Local Lib Dem campaigner and policing candidate Kate Smith highlights gaps in the armoury of Forces like Derbyshire’s, once the UK leaves the EU 

August 17, 2020 1:48 PM
By Kate Smith Derbyshire Liberal Democrat Police Crime Commissioner candidate


Local Lib Dem campaigner and policing candidate Kate Smith highlights gaps in the armoury of Forces like Derbyshire's, once the UK leaves the EU

After 31 December 2020, UK Police Forces will no longer be able to access Schengen Information System 2 (SIS2). Through this data-sharing system, UK Police asked for details of people of interest roughly 603 million times in 2019. SIS2 covers over 79 million people, who may be wanted or missing criminals or alleged offenders, and live in or have escaped to an EU country.

"We are also losing vital access to numerous other shared services and databases", says Kate. "There is the 2005 Prüm Convention, which enables exchange of offenders' DNA details (and a range of other mutual help, including stopping illegal immigrants). There is Eurojust, which acts as a judicial clearing-house once individuals have been charged. There is ECRIS, the European Criminal Records Information System, which enables EU countries to inform each other about convictions almost instantaneously. One of the best known is EUROPOL, which allows UK agencies access to passenger data, fingerprints, vehicle registrations and criminal records, again fairly instantly."

Possibly the most discussed EU criminal justice tool since the Referendum of 23 June 2016 is the European Arrest Warrant or EAW. Using direct negotiation between justice officials, this allows extradition of suspects from one EU member country to another. The current average time to achieve this is 48 days; once we are without it, it's likely to take about a year.

Deputy Assistant Commander Richard Martin, who is Brexit Lead for the National Police Chiefs'Council (NPCC), is a worried man. The ponderous 'usual diplomatic channels' will be a poor replacement for the speedy EAW, and access to criminal intelligence databases like SIS2 will simply come to an end. "The UK is a huge transport hub, and we are, among other things, a target for Islamist extremists, drug-runners, people trafficking, cross-border money laundering, smuggling and illicit arms dealing", he says.

Kate Smith agrees with DAC Martin, and adds, "We are about to be a Third Country from the EU's point of view. So many aspects of crime and the need for information about crime these days are international. Leaving the EU and being unable to access SIS2 or EUROPOL will seriously undermine the UK's security and ability to tackle crime. It may be possible to sign unilateral Extradition Treaties with one EU country at a time, but all this will take ages, and so will extraditions themselves. A lot depends on speed of reaction, and speed is just what we will lose with Brexit. Virtually all we will have left is INTERPOL, which is useful as far as it goes, but heavily overworked already ."

And what does all this mean for the Derbyshire Police Force Area ?

Take the example of Operation Venetic, which took many months but whose results were reported in the UK in early July 2020*. Derbyshire Constabulary plays an important role in the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU, based near Junction 26 of the M1). The EMSOU co-operated with Forces in France and the Netherlands to dismantle a multinational encrypted phone network called Encrochat, and apprehended large numbers of its multiple criminal users. Among other outcomes, the UK part of this operation seized well over £2m in cash and 52 kg of Class A drugs, and arrested 29 individuals, from Derbyshire to London and Luton.

Says Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate Kate Smith, "The EMSOU has some of the country's foremost experts in digital decryption; the National Crime Agency also played a part. Brexit won't change these two things. But Operation Venetic would never have achieved what it did without EU collaboration via EUROPOL (and, latterly, Eurojust).

"After 31 December 2020, if cross-border criminal conspiracies like this one are to be combated, the Derbyshire Force will have to spend a lot more time (and therefore money) asking for information from EU and other agencies, just as Mali or Kazakhstan would. It's not impossible to solve crime while waiting in a queue, but it's much more difficult and the successes will be fewer, for sure."