Law enforcement agencies meet to discuss best ways of tackling cross-border crime

Peter May, Permanent Secretary Department of Justice; PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin; Minister Charlie Flanagan TD, Department of Justice and Equality; and Drew Harris, Chief Commissoner of An Garda Sioch�na at the cross border organised crime conference. Photo by Simon Graham.
Peter May, Permanent Secretary Department of Justice; PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin; Minister Charlie Flanagan TD, Department of Justice and Equality; and Drew Harris, Chief Commissoner of An Garda Sioch�na at the cross border organised crime conference. Photo by Simon Graham.

Senior representatives from the PSNI, An Garda Siochána, National Crime Agency and a number of other organisations are meeting in Co Down to discuss ways of enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border.

The sixteenth annual cross border organised crime conference opened today at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle.

The conference, on the theme of ‘Shared Problems, Shared Solutions’ takes place over two days and brings together representatives from government departments, Police Service of Northern Ireland, An Garda Siochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the National Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and Revenue Commissioners.

The purpose is to enhance cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, particularly in relation to cross border organised criminality and related issues. It also provides an opportunity to assess and address changing trends in crime and to build upon and enhance the operational actions already being undertaken in this area.

At today’s session, a Cross Border Organised Crime Threat Assessment jointly prepared by the PSNI and An Garda Síochána Analysis Units for the conference, provided those present with an update into organised criminality on both sides of the border.

Department of Justice Permanent Secretary, Peter May, said: “Against a backdrop of rapid change, new technologies and the spread of globalisation, this conference provides an important space for law enforcement and government on the island of Ireland to explore how best to enhance and strengthen the ways in which we work collaboratively.

“We know that the threat we face from organised crime is real and immediate and that organised criminals will seek to exploit new opportunities posed by global, political and technological change. That is why this conference remains vital and relevant 16 years on from when it was first established. Because now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to find new ways to work together, to share our skills and knowledge and information, so that, together, we can keep pace with global developments and new technologies, and work effectively across our shared border to keep people safe and to disrupt and pursue through the courts those who would seek to harm our communities through organised crime.

“When we work in partnership it is a force multiplier that delivers results – as we can see from the many operational successes of the cross border Joint Agency Task Force.”

Irish government minister Charlie Flanagan TD said: “As Minister for Justice and Equality, I am very committed to ensuring very close north-south cooperation on criminal justice matters. I am keenly aware of the threat posed by criminals who seek to exploit the border. This conference provides a timely and important forum for key stakeholders on both sides of the border to work together, exchange information and ultimately ensure that we effectively protect the safety of the people on this island.”

PSNI’s Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin commented: “Crime knows no borders and Organised Crime Groups in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are increasingly co-operating with each other in order to maximise their profits.

“It is therefore incumbent on the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána to continue working together, and with colleagues from different law enforcement agencies in our jurisdictions, to ensure we share skills, knowledge and resources to keep people safe on both sides of the border.

“Every day, our organisations work together to tackle the criminality of organised crime gangs working along the border. However, this Conference affords us an important opportunity to come together formally to consider new and better ways of tackling cross border crime, in partnership, within a constantly changing environment.

“The Cross Border Joint Agency Task Force continues to deliver tangible results and displays the significant commitment of all involved to protect our communities and, particularly, the most vulnerable in society. Its successes demonstrate what can be achieved when we work collaboratively with each other.”

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris added: “The cross border organised crime conference is a real demonstration of the strong working relationship between An Garda Síochána, the PSNI and our law enforcement partners. This relationship has saved lives and protected communities on both sides of the border.

“The nature of crime is ever changing. We will continue to share and exchange intelligence to successfully combat threats such as cyber-crime, international organised crime, and intellectual property crime. This is particularly important as many of the crimes impacting on our communities require law enforcement co-operation across international boundaries.

“As we face the challenges of Brexit and ever evolving criminality, strong and effective partnerships will be even more critical in providing a safe and secure society for everyone on the island of Ireland.”

The conference agenda included topics such as human trafficking, modern slavery and VAT fraud.

The conference is organised jointly by the Department of Justice and the Irish Republic’s Department of Justice and Equality.