THE FORCES of law and order took the first tentative step yesterday towards catching up with criminals who have been causing difficulties by crossing the border between Scotland and England.
A consultation paper issued jointly by the Home Office and Scottish Office said that the powers of the police had always been different between the two countries and although cross-border policing problems were hardly new, they had become more apparent.
Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, said in a Commons written answer: 'The increasing sophistication and mobility of criminals has served to highlight the problem over recent years.'
The paper added: 'Offences can be committed in one country and the culprits can be over the border very quickly, making it all the more difficult to apprehend them.'
The problem was that police officers lost all their powers once they crossed the border - the power to detain or arrest; protection against civil liability for damage to people or property in the execution of their duty; eligibility for pensions or payment resulting from injuries incurred when over the border; and authority to carry or use firearms. The paper said it was a mark of police dedication that officers had been 'prepared to ignore the loss of protection' and cross the border as necessary.
The Government therefore offered two alternatives - giving officers powers of arrest or detention across the border, exercising their own country's powers, enabling the Scottish officer to use Scottish law in England; or giving officers a power of arrest or detention, across the border, using the powers of that country, enabling the Scottish officer to take on the powers of an English officer.
The paper concluded: 'Option 1 has the advantage of facilitating the conduct of the whole process from detention/arrest under one set of laws and procedures, but commits the suspect to a set of rights foreign to the jurisdiction in which he is detained or arrested.
'Option 2 gives the accused instant access to appropriate legal advice but gives rise to significant issues of training and practical competence for the police on both sides of the border . . .'
Comments (three copies requested, by 18 June) should be sent to Jane Richardson, Room 362, Police Division, Scottish Office, St Andrew House, Edinburgh.