20. Memorandum submitted by the Serious
Organised Crime Agency
On 25 July 2006, the Home Affairs Committee
announced that it would conduct an inquiry into current issues
relating to justice and home affairs (JHA) at European Union level.
The Committee has received a range of written evidence on this
subject, and an informal briefing from government officials. It
was decided on 31 October that its inquiry should focus on the
specific areas. On 1 November 2006 they published details of the
specific areas they are interested in. SOCA has been copied into
the call for evidence by ACPO.
1. The current state of progress in developing
practical co-operation between member states in the JHA field
and future options in this area.
1.1 What benefits have accrued so far from
practical co-operation between law enforcement and judicial authorities?
What are the lessons of practical co-operation for European policy
and legislation, and how effective is Eurojust in spreading best
Practical benefits include Article 40, Schengen
Convention which authorises cross border surveillance. This process
works very well and is regularly used by UK investigative teams.
Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) are also beneficial but less
successful due to the complexity of drawing up the JIT documentation
and associated issues such as finances. There remain outstanding
problems with the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) due to several
inconsistencies between UK domestic legislation and the Framework
decision. The main benefit continues to be the co-operation through
bilateral channels within national laws of the member states (SOCA
Liaison Officer (SLO) network within Europe). This co-operation
is quicker and can take place without any formal legislative framework.
The appointment of UK liaison magistrates in Paris, Madrid and
Rome have proved effective in enhancing UK reach into Justice
Eurojust works better with some countries than
others who are reluctant to use the Eurojust channel. However
where there is multi-country involvement Eurojust is an effective
channel. Eurojust has been effective in organising and facilitating
workshops and seminars between practitioners within EU on different
issues although there is still some reluctance within EU to use
it on occasions. UK is more proactive in working through Eurojust.
1.2 In which areas does the UK government
want to advance more practical co-operation measures? What benefits
does the government see from practical co-operation over legislative
We already have a number of different ways of
achieving co-operation. To advance more practical measures we
should be identifying what we cannot do at present and then work
out how to do it.
1.3 What should be the role of Europol, Interpol
and Eurojust in facilitating practical co-operation?
Europol should continue to provide analytical
and operational support to Member States investigations. We recognise
that both the Liaison Bureau at Europol and their analytical teams
have contributed greatly to several high profile UK investigations.
Europol should concentrate on improving their performance in these
areas rather than continually seeking new areas in which to develop.
The role of Interpol should be to enhance collaboration
and communication on practical issues with Europol and Member
States such as the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database and
exchange of information. Increased co-operation could be achieved
through Interpol participation in the EU structures including
Police Cooperation Working Group, Multidisciplinary Group on Organized
Crime and European Police Chief meetings.
Eurojust are perhaps the lesser partner in this
equation but this is explained by their relatively recent arrival
on the scene. Initial views are positive and Eurojust tend to
add value rather than add another layer of administration. UK
use of Eurojust will increase as their influence and experience
grows as an organisation.
We were surprised that there was no reference
to the EU "principle of availability" as enhancing practical
co-operation. This could prove to be one of the most effective
mechanisms for the UK to exploit provided its value is not diminished
2. The current state of progress in mutual
recognition, including the development of minimum standards, across
the EU, and whether further steps in this direction are desirable.
2.1 In which areas is mutual recognition currently
employed (for example recognition of judicial judgements in other
member states)? How has the principle, including minimum standards
and protocols, worked in these areas? Is it an effective approach,
including in terms of cost? What are the limitations of mutual
recognition as a cornerstone of co-operation, for example in cases
such as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) where there are controversies
over dual criminality? What have been the successes, and how might
these be built on?
The EAW is the first significant EU legislation
based on the principal of mutual recognition agreed by Member
States. It is effective and has delivered practical benefits on
extradition process but implementation has been different in some
countriesUK for example because of its own domestic legislation.
3. The current state of progress in and appetite
for harmonising criminal justice systems across the EU and whether
further steps in this direction are desirable.
3.1 How do proposals for harmonisation of
criminal law across member states substantially differ from mutual
3.2 What are the implications for the UK in
harmonising criminal law and systems?
Harmonisation is problematic: the criminal systems
across member States are very different (particularly resulting
from the common law system in the UK and civil law systems on
the mainland), and harmonisation presumes a commonality that isn't
there. Mutual recognition is a very different matterwe
can achieve the results we want without having to change our criminal
law system substantially.
3.3 Would particular areas benefit from harmonisation
on issues such as migration, serious crime cases and terrorism,
rather than practical co-operation or mutual recognition?
In the context of serious crime cases, there
is nothing to suggest that there would be benefits from harmonisation
that cannot be obtained via practical co-operation/mutual recognition.
4. The process of decision-making on JHA
issues at EU level: in particular, the extent to which current
difficulties in reaching agreement derive from "third pillar"
voting procedure and might be remedied by implementation of the
passerelle clauses in previous treaties.
4.1 What implications might use of the passerelle
have for the UK's legal and judicial systems? What alternative
action might improve decision-making? How can transparency and
accountability at European level best be extended?
While decision making can be slow and on occasions
lead to application of the lowest common denominator approach
this is preferable to a mechanism by which we could be faced with
legislative initiatives which we are obliged to implement but
which have their basis founded in a legal system which is incompatible
with our own. We support transparency and accountability but think
that it is best ensured by keeping the Third Pillar intact.
5. How significant is the recent trend towards
internal agreements between groups of member states outside the
framework of the EU, for instance the Schengen countries, or the
Prum convention? To what extent is this due to unanimity or difficulties
in decision making? What are the implications for the UK and for
Whilst the Prum and previously Schengen Conventions
were drawn up between certain EU countries they are not exclusionary
and therefore should not impact on EU fragmentation issues. There
is benefit of a small number of countries participating in conventions
as this will show the value of the initiative and encourage others
to participate. This is tempered with the view that it is also
becoming harder to achieve full agreement with the 25 countries
because of national differences. There should be more development
towards EU cooperation with outside statesperhaps through
specific agreements where convenient.
6. What are the current developments in the
area of common border controls and visa arrangements? What implications
does the proposed new policy on illegal migration have for the
UK and our role in the EU? Will the proposed changes to the short-stay
visa arrangements in relation to the eastern neighbours of the
EU open up new channels for illegal migration further westward
in the EU? What are the implications of enlargement for JHA issues,
including the impact of labour migration and confidence in new
member states' justice systems?
More for the IND to answer but the implementation
of UK E Borders will provide a more stringent internal control
of our bordersespecially use of the 24/7 link to Interpol.
27 November 2006