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Brexit Poses Challenges to Cross-Border Crime Co-operation

A new paper has highlighted the possible “complex and far-reaching” challenges that Scotland’s police and prosecutors could be presented with when tackling cross-border crime after Brexit. 

Ongoing Co-operation is Essential

The paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe: Security, Judicial Co-operation and Law Enforcement, is the latest in a series looking at ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’. It sets out the impact of withdrawing from the EU’s cross-border security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation measures without putting effective substitute arrangements in place.

The Scottish Government is of the view that co-operation in criminal justice, security and law enforcement is vital, and that continued access to measures such as Europol, the European Arrest Warrant and Schengen Information System II is essential.

Cross-Border Crime

It notes that law enforcement agencies have always had to address cross-border crime – where a person commits a crime in one jurisdiction and flees to another, or where evidence needs to be obtained from another jurisdiction.

These types of crimes include cybercrime, terrorism, trafficking in illicit goods (including drugs and firearms) and in people, as well as serious organised crime, which increasingly has an international dimension. Within the EU, Scotland benefits from legal rules and practical arrangements which facilitate co-operation in tackling transnational criminality, and Scotland's police, prosecutors and courts have direct connections with their counterparts in other Member States which facilitate co-operation.

The Government has also emphasised the need for Scotland’s separate legal and judicial system to be taken into account during the negotiation process, including the importance of our law enforcement agencies maintaining direct links with their EU counterparts.

“From cybercrime, to human trafficking and terrorism - international crime has never respected borders,” explained Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. “Over the years Scotland’s police and prosecution services have built strong links with their EU counterparts to help keep people safe.”

“Withdrawal from the current regime of co-operation, including for example the European Arrest Warrant system, could mean returning to a more fragmented system of seeking assistance across borders,” he said. “We risk being left behind as our European counterparts develop more effective tools to deal with present and future threats.”

Key Measures

Looking at the paper in more detail, it sets out a series of EU measures that the Scottish Government believes to be vital in tackling cross-border crime, including:

  • Membership of Europol, which supports efforts to tackle terrorism, human trafficking and cybercrime.
  • The European Arrest Warrant, which has put in place procedures to transfer individuals quickly and smoothly between EU member states to face justice. In the last five years 70 extraditions to Scotland and 361 extraditions from Scotland were carried out under the European Arrest Warrant system.
  • The European Investigation Order which provides an effective system to request assistance in criminal investigations from other EU countries.
  • Schengen Information System II which facilitates real-time alerts on wanted or missing persons as well as stolen or missing property. In 2017 over 5,000 hit reports on UK alerts were received from EU partners.
  • Participation in Eurojust, which facilitates judicial co-operation between Member States. It provides for the use of Joint Investigation Teams (JITs), which enables law enforcement to, for example, conduct joint searches and gather evidence in accordance with each country’s rules.
  • The European Protection Order which grants victims the same protection from their aggressor across Member States.

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Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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