Policing and Crime Bill

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Q 120Mr. Coaker: We have talked a lot in this discussion about extradition requests being made to us and some of the issues around that for us. Could either Commander Gibson, Mr. Evans or any of the other officers comment on us doing the requesting? How useful do you think some of the provisions in the Bill will be to help in that process? Are there issues that you would like to highlight there?
Murray Duffin: Are we talking about cases where the investigating arm is in the UK?
Mr. Coaker: Yes.
Murray Duffin: For all of us it simplifies the proceedings. It is far easier with an EAW for us to ask for somebody in a European jurisdiction who is wanted for an offence in the UK to be returned to us. Our relationship with our European colleagues, all organised through SOCA, is very good. My unit physically collects all of the high risk ones who are wanted within the MPS. So, for example, we will physically go out and collect anyone who is wanted for a murder in London and bring them back. Our officers have specialist training on those collection procedures. It just makes life easier. There is nothing in the Bill that will really change the way we do things for people coming in. If we do not know whether they are in a specific European country they will all be on the Schengen information system. That will mean that more people who are wanted in the UK will be brought to notice within other European countries and therefore more will be returned to us to face justice here. So it is a good thing.
It is no secret that over 28 very serious, in some cases violent and dangerous criminals, have been returned in the last year to the UK jurisdiction from Spain. That was part of operation Captura, run jointly with the police service, ACPO and Crimestoppers. It is a significant contribution to the administration of UK justice and, importantly, to notions of public safety and public perceptions of safety that we are able to use this to reach out to jurisdictions in a way that hitherto would have been very complicated. The price we have to pay in running the system for requests inward is more than repaid by the assistance that we can mandate in 27 countries—one third of the world’s landmass—in relation to our own serious criminal problem. That is a significant consideration. These provisions will help us make more efficient what is already quite efficient.
Q 121James Brokenshire: I have some quick questions to round off with. When I was questioning earlier, there was the implication that the costs of compliance with the enhanced Schengen arrangements, the requests being received and the officer-time required to follow through on requests from other European jurisdictions were growing and growing. Can you indicate the cost in manpower of complying with the system as it is now, when we have this exponential growth?
Allan Gibson: I can give a very broad indication. Our police authority had to make provision for doubling the size of our extradition unit to deal with this. That gave us some respite in managing the upward trajectory in the number of arrests but only a respite, which is why we had to go back to our colleagues in ACPO and say that we need a permanent solution. There will be implications over time for each force.
I notice the Bill does not have a cost on policing, though it has a cost on other parts of the criminal justice system. There most definitely will be a substantial cost to policing as this takes off, because the cost in time and prisoner escort of moving people around the country is substantial. When you are going to 1,700 from a base of 200 over three or four years that must be reflected in costs.
Q 122James Brokenshire: Obviously, that is a cost that will have to be shared by police forces around the country in respect of requests for people located in their jurisdiction—in officer time to track them down and make arrests and so on.
Allan Gibson: Precisely. I notice that other parts have got some provision for that but it is not reflected on policing.
Q 123James Brokenshire: Do you want to add anything, Mr. Creedon, on the impact of this on policing more generally?
Mick Creedon: When the Met first wrote—I cannot remember when but it was a good 12 months ago—outlining some of the issues around this, forces and regions began to ask what it would mean for them. There will be a significant impact, there is no getting away from it. This is not a fight between ACPO and the Met because we understand the implications for them. The only issue for policing is that to a certain extent there was a small portion of the Met that was top-sliced and funded to provide this for 42 other forces. We understand exactly where they are coming from in terms of the growth and the reality. The issue about financing—albeit it is a tiny part of the entire police financing—is not straightforward. The other aspect for most forces will be about capacity capability against need and we will need to look perhaps at some collaborative activity around how to do this. In my own region in the east midlands it is something we do as a cluster of forces.
Q 124James Brokenshire: There has been quite a lot of debate about the impact of new communities in certain police force areas—language and associated issues. Presumably, on the basis of what we have heard of the proportion of these European arrest warrants that are of foreign nationals sought overseas, you can see that if you have new communities in certain parts of the country this could have a disproportionate affect in those police force areas compared with others.
Murray Duffin: If you look at the numbers, over 50 per cent. of all extradition activity takes place in London and over 70 per cent. in the south-east because that is where people in the main have come to. When you talk about the effect on individual police force areas, there is no doubt that the number of Polish requests slants the issue. You would normally expect more arrests and activity to take place in the large conurbations, but quite often in places such as Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, where there are large migrant agricultural communities made up of east Europeans, we have a large number of requests and arrests precisely because those communities have grown up, as you say.
Q 125James Brokenshire: You have emphasised Poland on a number of occasions, can you give an impression of the proportion?
Murray Duffin: 43.
Murray Duffin: It has not been sought by law enforcement. It is more for the judicial authorities. Some countries have in their constitution that their nationals cannot be surrendered for trial in another jurisdiction. The way round this, for want of a better argument, is that the person does return, does come to wherever they are being requested, and the quid pro quo is that they serve their sentence back in their host country. That is really what has driven this. It is not a policing issue.
Q 127Mr. Coaker: France is an example.
Murray Duffin: France is an example.
Allan Gibson: The Metropolitan police is retaining responsibility for extradition outside of the EU. That is definitely something where expertise matters. It is not a standardised system. It can vary from one jurisdiction to another. Countries of part 2 and part 3 are where there are one-to-one extradition treaties, mutual legal assistance treaties or there is a one-off arrangement negotiated through our Government with a foreign Government. We retain responsibility for those.
The Chairman: If there are no further questions for these witnesses, it brings us to the end of our business for the day. The Committee will sit again at 9am on Thursday. I would like to thank all the witnesses for both their written statements and their presentations to us today. I have learned a lot, as I am sure my colleagues have. I thank you for your attendance.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.—(Mr. Ian Austin.)
6.37 pm
Adjourned till Thursday 29 January at Nine o’clock.
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Prepared 28 January 2009