Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)|
Mr Philip Geering, Ms Carmen Dowd, Superintendent
Mike Flynn and Mr Rob Wainwright
1 NOVEMBER 2006
Q200 Lord Marlesford: You say "will"it
is all "will"so at the moment how do you get
Schengen Information System under the present SIS?
Superintendent Flynn: We have no technical link
to the current SIS.
Q201 Lord Marlesford: At all?
Superintendent Flynn: At all, and therefore
a UK law enforcement officer cannot carry out an SIS check at
Q202 Lord Marlesford: What is the date
when you are going to be able to?
Superintendent Flynn: First of all, we have
to have a central system in place and the latest guidance on that
is that the central system is expected to be in place in 2008
and then the existing 15 Member States will have to migrate from
SIS I to SIS II and then after that new Member States, of which
the United Kingdom will be one, will have a staggered integration
into the system, and we would reasonably expect this to be about
Chairman: Lord Dubs.
Q203 Lord Dubs: I wonder if I might go
back to the Article 96 situation? You mentioned that you had other
ways sometimes of accessing information, but in operational terms
how much of a handicap is it not to have full access to Article
Mr Wainwright: I think potentially it is a handicap,
quite a significant one, and the government has always made a
case to the Commission and other Member States that the United
Kingdom, notwithstanding the fact that we are retaining our border
controls, of course, should have access to the relevant part of
the Article 96 database that concerns the movement of suspects
of interest to us in terms of organised crime or counter-terrorism.
So if it were possible, technically and administratively, to delineate
with that database the difference between that information that
is on there purely for immigration control purposes and also that
on there for the control of suspects entering the EU, then we
certainly would want access to the latter, and we have been arguing
the case for a technical solution to be brought to bear as part
of SIS II that can allow us to participate in that way. It is
very much in our interests but other Member States agree that
it is in their interests as well because the UK is a very significant
part of the European Union's response, of course, to fighting
Q204 Lord Dubs: May I ask you this, what
preparations have you madethat is the CPS, SOCA and the
SIRENE officeto date for the application of SIS and SIS
II and what further preparations do you still need to make? I
know you have referred to this partly.
Mr Wainwright: Maybe I can expand my earlier
answer, thank you. The precursor agency of SOCA responsible for
this work was the National Criminal Intelligence Service, of which
I was a member, as I said earlier, so I have had personal experience
of being involved in this work now for a number of years. NCIS,
that agency, participated with the Home Office in particular and
other agencies in the development of our SIS I preparations, and
we expected SIS I to go live in this country probably by 2005
at the latest. As you know, for other reasons, technical and otherwise,
that was not possible in the end, but at the time we had prepared
quite strongly and in detailed form in NCIS for our SIRENE bureau
functions. So that involved technical preparation, working with
Home Office colleagues, working with the technical integration
with the Police National Computer, but also recruiting a body
of staff to staff the new SIRENE bureau. So we recruited the staff
and we trained them. As it happens, we do not have SIS I application
but we still have the staff and that is good for us because we
still have now the other police cooperation measures of the Schengen
Agreement that we are operating, such as the European Arrest Warrant.
So we can use that staff and the body of expertise and experience
that we have had now of course to good effect as we prepare for
SIS II and the SIRENE bureau under SIS II, which will be different
in some ways but in many ways we are dealing with the same issues.
So building on that body of experience, using the staff, the training
path that we already have, we are preparing for our signing up
to SIS II and I have every reason to believe that we will have
a fully functioning highly capable SIRENE bureau as part of that.
Q205 Chairman: This Committee has heard
a lot of evidence about the delays in implementing SIS II. Have
you, from your point of view, been very conscious of these delays
and are they causing you problems?
Mr Wainwright: Only in the sense that the longer
we take as a country to sign up to SIS II the longer we have to
wait to add a powerful new capability to our law enforcement powers
in this country, of course. So to that end, to the extent to which
I represent the wider interests of UK law enforcement, then, of
course, it gives me cause for concern, as it does in other parts
Q206 Lord Dubs: You have partly dealt
with my next question, but in case there is anything you want
to add. What will be the effect of SIS II on the operational efficiency
of UK law enforcement agencies and criminal justice bodies? And
from an operational perspective, what added value will SIS II
offer compared to the current SIS I?
