Police Scotland international unit arrested 78 people wanted across the EU last year
Seventy-eight people on Europol’s wanted list were arrested in Scotland last year using European Arrest Warrants
Scottish Crime Campus, Gartcosh - Image credit: Police Scotland
Seventy-eight people on Europol’s wanted list were arrested by Police Scotland’s International Assistance Unit last year using European Arrest Warrants (EAWs).
The unit – which acts as a single point of contact for all international issues affecting Police Scotland – also oversaw the extradition of 71 people wanted by EU member states and handled 950 Interpol enquiries and 34 requests for cross-border surveillance.
Meanwhile, 23 Scots who were wanted in the UK were arrested under EAWs in other European countries.
The figures were released today as Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Lord Advocate James Wolffe visited the International Assistance Unit to highlight importance of international cooperation in policing ahead of a meeting of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce.
The visit to the unit – which is based at the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh – included meeting two Romanian police officers who are currently assisting with investigations involving Romanians as victims, perpetrators and witnesses of crime.
The Justice Secretary said: “Organised crime and terrorism do not respect borders and it is vital that our police service can work with counterparts in Europe and across the world to help keep Scotland safe.
“The excellent results achieved by our International Assistance Unit shows that this collaboration is currently working well.
“Yet dragging Scotland out of the EU places huge doubts over our Europol membership and participation in the European Arrest Warrant.
“This would have serious implications for the safety of Scottish communities, meaning it is much harder to identify, arrest and extradite criminals who travel here – as well as making it more difficult and time consuming to apprehend Scottish criminals who flee overseas.”
The average time from Police Scotland receiving a European Arrest Warrant to arrest or surrender is currently 42 days – which compared with an average of nine months prior to the EAW being in place.
Matheson has noted that losing access to the EAW system through leaving the EU could mean the country reverting to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition, involving a much slower process where the average timescale was nine months.
The Lord Advocate said: “The successful investigations and prosecutions undertaken by law enforcement in Scotland demonstrate the enormous benefits derived from the excellent international co-operation we have established.
“This work ensures the safety and security of people living in Scotland and we are fully committed to building on the strong links we have with countries elsewhere in Europe and around the world.
“Scottish prosecutors and police exchange information and intelligence with many other countries and this is helping us to secure the recovery of evidence we would not otherwise be able to."
Potential problems with extradition of criminals is just one of the issues that was discussed at a summit in November on issues facing the justice system after Brexit.
Home Office arrested and removed 26 European nationals from Scotland for sleeping rough on the streets in a move now deemed unlawful
Britain is currently able to share information on criminals and terror threats in real time with EU counterparts
The presiding officer had said the European Union Continuity Bill was outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament
The EU has listed sanctions that could be made against the UK if it breaks rules during the transition period