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Lords express concern over police losing access to EU database

26/03/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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A House of Lords committee has warned that UK police forces could face problems from losing access to an important EU database.

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In a report on the implications of Brexit for policing, law enforcement and security, the EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee says the last minute trade deal between the UK and EU has preserved some aspects of data sharing.

But it points to the UK losing access to the Schengen Information System (SIS II) database, which provides real time data on persons and objects of interested, including wanted and missing persons.

As a substitute, UK authorities have turned to the Interpol I-24/7 database, but this requires EU countries to upload the same information as to SIS II, and the government has not provided clear evidence on how it would persuade them to do so.

It also depends on the completion of technical improvements to UK systems to make I-24/7 data available to frontline police officers in minutes rather than hours.

The committee says the government should report on progress on both matters to committees in both Houses of Parliament.

Welcome provisions

More generally, it welcomes the provisions for the UK and EU to continue sharing passenger name record data and for continued UK access to EU databases covering fingerprints, DNA and criminal records.

Other points include that whether the UK meets data protection requirements will depend on its continued involvement with the EU law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, Europol and Eurojust; and that it will be important to monitor the performance of currently untested arrangements on data sharing.

Committee chair Lord Ricketts said: “This agreement enables the UK to continue to co-operate with the EU in the areas of security and justice, including on the sharing of key data and on extradition. The government has therefore succeeded in avoiding an abrupt end to years of effective UK-EU joint working in these areas, which would have put the safety of citizens in the UK and across the EU at greater risk.

“There are, however, still grounds for considerable caution. These are a complex and untested set of arrangements and their effectiveness will depend crucially on how they are implemented at the operational level. This will require continued parliamentary scrutiny.”

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