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Europol exit jeopardises Scots policing effort

Europol exit jeopardises Scots policing effort

Police Scotland is one of a number of partners to be represented at Europol - Photo credit: PA

Scotland’s fight against international crime and terrorism would be hampered if the UK walks away from a pan-European crime agency, senior officers have warned. 

MPs are to vote today on opting back into 35 EU criminal justice and law enforcement measures, including membership of Europol.

An ex-Grampian Police detective superintendent, Europol Head of Cabinet Brian Donald was last week joined by law enforcement from across the UK for a summit on international crime. 

“We’ve been speaking for a long time, trying to make the point – and I think to be fair, the Home Secretary gets this – Europol is one part of the EU mechanism that works,” said Donald. 

“It’s caught up in a wider political discussion – that’s a matter for UK domestic politics. But Europol works and Europol works for the UK.” 

Police Scotland is one of a number of partners, including the National Crime Agency and customs, to be represented within the UK liaison bureau at Europol. 

“It would be the wrong decision on an operational level for the UK to say, ‘we don’t want to be part of this’,” added Donald. “They [UK Government] already have said, ‘we don’t want to be part of this’, they’ve opted out. 

“They have until the 1st of December to opt back in again otherwise we really have to look [at things going forward]. We’ve got a British director and a British chief of staff, it’s the last thing that we want to see.”

Referrals to Europol have risen sharply with the creation of a single service. In the year before Police Scotland went live – 2012-13 – referrals numbered 298. Since April 2013, it has risen to more than 1,500.

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Iain Livingstone warned exiting would leave them with the “impossible” task of developing bilateral relationships with multiple layers of law enforcement across the continent.

“We’d have to readjust our approach, we’d have to go back to bilateral arrangements and all the challenges that that would bring,” he said.

“Our officers and staff… increasingly are facing an international and European challenge and one of the ways that they can meet that challenge is by utilising the support that Europol provides. It would have a significant impact.”  

Read the most recent article written by Alan Robertson - Time for Michael Matheson to live up to his motto of ‘smart on crime’

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