The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for Brexit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, has said British police officers and their European counterparts are dreading a no-deal Brexit.
"Crime is by its nature borderless….organised criminals are entrepreneurs of crime…and if there is a gap to exploit I'm sure they would," Mr. Martin said at a unique briefing at the newly formed International Crime Co-ordination Centre in central London.
He was asked by one journalist if Britain would be "less safe" if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Lucky this was sorted before Brexit….with an EU arrest warrant https://t.co/U7VjojDtnC— Geoff H (@ThisGeoff_H) 1 February 2019
"Will we be less safe? Yes. Will criminal gangs be running amok? No. But will it make our jobs more difficult, yes," Mr. Martin said.
He said one of the biggest worries about a no-deal Brexit was that the Schengen Information System (SIS) would be switched off for British police forces.
UK Police Check EU Criminal Database 539 Million Times a Year
"We are planning for the worst case scenario. If we leave the EU without a deal we have to fall back on contingency plans. We currently make 539 million checks a year on SIS," Mr. Martin told reporters.
If an individual is arrested or their name comes up during a police investigation in the UK an officer will check the Police National Computer, which will automatically make a search of SIS if they are an EU national.
Currently 17 percent of people who end up in custody suites in the UK are foreign nationals, a rate that goes up to 27 percent in London.
Mr. Martin said at present it usually takes at most six days to find out if an EU national has a criminal record in their home country or on the continent but if there is a no-deal Brexit nations like France, Spain and Germany would become "Group Two" countries and he estimated it could take up to 66 days to get the desired information from their police databases.
He said if it took 66 days to find out from the Polish authorities — in the absence of SIS — if an arrested person was wanted for murder in Poland, there was a "very high possibility" they would abscond or be wrongly given bail.
Under UK law it is only possible to detain someone for 24 hours without charge, unless they are arrested for a terrorist offence in which case it is 14 days.
He said it was estimated the extra paperwork for police would cost £20 million a year and would take officers off the beat for thousands of hours.
Mr. Martin said the EU Arrest Warrant would also no longer work in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Would Have to Go Back to Old Way of Extradition
"We currently extradite between 1,800 and 2,000 people a year on the EU Arrest Warrant. Before it was brought in we were extraditing about 60 a year," Mr. Martin said.
He said the system would revert back to the 1957 Convention on Extradition which would be a "much slower and clunkier process".
Finally, Corbyn wants full participation in all EU security databases and the EU Arrest Warrant.— Nicolai von Ondarza (@NvOndarza) 7 February 2019
But he should know that some EU states constitutions restrict the EAW only to EU members, and as thir country UK will have to negotiate a different mode of access to EU databases
Mr. Martin pointed to the recent case of drug smuggler Jamie Acourt, who went on the run from the UK, was arrested in Spain two years later and was "back within days" after an EU Arrest Warrant was served.
He contrasted that with the case of Jack Shepherd, who fled the country and was convicted in absentia of manslaughter after his date was killed in a speedboat accident on the river Thames.
Shepherd was arrested last month in Georgia and Mr. Martin said it would take "a massive amount of work to get him out of there".
"That process would be the same with EU countries if we have a no-deal Brexit," Mr. Martin told reporters.
Mr. Martin also pointed out that some countries, such as Germany, will not extradite their own nationals without an EU Arrest Warrant.
A no-deal Brexit would also lead to a lot of extra work for UK magistrates.
At present if there is an Interpol red notice on a criminal from the EU and he turns up in the UK, he could be detained and extradited on an EU Arrest Warrant.
But in a no-deal Brexit world the British police would have to release that person, keep them under surveillance and apply to a magistrate for a warrant, which might take several days before its granted.
Major Challenge for International Police Co-Operation
A Sputnik reporter asked him if international co-operation between UK and EU police forces, such as the one which led to the conviction and jailing of Spain-based British drugs baron Rob Dawes in France in December, would be more difficult after a no-deal Brexit.
"Yes. I'd use the example of a recent human trafficking case in this country. There was a joint investigation team. All signed up to the legal agreement and used all the same European systems and brought people to justice. Trying to do the same thing in the same way will be much more difficult," Mr. Martin told Sputnik.
Mr. Martin said a new fingerprint database, known as Prüm after the German town where the convention was signed, was due to come online later this year and would allow British police to access the fingerprint records of the 27 other EU countries' police forces.
But if there is a no-deal Brexit, Britain will be not be able to access the Prüm database.