Mr Wainwright: Whilst Mike is finding his note
perhaps I can summarise it from our perspective? The use of biometric
data in particular, which in many respects represents a very strong
future capability in law enforcement, so SIS II is planning on
the basis that we can use biometric data. The technical capability
for that is not yet ready but when it is then of course it gives
us a powerful new tool against searching, against records. SIS
II also brings the capability to add new alerts, not just those
limited to people and a certain small number of objects as they
are currently but also new objects such as boats and parts of
boats and also parts of aircraft. Also, importantly, new analytical
capabilities to link different alerts and to provide the operator,
therefore, with pointers as to where the investigation should
lead in terms of linking different persons and objects. Have I
Superintendent Flynn: That is very comprehensive!
Mr Geering: If I may add from a prosecutor's
perspective to this question, I would endorse what Mr Wainwright
has said about this being a powerful new tool. It has considerable
potential from the perspective of the prosecutor. As we reform
the CPS from a reactive paper-based organisation into one that
fully understands its public service role and its function in
bringing offenders to justice, we turn our prosecutors into proactive
operators. If I can illustrate that. At the moment, if a suspect
goes missing then we file our papers and wait for them to turn
up; if we believe that they may have gone to Europe, if we have
intelligence understanding of that from the police, then we may
prepare a European Arrest Warrant and that will be sent to the
country where we think they are, and then we will hope that they
are found and brought back. SIS II has the potential to turn that,
an essentially reactive mode, into a proactive mode. If we have
reason to believe that the person has gone to Europe or is within
Europe and we want them found then we can, working with our police
and investigative colleagues, get an alert on to the system. This
is a much more proactive opportunity for us in bringing offenders
to justice and it has great potential and is really quite exciting
in terms of law enforcement. Reverting to the point about preparation,
we have worked very closely with SIRENE and with ACPO to prepare.
We prepared for SIS I, a Memoranda of Understanding was signed
between the CPS and ACPO; draft operational guidance was preparedand
that of course was shelved when SIS I and was not pursued. We
will pick that up, we are picking that up again with our colleagues
and partners. We will refresh itI do not anticipate any
significant changeand particularly in relation to the operational
guidance that indicates that prosecutors will be authorising certain
alerts. So we will train and prepare our prosecutors so that we
can deliver on the effectiveness of SIS II. Of course, that inevitably
prompts a resources implication. We would anticipate an increase
in caseload because of SIS II. We anticipate that first of all
because we have seen an increase in caseload in relation to the
European Arrest Warrant and that has been a positive step forwardand
I will revert in a moment to my colleague, Ms Dowd, to perhaps
develop on thisbut also in looking at other jurisdictions
where the SIS system has already been introduced. Clear evidence
of escalating caseload, good in terms of public service and bringing
offenders to justice, getting resolution for victims and enabling
witnesses to give evidence as quickly as possible. But of course
it carries the resource implication.
Q207 Chairman: Do you want to pick up
Ms Dowd: My Lord Chairman, just to clarify that
in assessing the resource implications in 2003 it was evident
that on any estimation that the likely impact on caseload was
that it would increase significantly. It has actually been borne
out that the European Arrest Warrants have increased our workload
across the board, save actually in relation to the import extraditions,
i.e. where we are still in reactive mode in terms of knowing where
people are and making applications.
Q208 Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Do
you know by how much? Is that an extra 10 per cent or 20 per cent?
Ms Dowd: The estimate for the end of 2006 is
that we think our caseload would have doubled from 2005, and that
is across the board in relation to all extraditions, not just
European Arrest Warrants. So a lot of preparation needs to be
made in relation to further resourcing issues once SIS II is implemented,
and we have to take that forward with the Home Office and have
some negotiations around that.
Q209 Chairman: How much is that increase
in workload due to enlargement and the recent new Members of the
Ms Dowd: Certainly a significant number are
due to that, but there are other issues at play in relation to
the rest of the world, so I cannot say that it can be totally
accounted for in relation to that.
Q210 Chairman: Do you have any perspective
on how ready Bulgaria and Romania are, coming into the scheme?
This is rather beyond your remit.
Mr Wainwright: In terms of the European Arrest
Warrant I believe that actually they are quite ready and they
may be ready as soon as 1 January when they accede; I think there
is still some technical work to do, but I think they are quite
ready. If I can add to the point that my colleague made? The use
of the European Arrest Warrant certainly increased the workloads
in my organisation and in others as well, but it really has delivered
significant new benefits, I have to say. It is a hugely important
new tool for police officers and the ability to track down very
quickly fugitives from justice and to return them to British jurisdiction
much, much more quickly and in a much simpler way than ever before
really does add a powerful new capability. I am aware of several
high profile cases already where we have helped ourselves in Europe,
where we have helped our European partners by apprehending important
serious crime figures in the United Kingdom. This is a very good
news story for policing; I have to say, notwithstanding the fact
that it increases the burden of some of our work.
