Wednesday 17 January 2018

Former police chief warns of warrants chaos after Brexit

Hugh Orde, who served as PSNI chief constable between 2002 and 2009. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Hugh Orde, who served as PSNI chief constable between 2002 and 2009. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

A former PSNI chief constable has warned of a bureaucratic nightmare and victims left without justice in the wake of Brexit.

Figures obtained by this newspaper show 81 people have been extradited across the Border in both directions in the past six years on foot of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

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

But with the UK outside of the bloc, doubts have been raised around whether the country will still be able to tap into the EAW system.

Hugh Orde, who served as PSNI chief constable between 2002 and 2009, described the EAW as an "essential element in the policing armoury".

"It is a modern approach to policing which we will lose, and the Republic will lose a capacity in terms of importing and exporting people from the UK, which I would have thought was quite significant in terms of the proximity of our two countries," he told this newspaper.

"I am utterly unpersuaded that there is any legal way for us [the UK] to keep the European Arrest Warrant when we leave [the EU]."

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) show that of the 81 people extradited across the Border on foot of EAWs, 32 suspected criminals were extradited to Northern Ireland from the Republic, and 49 in the other direction. Security officials have warned that the potential loss of the EAW will impact the ability of police north and south to pursue criminals who use the Border to evade prosecution.

Since 2010, 74 EAWs have been received in Northern Ireland from the Republic, with 23 in 2013 alone, and 17 last year.

Some 67 people have been arrested on foot of those warrants, including 13 last year.

Over that same period, 46 EAWs were issued to the Republic from Northern Ireland, including eight last year.

More broadly, 176 EAWs were received into Ireland from EU member states in 2015, according to separate figures from the Department of Justice, including 36 from the UK.

Some 92 EAWs were issued by Ireland in the same year, including 66 to the UK.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said it is a priority that the UK remains part of the EAW system after Brexit. But Mr Orde said he is unconvinced that Britain will be able to retain the legal mechanism.

"In the old world, if you wanted to charge a French national, a German national, a Polish national, you had to take the whole criminal case to that country for the trial to be held there. In the modern world, where cross-border crime has exploded, that is a bureaucratic nightmare, it will cost millions and will be less effective and will certainly not give victims justice. They need to come up with something that looks like an EAW, and I'm not persuaded they can do it."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged students not to take Europe's peace for granted as he opened Athlone Community College, in Co Westmeath yesterday.

"If governments in all countries do not listen to people, do not hear the strong voices, do not deal with the problems as they arise, then people tend to drift left and right and can cause complications," he told the students.

Irish Independent

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