Monday, 17 June 2013

My speech supporting the EU European Arrest Warrant

Eurposceptic and anti-EU demands will result British and foreign sex offenders, child traffickers and violent criminals, organised criminals escaping justice. Britain becoming a safe haven for foreign criminals escaping justice elsewhere and foreign criminals caught here, languishing in UK prisons instead of being shipped back to prison elsewhere in the EU.

Only pro-european Labour will sign up for these European Union joint policing policies that catch and convict criminals. UKIP and the Tories both soft on crime, both oppose the European Arrest Warrant and shared police information services.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)

Mr Deputy Speaker, I will try to make some brief comments in the short time available. I walked up and down many streets in Hyndburn and Haslingden during the recent county council elections, and it was clear to me that many people are unaware of how important the European arrest warrant is, so this debate is welcome. Among those constituents who had some knowledge of the EAW, there was universal support for it.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary and my hon. Friend Steve McCabe have pointed out, there are some 3,600 organised criminal gangs active in the EU, and they are involved in drugs, human trafficking, online child exploitation and theft. Cross-border crime is a reality, and we need 21st-century tools to meet the challenge.

We all remember Spain’s costa del crime, where British nationals wanted for serious crimes would simply buy a luxury pad and put their feet up, safe in the knowledge that they were beyond the reach of UK law. In 2002 the BBC suggested that some 230 criminals were hiding out in Spain. How things have changed. Last month The Daily Telegraph ran a story with the headline, “Why Spain’s Costa del Crime is now the worst place to go on the run”. It reported:

“Once a land of Ferraris, cocaine and women, it was the flashy destination of choice for the most notorious fugitives of Britain’s underworld. Now, as the arrest of Andrew Moran shows, Spain’s ‘Costa del Crime’ is the worst place to go on the run”.

These are important issues for our national security and public safety. Sadly for my constituents, the Government have stated that they will opt out of everything but have not been clear about which measures they will opt back into. Their position, in my view, is utterly confused. My constituents are concerned that opting out of these measures will affect public safety. Sadly, the Conservatives seem to be in hoc to their Europhobic back benchers, who prioritise getting rid of anything with the word “Europe” in the title regardless of what value it has.

Policing and criminal justice co-operation strengthens our national security and means we can identify dangerous people coming into the UK. As Dr Huppert highlighted, Hussain Osman, who was identified as a suspect in the failed bomb attack at Hammersmith tube station on 21 July 2005, was extradited on a European arrest warrant and sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment. According to David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, there are a number of EU, “measures relevant to counter-terrorism that are considered by SO15 to be essential tools”.

We must be mindful—this has been commented on already—that 10% of Europol’s work is related to counter-terrorism.

It is crucial to our future that there are strong powers to tackle cross-border crime and prevent criminals from using the UK as a haven. My right hon. Friend Keith Vaz mentioned Operation Golf, which involved the Metropolitan police and the Romanian national police and tackled a Romanian gang that was trafficking children into the UK for the commission of crime. It resulted in the arrest of 126 suspects for a wide range of offences, including human trafficking, benefit fraud, theft, money laundering and child neglect, and 272 trafficking victims were identified.

Over 600 criminals have been returned to the UK to face British justice for crimes they have committed here. Over 500 UK nationals convicted of sex offences in other EU states since 2006 are now managed in the UK within the sex offender management system, including paedophiles who without EU co-operation on crime may well have escaped justice. Exchanging criminal records is crucial to discovering serious offenders who have come to the attention of the police. Operation Veerde, a joint collaboration between the UK and the Czech Republic on human trafficking and rape of young women, resulted in 33 victims being located in the Czech Republic and nine suspects indicted and convicted in England on behalf of both states.

Combating internet child pornography has been part of collaborative EU policing. ACPO has said that the Schengen information system is a vital measure that the UK is already heavily committed to, and as such it is vital that we opt back into it. Easy access to this information will enable the UK to exchange information across Europe in real time in order to fight cross-border crime and rapidly repatriate UK criminals who have fled to other EU countries. This is not just about capturing British criminals who are attempting to hide within the EU. The UK has deported over 4,000 criminals under the EU arrest warrant, 95 of whom are foreign nationals removed from the UK. That is a considerable number of foreign prisoners who no longer languish in British prisons.

My constituents will suffer if polluted anti-European politics result in this Government withdrawing from effective EU cross-border policing measures. That risks sex offenders, child traffickers and violent criminals, as well as foreign criminals, escaping justice and could result in their being on the streets of my constituency and all other hon. Members’ constituencies.