Scottish independence: Criminal gangs could exploit new border to escape arrest, police warn


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The Independent Online

Organised international gangs will seek to exploit any new border between England and an independent Scotland for fresh criminal opportunities and to evade arrest, senior law enforcement officials warn.

Experts pointed to the experience in Ireland with its smuggling problem and a ban on “hot pursuits” between North and South allowing wanted criminals to cross the porous border to avoid arrest.

A Home Office paper setting out the security arguments against independence released last year said that “organised criminals may seek to exploit a new international border, perceiving a more exposed target or potential legal loopholes”.

Under independence, it said that if Scotland maintained EU membership it would have to secure a European Arrest Warrant to have a suspect detained. The paper said using the EAW in 2010 took about 93 days to secure extradition from the UK if a person resisted removal.


Mike Barton, Chief Constable for Durham and national policing lead for intelligence, said it was not unusual for villains to live in a different force area from where they committed crimes to avoid attention. “The logical extension of that – people behind a national boundary – makes it more tricky,” he said. “You only have to ask colleagues in Northern Ireland and Eire as to the difficulties.”

The independence campaign dismissed the warnings and said it would be in the interests of both an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK to agree “arrangements for cross-border arrests that are as efficient and effective as the current arrangements. Such a bilateral arrangement is explicitly allowed under European legislation.”

The Home Office paper also claimed police north of the border would “not be guaranteed” access to sensitive intelligence and expertise.