Examination of Witnesses (Questions 186-199)|
Mr Philip Geering, Ms Carmen Dowd, Superintendent
Mike Flynn and Mr Rob Wainwright
1 NOVEMBER 2006
morning and welcome. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence
to us. I want to explain at the start that this is on the record
and being broadcast, and this inquiry is looking into the Second
Schengen Information System. Perhaps I could ask youand
I do not mind in which order, but perhaps it would be polite to
start with the ladyto introduce yourselves and tell us
something briefly about what you do, what your organisation does
and, as it were, where you come from?
Ms Dowd: I will ask Philip Geering to open on
behalf of the CPS, if I may, and then if I may go on to explain
my particular role within the CPS, if that is helpful? I think
that would be more helpful to the Committee.
Q187 Chairman: Of course.
Mr Geering: My Lord Chairman, I am Philip Geering;
I am Director of Policy for the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters
and I report directly to the DPP. Thank you for this invitation
to us to give evidence; we welcome the opportunity on behalf of
the Crown Prosecution Service to give evidence, as this is an
important matter. We are particularly pleased to be appearing
alongside our police colleagues, as this is a significant development
for the CPS. I think the first point to make is that the Crown
Prosecution Service, as the principal prosecuting authority within
England and Wales, is not responsible for the setting-up and running
of the SIS II system. However, we are significant beneficiaries
of it and we work closely with our police and investigative colleagues
to make it as effective as possible. In addition, the CPS will
be providing some of the safeguards that will ensure the SIS system
is used proportionately and appropriately. For example, some of
the alerts will not be going on the system unless a Crown prosecutor
has assessed the merits of that alert and approved the putting
on of that alert. So this is a significant illustration of police
and prosecutors working closely together to make for a more efficient
and effective service to the public, and to victims and witnesses
in particular, and at the end of the day enabling us to be more
effective in bringing offenders to justice.
Q188 Lord Marlesford: Are you both barristers
Mr Geering: I am a barrister.
Ms Dowd: I am a barrister. I am sorry to interrupt,
but if I may briefly explain that I am Head of the Special Crime
Division and I have the operational responsibility for all matters
pertaining to extradition cases, so when applications are made
by foreign Member States for the return of fugitives to their
State my team will deal with those applications.
Mr Wainwright: Good morning, my name is Rob
Wainwright and I represent the Serious Organised Crime Agency,
which you may know is a new agency established this year to fight
serious and organised crime in this country. It opened its operations
on 1 April this year following the passing of legislation through
Parliament last year. My role in the organisation is to run the
international affairs of the organisation, an international department
that manages a significant set of international police cooperation
measures on behalf of our own agency but also on behalf of all
other UK law enforcements agencies. So we facilitate requests
and assistance for international police cooperation on behalf
of our partner agencies, and included in that framework, of course,
are our plans for the Schengen Information System, and in particular
the responsibility that we will inherit to manage the SIRENE Bureau
of the Schengen Information System. So we are busy planning to
build that bureau right now as an integrated part of our international
work. We are, therefore, very keen advocates of the Schengen Information
System; it will add important new capabilities to those that we
already have and already offer to our partner agencies in the
United Kingdom. Of course, some of the Schengen police cooperation
measures that we have already adopted, such as the European Arrest
Warrant and the cross-border surveillance measures under Schengen,
are already with us now and are already playing an important role
in our work. Of course, the establishment of the Schengen Information
System will increase that capability yet further.
Q189 Lord Marlesford: What is your background
Mr Wainwright: My background is as a civil servant;
I have worked in a number of different departments in government.
Q190 Lord Marlesford: With the Home Office?
Mr Wainwright: With the Home Office and with
the Ministry of Defence as well.
Q191 Lord Marlesford: Immediately before
SOCA was set up?
Mr Wainwright: I was a member of one of the
four precursor agencies of SOCA, in this case the National Criminal
Superintendent Flynn: My Lord Chairman, I am
Superintendent Mike Flynn; I am from the Sussex Police. I run,
on behalf of the end users of the Schengen Information System,
the Joint Operational Authority, and that is the co-ordinating
body with the Home Office programme for the end users across the
UK law enforcement groups. My role encompasses everything from
what it will look like on a police national computer screen, through
to the operational guidance, the training and the rollout and
co-ordination of the rollout for all the agencies in the UK.
Q192 Chairman: Can I ask for Lord Marlesford,
what is your background?
Superintendent Flynn: My background is entirely
in operational policing.
Q193 Chairman: Thank you all. You have
had notice of some questions that we want to ask you, one of which
you have already answered very helpfully, and I will leave it
to you to decide which of you would like to answer the question,
but it is open to any of you to come in after the first person
has supplied an answer. Can you tell me, how much access will
the Crown Prosecution Service or SOCA or other UK agencies or
bodies have to SIS data? By SIS data I mean not only existing
SIS data but also likely future SIS II data. Which bodies will
have the capability or the responsibility of issuing different
forms of alert and which bodies, or which of you, will have the
responsibility to take action based on an alert? Who would like
to have a shot at that first?
Superintendent Flynn: My Lord Chairman, access
to the Schengen Information System is anticipated to be via the
existing Police National Computer, and the access can be limited
at organisational level. That is not all functionality of the
PNC nor of the SIS will be available to every end user, and it
can also be limited at individual user level within an organisation.
Clearly not all PNC using agencies will be permitted to have access
to the Schengen Information System, and access is very much limited
by the Schengen Acquis Article 101. So it is very much to do with
the function of the force or agency, and also the law enforcement
business described therein; so it is about police checks, Customs'
checks and border checks.