Chairman: Thank you. This Committee likes
Q211 Lord Marlesford: Just to follow
that up, can you give us a feel for size as to how many European
Arrest Warrants has the UK issued in whatever the most convenient
last year period?
Mr Wainwright: I do not know, I am afraid, my
Lord. My colleague might be able to help you.
Chairman: Incidentally, I should say
that if, at any point, particularly when you receive the transcript
of this meeting, if there are any points that you think it would
be helpful for us to have supplemented in writing, please feel
absolutely free to send us in additional evidence.
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Would it
be unfair to ask you to add a note on information on how many
requests for warrants from other European States you have responded
to, because it is a two-way street?
Q212 Chairman: Can we put those questions
on the record?
Ms Dowd: My Lord Chairman, can I briefly come
back to your questions about Bulgaria and Romania? Our experience
in the CPS is that the new EAW countries are generally well prepared
and respond quickly to requests for further information, so our
experience is a very positive one thus far.
Q213 Chairman: That is very interesting,
Mr Wainwright: I have some of the details now,
thank you. Between January 2004 and August of this year, since
the European Arrest Warrant has been functioning, we have issued
a total of 307 European Arrest Warrants in the United Kingdom
on behalf of our partners in the EU, which has led to the arrest
of a total number of suspects of 172. So that gives you a feel
for how much work we are doing, and there is a corresponding number
that we are seeking cooperation for in other parts of Europe.
Q214 Lord Marlesford: Is that the one
that Lord Corbett asked about, in other words requests made of
us to arrest people?
Mr Wainwright: Yes.
Q215Lord Marlesford: And you do not have, at
the moment, the figures for the number of requests we have made
into Europe for arrests?
Mr Wainwright: I am sorry, I think I misled
you. I think that is the result, that is the number that we have
sought assistance from our European colleagues.
Q216 Lord Marlesford: So the figures
Superintendent Flynn: 307 warrants issued, which
is outgoing requests, and 172 people arrested because of that.
Mr Wainwright: I should validate those figures
and I can provide you with more accurate figures and indeed more
up to date figures after the Committee.
Chairman: Thank you. Lord Avebury.
Q217 Lord Avebury: We have been concentrating
on the increase in the workload arising from the European Arrest
Warrant, but the real step increase will surely take place when
SIRENE goes live and that will not be until 2010. Have you already
had any discussions about budgetary implications and can you give
us an idea of the order of magnitude of the resources that will
be needed by SOCA and the CPS?
Mr Wainwright: We are still working on the volumetrics
on that, as you can imagine, but based on the experience of our
partners in the European Union we expect this to have a significant
impact on our workload, maybe as much as twice or even three times
as much in terms of the handling of the data that we currently
manage through our cooperation channels. It will have a significant
impact, absolutely. Our response to that, including in terms of
providing increased budgetary provisions, is something that we
are currently discussing with the Home Office, and of course something
that I am discussing with my own Director General.
Q218 Chairman: Clearly what we are talking
about is a formidable amount of IT communication. Have any of
you had serious IT problems in terms of actually communicating
all this information?
Superintendent Flynn: The existing system, SIS
I, copes with the amount of traffic. The UK will provide a considerable
amount of traffic when we go live but the estimate of the amount
of information exchange brought by the ten new Member States to
the EU is essentially about the equivalent of what Germany provides
today. So on that it is anticipated that the updated network which
is being put in place now should easily be able to cope with the
exchange. It is dealing with the business at the end that is the
big question. From our point of view, yes, we do anticipate that
there will be more work for police officers on the street, but
it is actually good news because this is getting hits on people,
on stolen property that hitherto we could not get. Without the
Schengen Information System there is no joined-up way of receiving
and managing the information and allowing police officers at street
level to be able to check a German vehicle and find out if it
was stolen, enter a premises, find a dozen passports and be able
to do a check from the premises to see if these passports are
stolen. So for us it is quite a revolution.
Q219 Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: Is
it not the case that as bad as the absence of information, as
bad is inaccurate information? This touches on resources. Are
you satisfied that you are making progress and getting this understood
in the Home Office? If a backlog builds up, like the Criminal
Records Bureau, we are all in the soup.
Mr Wainwright: Absolutely, but in answer directly
to your question I am satisfied that this point is well seized
at the Home Office.