Brexit Poses 'Risks' To Fight Against Terror If UK Leaves EU Anti-Crime Deals - Watchdog

Biometrics commissioner "deeply concerned" as Lib Dem Layla Moran tells HuffPost UK leaving pacts "will make Britain less safe".

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A police watchdog has said they are “deeply concerned” about the UK’s ability to deal with terrorism if it loses access to EU crime-fighting databases after Brexit.

In a little noticed report published last week, biometrics commissioner Paul Wiles said losing access to EU mechanisms to exchange suspects, criminal records, fingerprints and DNA data would be “detrimental” and pose “risks” to UK law enforcement.

The commissioner acknowledged that access to these databases was subject to the currently deadlocked negotiations on a future UK-EU relationship.

But he stressed the importance of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), Prum, which shares fingerprints and DNA across Europe, and the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which allows suspects to be extradited between EU member states.

In his annual report, Wiles said: “If the outcome of the negotiations is that we lose access to EU exchange mechanisms such as ECRIS, Prüm and the EAW then that will be detrimental to the UK’s ability to deal with inter-European criminal activity (including terrorism) and international crime with European links, unless other mechanisms, with similar capabilities, can be agreed upon and established.

“I welcome the work being done by the ICCC (International Crime Coordination Centre) and ACRO (the criminal records office) to plan for such an eventuality but I remain deeply concerned about the potential risks for UK law enforcement of the loss of these exchange mechanisms with the countries of the EU.”

Police and Brexit supporters in parliament square on January 31, when the UK left the EU
Police and Brexit supporters in parliament square on January 31, when the UK left the EU

Boris Johnson has committed to taking the UK out of the European Arrest Warrant once the Brexit transition ends on December 31, calling for the creation instead of “fast-track extradition agreements” with extra safeguards, based on EU deals with Norway and Iceland.

But the commissioner, who reviews the police’s use of DNA and fingerprints, said the EAW was “clearly” useful to the UK, which made 1,105 requests for the arrest of suspects overseas and received more than 60,000 between 2014 and 2018.

He warned that without a new system with “very similar capabilities” to the EAW, the UK would risk falling back on European extradition laws dating from 1957 which will be “much slower and less productive”.

The Prum database has helped UK police identify serious offenders, including perpetrators of violent and sexual offences, through exchanges of DNA profiles and unsolved crime stains, Wiles said in his report.

He said there are “clearly serious questions” about how law enforcement will be able to replicate the exchanges if the UK leaves Prum.

Wiles said ECRIS is “vital” for the sharing of conviction and fingerprint and called on the government to maintain access or set up an alternative system “with the same capability to share conviction data and associated biometrics with other countries in Europe”.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is running to be the party’s leader, told HuffPost UK: “Leaving these vital crime fighting deals make it easier for thousands of dangerous criminals to evade justice.

“The government’s reckless decision to cut the UK off from the European Arrest Warrant, Prum and other crime fighting pacts will make our country less safe.

“Crime is increasingly a cross-border problem, and Liberal Democrats will continue to argue for the closest possible co-operation with our European partners to tackle serious threats such as terrorism and organised crime.”


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