Home / Insights / Blog / Police Chief Warns of Losing European Arrest Warrant

Police Chief Warns of Losing European Arrest Warrant

Police Chief Warns of Losing European Arrest Warrant

European Arrest Warrants Following Brexit

The national policing lead for Brexit has warned that UK police could lose European arrest warrant powers to arrest foreign suspected criminals on the spot if EU policing agreements fall through after Brexit.

A downgrade to simply relying on the Interpol system would force British police to obtain a warrant from the courts for the arrest of foreign criminals, according to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin.

Britain’s withdrawal from EU agreements could also see the UK lose access to vital European databases containing information including wanted individual alerts, criminal DNA samples, and fingerprints and airline passenger information.

There is currently no policing fall back to avoid an abrupt cut-off in police information sharing should the UK leave the EU without an agreement on March 29th. In addition to potentially enabling foreign criminals to abscond from justice in Britain, Scotland Yard officials estimate that the loss of EU policing pacts could cost British police £20m a year in additional bureaucracy.

The Ministry of Justice has said that is currently looking into whether Britain has enough trained magistrates to deal with the additional workload in the event that no transition deal is reached.

Loss of “essential” criminal records data could aid absconding criminals

Outlining his concerns regarding Brexit in February, DAC Martin particularly emphasised the importance of access to the European criminal records information system for British police.

Mr. Martin emphasised:

“Those criminal records are so essential in us knowing who is with us, what crimes they’ve committed before.”

Under the current system, UK police can have information on an EU national’s criminal background returned within six days. Without the system however, a similar search would take approximately 66 days – with police therefore likely unable to keep suspects in custody until the search finished. Police would therefore need to release any suspect and then try and re-locate and arrest them again if the search confirmed that the suspect had past criminal convictions.

“If we don’t get information back in a timely fashion, I think there is a real risk if they think they’re likely to be incarcerated or likely to be charged, I think [absconding] is a very real possibility,” Mr Martin warned.

The loss of the European arrest warrant and reliance on court warrants to arrest foreign suspects would also be significantly limiting for British police.

Just 50-60 people were extradited from Britain each year before EU warrants came into force, whilst last year alone UK police arrested 1,453 suspects using the European warrant. Meanwhile, the Schengen database was accessed by British police 539m times in 2017.

Police negotiating with individual EU states over new policing agreements

The loss of EU powers could directly impact the number of police on the streets, as officers are obliged to spend more time searching for information.

“If something takes two or three times as long as it was taking you before, that’s another couple of hours you’re not back on the streets and you’re not being visible doing whatever your core role is,” DAC Martin said.

The added inefficiency will also increase the pressure on police resources, with government cuts meaning that the police have already lost 20% of their funding since the beginning of austerity measures.

Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick has voiced similar concerns regarding the potential loss of European policing agreements after Brexit, confirming last year that she was in talks with European police chiefs to maintain co-operation on an individual, country-by-country basis.

Since the EU referendum, Dick has implemented a new EU co-ordination unit to “help local forces to understand to how to work most effectively across Europe after we exit the EU, under whatever circumstances.”

West London’s Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers

We have one of the leading teams of criminal defence specialists in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team. Call us now in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.