EU-US Agreement on Law Enforcement Data Sharing Approved – something else we are set to lose

It’s important for police and other law enforcement agencies to keep information.  They could not function without it.  In the modern age it is advantageous for information to be shared across national borders, if we are to beat criminals who cross borders physically or electronically.

In my time working in the criminal justice system, I have seen that happen successfully many times.  Sometimes it is as simple as a police officer here emailing police in another country, explaining what they are investigating and would they be able to look into something for them.

I have seen witness statements for cases in England supplied by police in other parts of Europe, the US, Australia and Canada.  I have been involved in a case where we received tremendous assistance on a case from a Crown Prosecutor in Ontario and, through them, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  The Mounties “always get their man”.

My understanding is that most police forces in England will give similar informal assistance to police from countries that have a basic protection of human rights.  Requests from states that torture or detain without trial are less likely to be helped.  We would not help the Gestapo locate persons of interest to them, nor should we aid their modern equivalents.

There is sometimes an attitude like, “Mr X is now outside the UK, he’s not our problem, who cares.”  That is a very stupid view, which I think is now rare.  Most people understand that the world is a safer place if we help each other.

But going out and making enquiries is different to sharing large amounts of data.  In the EU, our authorities can access each other’s data on previous convictions, finger prints and such records.  This is important and ensures our courts have what they need.   It remains to be seen whether this access will be protected post-Brexit.

In the EU we have the benefit of a legal framework to ensure that data about us shared between law enforcement agencies is held safely.  It can’t be sold or given out. Of course that happens. We know of cases of police officers being paid by tabloid newspapers for it. The point is the law enables action to deal with that.

We also have a right to have inaccurate information about us to be corrected and to seek judicial redress.  A court can’t say “we won’t hear your complainant because you are not one of our citizens”.

But what about sharing data with the US and accessing their data?

In the past the US has been reluctant to share, while wanting our data, and there have been real concerns about safeguards.  I remember, Sarah Ludford, as an MEP fought magnificently on the issue of Air Passenger Data safeguards. There have been stories of British families unable to travel to American because of wrong information held and no right to correct it.  Some US states will only recognise complaints about law enforcement agencies brought by US citizens.

The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee has now approved the Umbrella Agreement between the EU and EU for sharing data between law enforcement agencies.  This will help fight crime on both sides of the Atlantic.  The agreement will also creates for EU citizens certain new protections.  From now on, US states will grant citizens of EU states the right to correct wrong information, the right to be informed of any data protection breach and the right to access judicial protection.

This is an important step.  It is one of 1000s of benefits of EU membership that UK citizens are set to lose.

I know that for many people this issue will seem irrelevant to their life. “I am not going to America”, “I don’t mind if the FBI have information on me that is wrong”, etc.   But we should all care.  Because a threat to freedom of anyone is a threat to freedom of everyone.



* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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  • I think losing mass surveillance is great. I hope after Brexit that the European Arrest Warrent is also ripped up. I read today that Tony Blair said that Brexit can be stopped, looking back on the New Labour era what (other than tribalism) really stopped the lib dems being part of new labour?

  • ethicsgradient 24th Nov '16 - 6:52pm

    I think you make a good point and international corporation for crime prevention is a good thing.

    I would say that this area/cooperation could be could be easily replicated through bilateral, trilateral or multilateral Agreements because it is a benefit to all parties. UK/USA already share much data and work closely together. USA/EU was always less easy due to USA distrust of French leaking data/using data to help Iran ( France still maintain De Gaulle Independence stance in relations to the US) The EU desprately ants the UK’s data collecting abilities too. Very easy to replicate I would say.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Nov '16 - 7:34pm

    The “Great” Repeal Bill is likely to be large, but describing it as “Great” is Tory spin. Our parliament might decide to retain this. Because the UK has not yet left the EU we might find that our parliament might need to incorporate this legislation in the interim.
    If Tory spin-doctors want to make a comparison with the Reform Act 1832 they should look more carefully. Contemporary Tories opposed it vigorously. Police forces were woefully inadequate, so armed force was used prematurely.
    The 1832 Act abolished votes for women, disappointed many men and women who campaigned for reform and led to the Labour Party.

  • Laurence Cox 24th Nov '16 - 8:00pm

    @Richard Underhill
    The Peterloo Massacre was 1819, so well before the 1832 Great Reform Act. Also the importance of the Act was that it created a common franchise for the first time in UK history. As only about 1 in 5 adult males qualified to vote, but still around 60% more than before, suggesting that it was defective because it abolished the right of a few women to vote is to miss the point. It represented the first stage in moving to universal adult suffrage and that is worth celebrating.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Nov '16 - 2:09pm

    Laurence Cox: Factually true, but leading to a misleading conclusion. There was a long campaign which, for example, included a demand for a secret ballot, which was not conceded until decades later. Please see Lucy Worsley on the Regency.
    Robert Wootton: Yes. The equivalent in the USA did not happen until the 1930s, in the EU until the Arrest Warrant.
    Imagine that you wanted to extradite Nigel Farage from the USA to investigate UKIP expenses, would it be possible if adequate evidence became available in this post-factual era? If he claimed asylum in the USA would they grant it?

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