At a meeting with Euro MP Phil Bennion to discuss international crime and police co-operation, Chief Constable Chris Sims has described the European Arrest Warrant as 'absolutely vital' to police work fighting crime in the West Midlands force area.

 Phil Bennion Chief Const Chris Sims-IMG 8548
 Phil Bennion MEP with West Midlands Police's Chief Constable Chris Sims. 

The region's Lib Dem MEP met the Chief Constable last week to discuss his force's perspective on international crime, trafficking and their experience of Europol and European cross-border crime fighting measures.

The Home Secretary recently announced that Britain would after all continue to take part in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) scheme and a raft of other European crime fighting measures. Some Conservatives had suggested Britain should pull out of the EAW and other EU police co-operation measures as an erosion of sovereignty, but the proposals were resisted by Liberal Democrat Ministers and MEPs and opposed by ACPO and independent experts.

Phil Bennion MEP said: "It was useful to meet Chief Constable Sims to hear his views on the way international aspects of policing are working in practice in Birmingham and across the West Midlands police force area.

"From trafficking of people or drugs to internet-based crime, more and more crime has a cross-border aspect, especially in cities like Birmingham which are a magnet for people from all over the world. Helping our police to co-operate effectively with forces in other European countries is a core responsibility for the European Parliament.

"The issue of the European Arrest Warrant has recently divided ministers in the UK, though I have always supported it. Warrants have been used to bring back a number of high profile suspects to face justice here. 

"The Chief Constable could not have been clearer in his view that the EAW is a key tool for police work."

Chief Constable Sims confirmed that 77 European Arrest Warrants were executed in the West Midlands so far this year, in response to requests from other police forces across the EU.

He said: "That is 77 people who are believed to be a risk to the community here who are being removed.

"SOCA have figures for tracking overall numbers in both directions. In terms of usefulness to us, the European Arrest Warrant is absolutely vital.

"Our experience is that we have not had issues come up of an arrest warrant being used disproportionately or for trivial reasons, while the process is relatively 'bureaucracy light.'"

On trafficking, he said sharing intelligence and data was crucial to the complex process of tracking possible offenders and gathering evidence. The West Midlands Police are dealing with both domestic and international trafficking activity and had identified a particular concentration of connections to Eastern Europe, with some cases of forced sexual exploitation and others involving different kinds of forced labour.

Chief Constable Sims praised the work of the Institute of Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) recently set up in the University of Birmingham, whose data and research were 'better than ours' and proving useful to police work in the city.

Phil Bennion added: "I was interested to hear the Chief Constable's obvious respect for the IRiS team, who I met at the conference on migration I chaired at the University earlier this year. Their insight into the dynamism and diversity of Birmingham today is impressive and can inform many aspects of public policy.

"I also took on board his concern, on behalf of ACPO as he leads for them on forensics, that we might be missing out on the potential of biometrics and the latest developments in forensic technology. We need to balance civil liberties concerns with what is technically possible, but I will raise this with my colleagues in the European Parliament to see if there are incremental ways we can help detectives be more effective."

ENDS

Notes: Under the Lisbon Treaty, the UK has the option of leaving a series of cross-border EU crime fighting measures and must make a decision on whether to opt out by next year. In July, after prolonged negotiations within the coalition, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the UK government will be opting back in to 35 of the 136 crime fighting measures, including the European Arrest Warrant and all those deemed vital by the Association of Chief Police Officers. 

Since 2009 until figures were collated in June 2013, 384 suspects were extradited back to the UK to face charges using the EAW including 63 for child sex offences, 105 for drug trafficking, 27 for rape and 44 for murder. European Arrest Warrants were used to bring Martin Stafford back from the Irish Republic to Birmingham to face trial for the murder of Michelle Gunshon, aged 38, who disappeared while working at the NEC in December 2004 and a number of other high profile criminals in other police force areas in the West Midlands region. 

The Institute for Research into Superdiversity: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/superdiversity-institute/index.aspx