Police unit oversees 71 extraditions under European Arrest Warrant.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has reinforced the importance of international cooperation as he met police officers on the frontline of Scotland’s global policing operation.
Police Scotland’s International Assistance Unit was responsible for the arrests of 78 people on Europol’s wanted list in 2016, thanks to European Arrest Warrants (EAWs).
The unit – a single point of contact for all international issues affecting Police Scotland – also oversaw the extradition of 71 people wanted by EU member states, while a further 23 Scots wanted at home were arrested under EAWs oversees. The unit also handled 950 Interpol enquiries last year and 34 requests for cross-border surveillance.
The Justice Secretary and Lord Advocate James Wolffe visited the unit today, which is based at the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh, ahead of a meeting of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce. The visit included meeting two EU national Romanian police officers who are currently assisting with investigations involving Romanians as victims, perpetrators and witnesses of crime.
Mr Matheson said:
“Organised crime and terrorism do not respect borders and it is vital that our police service can work with counterparts in Europe and across the world to help keep Scotland safe.
“The excellent results achieved by our International Assistance Unit shows that this collaboration is currently working well. Yet dragging Scotland out of the EU places huge doubts over our Europol membership and participation in the European Arrest Warrant.
“This would have serious implications for the safety of Scottish communities, meaning it is much harder to identify, arrest and extradite criminals who travel here – as well as making it more difficult and time consuming to apprehend Scottish criminals who flee overseas.”
The Lord Advocate said:
“The successful investigations and prosecutions undertaken by law enforcement in Scotland demonstrate the enormous benefits derived from the excellent international co-operation we have established.
“This work ensures the safety and security of people living in Scotland and we are fully committed to building on the strong links we have with countries elsewhere in Europe and around the world. Scottish prosecutors and police exchange information and intelligence with many other countries and this is helping us to secure the recovery of evidence we would not otherwise be able to."
The average time for Police Scotland receiving a European Arrest Warrant to arrest or surrender is 42 days – which compared with an average of nine months prior to the EAW being in place. Losing access to the EAW system risks reverting to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition, involving a much slower and more protracted process.
The Serious Organised Crime Taskforce was set up to ensure Scotland can respond robustly to the threat posed by organised crime. The Taskforce comprises 17 Scottish and other agencies working together to tackle the impact of serious organised crime, focusing on the four strands of divert, detect, disrupt and deter.