Q194 Chairman: When you say it will be
limited, more limited for us than for Schengen members?
Superintendent Flynn: No, we take the same interpretation,
except of course for Article 96 data, to which we do not have
access. So the access depends very much on the force or agency
and their access to the system. For example, some agencies do
not have access to the vehicle database of the Police National
Computer. There are three main areas to the Police National Computer:
names, vehicles and property; and what happens, depending on the
function of each agency, they have access to various areas of
information. Also some agencies are able to update the system,
for example police forces can do that, where they can update records
on the system. Other agencies are entitled to search for data
and act upon what they find but are not entitled to update the
information. Essentially, if we did have an agency that wished
to launch an alert on the SIS and they did not have an update
facility then they would have to do it through partnership with
SOCA and of course that would mean there would be an extra level
of scrutiny regarding the importance and the relevance of the
alert that they wished to raise. When it comes to responding to
hits then any agency that actually gets a hit on an alert is expected
to take the action requested. In those cases where the alert is
not a prime function of the agency that gets the hit, for example
if we were looking at missing persons and a Customs Officer, a
Customs Officer's powers in relation to a missing person are actually
quite limited. So what we have put in place are arrangements between
ACPO and ACPO (Scotland) and the other agencies to ensure that
prompt action is taken in those cases. There is also a question
regarding the CPS; the CPS, as a primary prosecuting agency, would
be entitled to have access to the data but at present they are
not a PNC user, except for, I believe, one pilot that you are
thinking of putting in place for CPS London, and that is to do
with previous convictions information from the PNC and not from
the SIS itself.
Q195 Chairman: Thank you very much. Would
any of you like to add anything?
Mr Wainwright: Simply to add that SOCA as a
national law enforcement agency will have full access in the same
way as any other police forces in Europe, but will operate that
access directly of course.
Mr Geering: I think only to add that we are
entitled to have access but we do not really regard it as an operational
necessity or appropriate. As far as we will benefit from the system
we will be able to work through the investigators and they are
best placed to operate the system. We do, as I have indicated,
anticipate having an authorisation level to enable alerts to be
placed, and that will reflect police prosecutors working closely
together. So, for example, if an extradition alert is to be placed
on the system ordinarily a prosecutor will have to approve that
alert before it is placed, and in approving it the prosecutor
will need to ensure that it is an extradition offence, that the
code for Crown prosecutor tests are metthat is to say there
is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecuteand
we will have to exercise some proportionality to make sure that
it is an appropriate case to go on a European-wide network. So
we will be providing that kind of safeguard. It applies in similar
ways in relation to lost or stolen property, where the police
might be seeking to put on an alert which will trigger a forensic
examination of the property if it is recovered. That plainly has
potential resource implications for other jurisdictions; this
jurisdiction would not want to overload either the system or other
countries with an inappropriate request and the prosecutors will
be able to sign off saying, "Yes, that is an appropriate
alert to place; we need the forensics on that property",
or not, and the alert will follow, or not, as appropriate.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Lord Corbett
first and then Lord Avebury.
Q196 Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Superintendent
Flynn, you reminded us that we do not have access to the Article
96 information on SIS, that is aliens who are refused entry. We
have some figures here, 751,954 names on that. If we make a bilateral
approach to the National Police Authority is it possible to get
the information by that route on that basis?
Superintendent Flynn: I think if we were looking
at a specific case we would work in partnership with the Serious
Organised Crime Agency to make that request of another country,
in a specific case; I do not think at this time we would expect
them to send their entire updated list.
Q197 Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: This
would be done presumably through Europol, possibly?
Mr Wainwright: That is certainly one significant
mechanism that we operate. I said earlier that we have a range
of instruments available, Interpol also; there is also a network
of bilateral liaison officers that my agency has around the world.
Of course every day we are cooperating with our partner agencies
in Europe and beyond on the most significant operational cases,
and some of that cooperation will involve access to the same information
that, coincidentally, is also held on Article 96. So by our not
having access to Article 96 by no means closes down all our avenues
of possible cooperation in this area.
Chairman: Lord Avebury and then Lord
Q198 Lord Avebury: Mr Geering said that
the CPS will ensure that alerts are only placed on the system
when they satisfy the normal tests that a prosecution is viable.
How do we know when you receive an alert that an equivalent test
has been applied by another State?
Mr Wainwright: That is a key function of the
SIRENE bureau, which we are developing in our agency. As I said,
it is a very, very important function that we validate all incoming
alerts from all other Member States against a standard set of
criteria and common standards that apply right across Member States.
It is a key function of our bureau to validate those in that way,
as indeed it is for any outward alerts that the UK would be placing
on the system.
Q199 Lord Marlesford: Can I just be clear
in my own mind about the actually linkage, as it were, between
the Police National Computer and the Schengen Information System.
When you say that your agencies get their Schengen information
through the Police National Computer, does that mean that there
is a lot of SIS information on the Police National Computer, or
is it that the Police National Computer has a facility for interrogating
the Schengen computers?
Superintendent Flynn: Very much the latter.
Essentially, although we have not decided the architecture of
the UK's SIS II solution, it is most likely to be a national copy
of the data that is held on the central European system, and that
in the future, instead of a domestic inquiry from a police officer
only interrogating one set of data, it will actually look in both
databases for the information and will bring it back consolidated.
You cannot take the European data and embed it into your national
systemyou are simply not allowed to.