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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ministers rule out cross-border pursuit of criminals

Greg Harkin

POLICE co-operation between north and south is at its smoothest ever, a conference has been told, but justice ministers have ruled out allowing officers to pursue criminals in either jurisdiction.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter joined his northern counterpart David Ford for the 10th annual cross-border organised crime seminar in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

They heard a warning from Garda Deputy Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan and PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris that dissidents posed a "severe" threat to stability. However, Mr Ford told the Irish Independent that allowing forces to go in "hot pursuit" of criminals into the other jurisdiction "isn't on the agenda".

"It has never even been discussed," he said, insisting that co-operation between gardai and the PSNI was working well.

The joint Organised Crime Task Force seminar was attended by senior officers from both forces, including members of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Mr Shatter used the conference to warn that crime gangs were disguising themselves as 'republican' organisations to cover for drug dealing, fuel laundering and armed robberies.

"Like many, I resent the fact that these groups want to characterise themselves as dissidents, but what these people do is dissent from democracy itself and the rule of law; they are not dissidents but criminal terrorists," he said.

Ms O'Sullivan said that daily contact between her officers and members of the PSNI was now an "essential" part of taking on criminal gangs.

While Mr Ford, who chairs the task force, said human trafficking was now a "priority" for officers north and south with several gangs involved in trafficking for prostitution.

Irish Independent

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