17 February 1998
By the Select Committee appointed
to consider Community proposals, whether in draft or otherwise,
to obtain all necessary information about them, and to make reports
on those which, in the opinion of the Committee, raise important
questions of policy or principle, and on other questions to which
the Committee considers that the special attention of the House
should be drawn.
EUROPOL: JOINT SUPERVISORY
||Draft rules of procedure of joint supervisory body
1. The creation of the
European Police Office (Europol), providing a framework for the
exchange of information between national police forces, is an
important step in the fight against crime. In its 1995 Report,
the Select Committee concluded that the establishment of an effective
Europol would lead to important benefits to the public. But we
added that given the dangers to individuals there must be effective
remedies and Europol must be accountable for its policies and
2. The Convention establishing
Europol contains detailed provisions for the protection of data
held by Europol and gives the individual a right of access to
data held on him. Data which is incorrect or held by Europol in
contravention of the Convention must be corrected or deleted.
Supervision of this process is twofold. Each Member State has
to designate a national supervisory body to monitor the lawfulness
of the input, retrieval and any communication to Europol of personal
data by the Member State concerned. (It is expected that the Data
Protection Registrar will perform this function in respect of
the United Kingdom.) The Convention also establishes an independent
joint supervisory body, comprised of representatives from each
of the national supervisory bodies, to review the activities of
Europol in order to ensure that the rights of the individual are
not violated by the storage, processing and utilisation of the
data held by Europol. The joint supervisory body should also monitor
the permissibility of the transmission of data originating from
Europol. It will be able to carry out checks and investigate alleged
violations of the Convention's data protection rules. In its 1995
Report the Select Committee strongly supported the requirement
for designation of national supervisory authorities and the joint
supervisory body to monitor the activities of Europol relating
to the collection and use of data.
3. The Convention was
concluded in July 1995 but does not come into force until ratified
by all the Member States. The present position is that it has
been ratified by nine Member States.
Though the deadline set at the Dublin European Council that all
Member States should ratify by the end of 1997 has passed, it
is still hoped that the Convention will enter into force during
the first half of 1998. To enable the practical work to begin,
a number of implementing rules and regulations have to be made.
4. The draft rules of
procedure of the joint supervisory body describe its tasks, establish
its working methods and powers and, of particular interest to
the individual, set out the detailed rules and procedures of the
Appeals Committee which will examine complaints from those dissatisfied
with the response which Europol has given. The Convention provides
that individuals have "the right to request the joint supervisory
body to ensure that the manner in which his personal data have
been collected, stored, processed and utilized by Europol is lawful
and accurate" (Article 24(4)). The rules lay down the detailed
procedure for the handling and examination of such complaints,
including the complainant's right to be heard.
5. A copy of the draft
rules of procedure for the joint supervisory body was furnished
to the Select Committee by the Government and was sifted to Sub-Committee
E (Law and Institutions) for scrutiny. To assist its consideration
of the proposal the Sub-Committee sought the views of the Data
Protection Registrar and of Justice (both of whom had assisted
the Sub-Committee in its earlier enquiries into the Convention
and its implementing rules).
6. At its meeting on
4 February Sub-Committee E considered the draft rules of procedure,
with the assistance of the Government's Explanatory Note and the
two submissions. The Government said that several concerns remained
to be addressed and reconciled relating to the nature of the joint
supervisory body and how closely its procedures should be modelled
on those of a court. The Registrar identified a divergence of
view amongst Data Protection Commissioners as to whether the joint
supervisory body should be seen and conduct itself as an administrative
body rather than as a court. The problem arose because the Europol
Convention did not provide judicial machinery at European level
for the resolution of disputes.
7. The Sub-Committee
noted that both the Registrar and Justice were favourable towards
the Government's approach, which was to avoid cumbersome and complicated
procedures. The Sub-Committee also noted that both the Registrar
and Justice acknowledged that when the joint supervisory body
was acting through its Appeals Committee a more formal procedure
might be necessary which satisfied the "fair trial"
requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human
Rights. Both the Registrar and Justice also said that adequate
resources should be made available to enable the joint supervisory
body to perform its tasks effectively.
8. The joint supervisory
body has a key role to play under the Europol Convention. The
purpose of this Report is to make available to the House the evidence
given by the Data Protection Registrar and Justice.
9. The Committee draws
attention to the importance of the rules in the safeguarding by
the joint supervisory body of the individual's rights under the
Convention relating to the handling and use of personal data.
The Committee makes this Report to the House for information.
10th Report, Session 1994-95, HL Paper 51-1. Back
The United Kingdom was the first to ratify, on 10 December 1997.
Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and
Sweden have also ratified the Convention. Back
In June 1997 the Select Committee reported to the House on the
Confidentiality Regulations of Europol (1st Report, Session 1997-98,
HL Paper 9). Back