Sunday 21 October 2018

Cross-Border policing fears shared by Garda and PSNI

‘Bated breath’: Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy. Picture: Steve Humphreys
‘Bated breath’: Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Ggardaí and the PSNI have expressed concern about the impact of Brexit on rural crime in the Border region.

Cross-Border communication forms a key part of how An Garda Síochána carries out rural crime investigations in areas along the Border with Northern Ireland.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy told the Oireachtas Justice Committee yesterday that gardaí are "waiting with bated breath" to see what impact Brexit will have on policing.

It came as he revealed Operation Thor, which targets organised crime and burglaries in rural areas, has led to 8,300 arrests since its implementation in November 2015.

Thor has also led to more than 34,000 searches and 203,771 patrols.

"Burglary is not just an economic crime, it is one that can have a devastating impact on people emotionally and personally," Mr Leahy said.

Brexit is a factor gardaí are adapting to so working relationships could be maintained with police colleagues in Northern Ireland, he added.

The PSNI's assistant chief constable, Alan Todd, told the committee much of the Brexit concern centres on EU legislation that enables the sharing of information across borders and responding to European arrest warrants.

"It is difficult to plan for it because you don't really know what it [Brexit] means," said Mr Todd.

"Even getting government to define the parameters or working assumptions has not been straightforward because of the negotiating position, the changing situation.

"It is fair to say what we are doing is looking at the range of work we are doing and have done over recent times on a cross-Border basis, and looking at which of those pieces lie on European instruments or European legislation and regulations and trying to work out how, if we lost those, we maintain what we currently have."

The European arrest warrant is frequently used by gardaí and PSNI officers to apprehend suspects either side of the Border.

Other systems are also facilitated by the EU to enable the legal sharing of data and information across the Border.

Mr Todd said it was vital such police work was able to continue in the North and the Republic with new systems post-Brexit. "The Border does have challenges for us as law enforcement agencies and we have learned how to work with that and, having got to that space, we need to learn how to not lose it," he said.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Finn said clarity is needed on Brexit.

"Getting some solid information on exactly how it is going to work out is the key factor we would like to get some clarity on," he said.

Irish Independent

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