Losing access to vital European security arrangements post-Brexit will only benefit criminals, Scotland’s Justice Secretary has said.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Humza Yousaf suggested that regardless of what preparations are made for a no-deal outcome, nothing will prove as effective in bringing people to justice than what is currently utilised as a member of the EU.
It follows comments from Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, who said that criminals could potentially exploit the UK no longer being a part of measures such as the European Arrest Warrant.
Mr Yousaf said: “Anything that is a move away from what we currently have, is a dilution of what we have, the only people that will benefit will be those that are trying to escape from the law.
“It doesn’t matter how many preparations we make, the UK Government makes, the Met Police force or indeed Police Scotland make, it doesn’t matter what we put in place, if you do not have access to something like the European Arrest Warrant, the only people that will benefit will be those who are able to evade justice for longer.”
Mr Yousaf indicated that in 2012, a foreign national who had committed a murder in Scotland and had absconded to Europe was apprehended due to a European Arrest Warrant within five hours.
The Justice Secretary said that the process for apprehending criminals after the UK leaves the EU could take significantly longer.
“We can be as stringent as we want, we can be as robust as we possibly want, and we are doing that, but if we don’t have an extradition treaty with a country, that could take over and above a year,” said Mr Yousaf.
“If we have an extradition treaty with a third country, in a bilateral agreement, it would take months and months.
“Some countries do not have extradition treaties with the UK that are currently members of the European Union.
“Therefore you have to rely on previous extradition treaties that we have. Part one of these treaties alone would take months and months, and if somebody was absconding for some of the worst crimes, murder, rape or anything else, then that gives them plenty of time to evade the law.”
Mr Yousaf also said that although the UK would still be a member of Interpol, the organisation would not sufficiently make up for the loss of Europol membership.
“I don’t doubt that countries will come with goodwill, and I would hope that, but even so, nothing is as good as the European Arrest Warrant, nothing is as good as Europol,” he said.
“The fallback to Europol would be Interpol and Interpol is a great organisation to work with, but I’m afraid it’s not as good a substitute for Europol.”
UK Minister for Policing and Fire Nick Hurd said: “The continued safety and security of both UK and EU citizens is of paramount importance.
“The agreement reached with the EU would provide for an implementation period, during which we’d continue to use all the EU security tools and data platforms we use now.
“This would smooth the transition to our new relationship and is in the UK’s best interests.
“As you would expect, we are working intensively with operational partners on contingency preparations should they be necessary in a no-deal scenario, including funding the new International Crime Coordination Centre.
“The contingency plans involve moving cooperation with EU member states to tried and tested alternative mechanisms, including Interpol and Council of Europe Conventions.
“Whilst we have been clear that these would not be like-for-like replacements, they are already used for police and judicial cooperation with many non-EU countries.
“Our primary objective, however, remains to secure a deal that protects mutually beneficial capabilities for both the UK and the EU member states.”