Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-245)


23 JANUARY 2007

  Q240  David Winnick: Mr Kennedy, Eurojust, as we know, is the European body which deals with investigation and prosecution of serious organised crime and no crime is more serious than murder. In the last two days there have been the most serious allegations that the Northern Ireland police force at the time was in collusion with loyalist murder gangs and some 16 murders—obviously part of the United Kingdom and part of the European Union. Would your organisation have any role to play, any competence in looking into these allegations?

  Mr Kennedy: Eurojust is not an organisation that has any operational capacity to investigate or prosecute. We are in existence to support and help the national investigating and prosecuting authorities to be more effective when they are dealing with cross-border cases. I do not know if there is an investigation going on. If there is an investigation going on in Northern Ireland that needs to have some assistance from another European Union country, then we would be available to facilitate that. We do not have an investigative or prosecution power.

  Q241  David Winnick: The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has published her report and very serious allegations are contained in that report. It is obviously up to the British Government to decide now what to do. My question was whether your organisation would have any role to play. Presumably, if the British Government, unlikely as it may be, were to ask Eurojust to play a role, you would do so.

  Mr Kennedy: If there is a role for us to play, certainly, yes, and we would not be approached by the British Government but rather by the police or the prosecuting authority.

  Q242  David Winnick: For you to become involved, you would need the invitation of the British Government.

  Mr Kennedy: No, the investigating or prosecuting authorities.

  Q243  Mrs Dean: Mr Kennedy, Eurojust seem to support the harmonisation of criminal law across the EU. Could you give a specific example of why you think harmonisation is vital and what are the constitutional implications for the UK of criminal law making at EU not national level?

  Mr Kennedy: If the laws were harmonised in all the Member States of the European Union it would make it much easier for the European Union investigators and prosecutors to cooperate with one another.

  Q244  Mr Benyon: Do not hold your breath.

  Mr Kennedy: No, but it would make it easier than it is now. That is the point I would like to make. The point is that in an investigation there is usually a number of witnesses to be seen, statements to be taken, and taken in a particular format. If you take that as an example, that is not done in other non common law systems in the same way; that is, a police officer visiting a witness, taking a statement as to what he or she saw at the scene of a crime or what he or she did linked into the crime. In other countries, a statement perhaps would be taken by a police officer or investigating judge, which would be simply the details of what this person said. There would not be a declaration. If everybody across the European Union had to make what we call section 9 statements, it would make life a lot easier for all the prosecutors in the common law countries. It is not like that and it will not be like that for some time, so I shall not hold my breath, but, if you ask what could be done where there are problems, this is one area, but there are many other areas that could be expanded on. The more we can bring our system and their systems in line and make changes in both to bring them closer to one another, that is inevitably going to help. But, even if they do not become harmonised, it is possible to cooperate. It is possible in all the systems to develop and to work together and to deal with the particular vagaries that one might find within any of the systems that are working together.

  Q245  Mrs Dean: Following on from improving systems, I wonder, Mr Kennedy, whether you have any comments on the Home Secretary's suggestion of splitting the Home Office.

  Mr Kennedy: I heard about it in general terms but I think it is perhaps something that needs to be considered at some length and in detail. I do not know what the proposal is, as to what would be put where, so it is very difficult and perhaps inappropriate for me to comment.

  Mrs Dean: Could I thank you both very much for coming along this morning. Your evidence has been very useful to the Committee. Thank you.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 5 June 2007