Is it time to allow PSNI and Gardai to cross the border?
The Police Federation has said it is now time to let the PSNI and Gardai cross the border if in pursuit of criminals.
Federation chairman Terry Spence said that if police are to effectively fight terrorist and mafia-style crime gangs a hot pursuit policy, similar to the that used in other European countries, needs to be developed.
Mr Spence said the injury of two police officers during a major anti-smuggling operation in Co Armagh on Monday reiterates the need for such a policy.
One police officer remains in a serious condition in hospital after he and his colleague were struck by a lorry during a customs raid. The lorry driver drove through a roller door of a warehouse on the low Road near Meigh, striking the two officers, before speeding across the border. A search was last night continuing on both sides of the border for the driver.
Mr Spence, who described the incident as a “deliberate attempt to murder police officers”, said: “From our point of view this reiterates what we have been saying for some time, that we believe there are circumstances where the police should have the powers to pursue terrorists and criminals across the border and for Gardai to pursue terrorists into Northern Ireland as well. This happens in other European countries and we should have a hot pursuit policy here.”
Mr Spence added: “Whether that pursuit could have applied in this case or not, I am not sure. But it is very clear, when you consider the incident in Meigh, when officers could see where the van made off, there was the potential for police to pursue if that had been possible.
“I have a clear view on this. If we are going to try and stop terrorists, gangsters and Mafia-type operations, we need hot pursuit policy. It would really assist police in trying to close down these organisations.”
Countries across Europe are signed up to the Schengen Agreement, which allows officers to cross borders in hot pursuit of criminals.
The UK and Ireland are the only member states not signed up to the agreement.
Last year former Secretary of State Paul Goggins told the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that he remained “unconvinced that the implementation of Article 41 (of the Schengen Agreement) would materially assist this process”.
He added that former Chief Constable Hugh Orde and the Garda Commissioner, never made a case for adopting the provisions.
However, Chief Constable Matt Baggott has a close working relationship with the Garda Commissioner and has been looking at ways to increase cross-border co-operation.
It is understood that he would also be keen for the introduction of a model that would permit hot pursuit across the border.
The UK and Ireland are the only European member states who are not signatories to the Schengen Agreement, which allows police wearing their uniforms and in clearly marked vehicles to cross borders in hot pursuit of criminals.
Under Article 41 the pursuing officers are permitted to carry service weapons, which may only be used in self defence.
The Police Federation of Northern Ireland has said that a similar model should be put into practice between Northern Ireland and the Republic.