Almost 50 police pursuits end with suspects crossing Irish border

All but three of the failed incidents involved hot pursuits from Northern Ireland into the Republic
All but three of the failed incidents involved hot pursuits from Northern Ireland into the Republic

There are no plans to allow the PSNI to cross the Irish border while in ‘hot pursuit’ of terrorists or criminals, Stormont’s justice department (DoJ) has said.

Despite new figures showing that 47 chase situations were terminated at the border in the last five years, a DoJ spokesman said a new arrangement, similar to one operating in many other European countries, was not necessary.

Neither [government] is convinced it would enhance cross border policing

Article 41 of the Schengen Convention allows officers to enter neighbouring jurisdictions in chase situations, however, neither the UK nor Republic of Ireland have signed up to the widely used protocol.

According to data produced by The Detail website, the majority of the failed pursuit incidents took place in Londonderry/Donegal (18) and Newry/Dundalk (8) regions, while other crossing points included Middletown/Monaghan, Strabane/Lifford, Newtownbutler/Clones, Aughnacloy/Emyvale and Crossmaglen/Dundalk. All but three involved pursuits from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

Between December 2011 and February 2012 there was a spike in activity with 13 incidents recorded in a 62 day period.

The DoJ spokesman said the Schengen Convention was not a devolved matter, and added: “There are no plans to adopt Schengen by either the UK or Irish Governments as neither is convinced that it would enhance or materially assist cross border policing in any way.

“The PSNI and An Garda Siochana have an excellent working relationship which provides a firm basis for practical and strategic co-operation between both services, including in emergency situations such as a hot pursuit.”

The spokesman added: “The Cross Border Policing Strategy, which has just been reviewed and updated, highlights the breadth of co-operation that exists.

“Both police services use all the tools available to them to ensure that those who would seek to exploit the border for criminal ends will not succeed.”

The PSNI data shows that 12 arrests were subsequently made in relation to six of the pursuits. Based on those figures, in 41 of the incidents (87%) the suspects successfully fled the jurisdiction.

An Garda Síochána said it did not hold specific information on hot pursuits.

A Garda spokesperson said: “No such statistics are available, however the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 allows for persons who have committed an offence in Northern Ireland to be arrested if they flee into our jurisdiction and the same applies with the PSNI,”

The NI Policing Board said the issue had not been brought to its attention by PSNI chief constable George Hamilton, however, the matter was raised by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the Republic earlier this year.

In a report on the All-Island Economy, the committee recommended that: “Protocols be constituted that will allow for both the PSNI and An Garda Síochána to pursue criminals into the opposite jurisdiction and in keeping with the law of that jurisdiction make an arrest.”