Criminals may not be brought to justice as quickly under a no-deal Brexit as police lose access to European databases on suspects, National Crime Agency boss warns
- Steve Rodhouse today told MPs that alternative systems would be ‘sub-optimal’
- Even if a deal is reached the UK is expected to lose 40,000 criminal alerts data
- Brexit talks are going down to the wire, with level playing field the main obstacle
Director of operations Steve Rodhouse today told MPs that losing access to European databases would likely lead to more protracted investigations.
Not being able to use the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) would mean it could take months instead of days to access records.
And even if a deal is reached the UK is expected to lose access to the SIS II criminal database, containing around 40,000 alerts on dangerous criminals and wanted suspects, when the transition period ends on December 31.
But Government sources stressed that, in such scenario, Britain would ‘return to tried and tested mechanisms of cooperation via Interpol and bilateral channels’.
Appearing virtually before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Mr Rodhouse said: ‘We have been clear throughout that one of our concerns, in the event of a non-negotiated outcome, is that investigations could take longer.
‘And of course if investigations take longer, it can mean that serious criminals are not held to account as quickly.’
NCA director of operations Steve Rodhouse today told MPs that losing access to European databases would likely lead to more protracted investigations
With Brexit talks still at an impasse and the clock ticking to reach an agreement, senior officers at the NCA and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) have been stressing the security implications of No Deal.
In one letter last month Mr Rodhouse said EU law enforcement agency Europol is the tool ‘we are most concerned about from a serious organised crime perspective’.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt warned that losing access to passenger name records (PNRs) would have a ‘major impact’ on counter-terrorism policing and work tackling serious and organised crime.
At today’s session Labour’s Diane Abbott repeatedly asked if losing access to European data would ‘materially harm our crime-fighting capacity’.
Mr Rodhouse replied: ‘I think I’ve been clear that these capabilities are hugely important to us and we would not wish to lose them. I’ve been clear from the start that the alternative powers and systems are sub-optimal.’
Mr Rodhouse said EU law enforcement agency Europol (Hague headquarters pictured) is the tool ‘we are most concerned about from a serious organised crime perspective’
Mr Rodhouse told MPs that UK law enforcement agencies will instead rely on other EU member states circulating data on the Interpol database from January 1, but explained there would be a ‘gap’ if they do not.
He said 135,000 Interpol alerts have been added to the UK’s Police National Computer (PNC) system and border agency’s warning index, with 37,000 person alerts circulated by the UK on the Interpol system.
But he said he did not know how many of the 40,000 SIS II alerts had been put on the Interpol system by other EU member states.
‘In the future we will be reliant on EU member states not just using SIS II to circulate the data, but also to circulate it in the form of Interpol alerts, which we can then accept, and then put on to our core system,’ he said.
‘Now, I cannot be sure of the extent to which all and every EU member state will make use of the Interpol route.
‘It may be there is almost complete compliance, in which case the data gap will be minimal. But I think it would be right for me to raise prospect that there will be some EU member states, in some circumstances, who don’t use Interpol alerts.
‘And of course, if the UK doesn’t have access that provides a gap for us.’
A Government spokesperson said: ‘At the end of the transition period we will be able to deliver all the advantages of leaving the EU, including controlling our own borders.
‘The safety and security of our citizens remains the Government’s top priority and the UK will continue to be a global leader on security and one of the safest countries in the world in any scenario.
‘After we leave the EU we will be able to make tangible changes that will make the British people safer, including banning foreign criminals from entering the UK.’