Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO)

ACPO POSITION

  The Association of Chief Police Officers welcomes the decision of the House of Lords' Select Committee on the European Union to conduct an Inquiry into Europol, the European Police Office.

  The Inquiry has provided ACPO with an opportunity to consider specifically, the intended alterations to the governance arrangements for Europol, changes to the current role and operating environment under this new arrangement and examine how effectively information from Europol reaches police forces in the UK.

  The criminal threat is increasingly international. The continuing expansion of the European Union and increased "freedom of movement" pose significant challenges to UK law enforcement agencies, which are charged with preserving the security and safety of UK citizens. It is critical that the highest levels of cooperation be maintained between the UK and agencies in Europe to ensure that the legal, logistical and language differences do not provide an increased opportunity for Europe's criminals to gain an advantage.

  UK police forces need fast-time, reliable, up-to-date and comprehensive information exchange with our European colleagues and rely on the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) for this. SOCA manages the relationship with Europol for police forces in the UK.

  Police forces are broadly satisfied with what they get.

  Enquiries when handed to SOCA may pass down one of a number of channels (Europol, SOCA Liaison Officers Network or Interpol) and may be requested under one of several legal authorities (Swedish Initiative, EU treaties, etc.). The precise channel used is not generally important to the requesting police force, on condition that the product that results is legal, reliable, useful and timely.

  As it is often unclear when information arrives back with UK forces what route it has taken, police forces can be unsighted on the extent of Europol's contribution.

  Europol is an effective law enforcement partner and resource to policing in the UK. It aims to facilitate information exchange and to provide high quality analysis. In this regard ACPO sees more evidence of success in the former aspiration than the latter. ACPO does, however, recognise the need to be realistic in its expectations, with an EU population of 495 million citizens, there is only so much impact that Europol's limited analytical capability can have. SOCA puts people in to Europol to ensure they get a share, so too do the Metropolitan Police Service.

  Other forces would generally be pragmatic and not expect to see too much direct local benefit from this analysis (although there will be occasions when they get it!) Instead they would feel the benefit via the UK Threat Assessment (UKTA) which is informed by the Europol Organised Crime Threat Assessment.

  ACPO Crime Business Area has commissioned a limited review of the National Intelligence Model (NIM). One area of scrutiny will be the operation of NIM at a national and international level. A further piece of work is underway to review the National Strategic Assessment (NSA), looking at its relationship to the UKTA. Both of these pieces of work will entail scrutiny of international links including Europol.

  Examples abound of effective international, bilateral and multilateral initiatives around intelligence sharing and policy development. ACPO relies on SOCA to maintain an overview. Yet, however the formal mechanisms for co-operation (Europol, Eurojust, Swedish Initiative, Interpol) develop, ACPO would remind the Committee of the value of direct contact, face to face, between investigators—which proves its value time and time again.

  ACPO welcomes any improvement in international capability and any development that will improve the speedy availability of accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information.

  This submission provides an overview of the ACPO position in relation to the operations of Europol and the current arrangements for accessing their services through SOCA. ACPO representatives will attend the Committee to provide oral evidence where they will address the questions raised in the Committee's Call for Evidence in greater detail.

  ACPO will provide a more comprehensive written submission to the Committee following the oral evidence stage if that is desirable.

THE ASSOCIATION OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS

  The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is an independent, professionally led, strategic body. In the public interest and, in equal and active partnership with Government and the Association of Police Authorities, ACPO leads and co-ordinates the direction and development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. ACPO's 341 members are police officers of Assistant Chief Constable rank (Commanders in the Metropolitan and City of London Police) and above and senior police staff managers in the 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and other forces such as the British Transport Police and States of Jersey Police.

Prepared by Chief Constable Ian Johnston and

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Gargan

27 June 2008


 
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