ireland. He said it is essential that bilateral extradition procedures be introduced.

The submission states there that are no other 'external' EU borders that do not come with border controls.

Mr Hamilton stated the introduction of Border controls between north and south is unlikely to help, as it wouldn't be possible to effectively police the minor roads that cross the Border.

"It is also likely to be used by dissident Republican groups as a rationale for continuing violence," he said.

Gardaí said they are "actively monitoring" Brexit-related developments, and how it will impact on policing on the island.

Irish Independent

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