Tory peer and donor Lord Ashcroft, chairman of Crimestoppers, has been warned that his charity’s new campaign to catch the UK’s most serious criminals hiding abroad will be doomed if the UK pulls out of essential European police cooperation measures as demanded by 102 backbench Tory MPs.
Under the new project ‘Operation Zygos’, Crimestoppers is appealing for information from Cypriots and the expat community on the whereabouts of nine individuals wanted under UK-issued European Arrest Warrants for serious crimes committed in the UK, including rape, child sex assault, drug dealing and serious fraud.
However, the success of the campaign is at risk from 102 Conservative MPs who have called on the UK Government to withdraw from European police cooperation measures despite senior former UK police and security chiefs pleading with David Cameron and Nick Clegg that the UK should stay involved in measures like the Euro-warrant.
Commenting, senior Liberal Democrat MEP, Sarah Ludford, the party’s European Justice and Home Affairs spokeswoman, said:
“I congratulate Lord Ashcroft’s Crimestoppers on agreeing with UK police and security chiefs that when crime crosses borders, crime fighting must too and that the European Arrest Warrant is a key instrument.
“But if Tory Europhobes get their way, Lord Ashcroft’s project to catch criminals and bring them to justice across borders is doomed.
“The Euro-warrant must be applied properly and there is scope to reform it. But scrapping it altogether would allow hundreds of the UK’s most wanted criminals to make a joke of our criminal justice system by living the high life in sunny retreats around Europe.
“The security and safety of the British public must come before irrational and dogmatic attempts by Tory Europhobes to stop our police from bringing criminals to justice. Lord Ashcroft should spell this out to his own party.”
The new Crimestoppers initiative builds on the success of ‘Operation Captura’ where UK, Spanish and other European law enforcement bodies cooperated to track down and return 49 of the UK’s most wanted gangsters hiding in Spain, using the European Arrest Warrant.
Notes to Editors:
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the British Government must decide by the end of 2014 whetherBritainwill continue to participate in existing European police and judicial cooperation measures like the European Arrest Warrant. TheUKis the only EU member state with this Treaty provision.
Details on Operation Zygos can be found here: http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/most-wanted/catching-criminals-in-cyprus
Details on Operation Captura, the successful forerunner campaign, can be found here: http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/most-wanted/catching-criminals-in-spain
The letter in the Telegraph signed by 102 Tory backbench MPs calling for the UKto pull out of European police cooperation measures is here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/9062615/Repatriate-powers-on-crime-and-policing-say-Conservative-MPs.html
The Observer coverage of the letter signed by former senior UKpolice and security chiefs to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, calling for the UKto continue to participate in European police cooperation measures, can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/26/european-crime-cameron-mi5-policing