Examination of Witness (Questions 58 -
WEDNESDAY 2 DECEMBER 1998
(Lord Lester of Herne Hill took the Chair)
58. Mr Gallagher, I am sorry that you have
been kept waiting and that our numbers are depleted but we are
extremely grateful to you for coming. I wonder whether you would
like to begin with an opening statement?
(Mr Gallagher) Thank you, my Lord Chairman. Perhaps
I should introduce myself first, just to give you a little background
as to who I am and actually where I come from. I am an ex-police
officer. I served 30 years in the Kent Constabulary, retiring
last December. For the last 15 years or so, in one form or another,
I have been involved in what you might call cross-Channel liaison
work, more of which I will explain as we go on. For the last six
years I was the head of the Kent Police European Liaison Unit,
which is the only unit of its type in the UK, and is obviously
there because of the complex and particular problems we have in
terms of cross-frontier co-operation. Having retired in December,
I took leave (for two and a half months) and later returned to
the force on a part-time basis as adviser to the force on strategic
matters concerning contacts and development of the co-operation
with our near continental neighbours. Would you like me to give
a background as to the general approach which Kent has, bearing
in mind that I am actually speaking from the perspective of having
a local view as opposed to a national view. Therefore we are talking
about the problems and solutions to any co-operation difficulties
purely on a local basis. Would you like me to do that?
59. Yes. Perhaps you could tell us in broad
terms, first of all, how the cross-Channel system operates in
A. Perhaps if
I can give you a little bit of history as well because that might
be helpful to you. Historically, geographically, socially and
economically Kent is linked to the mainland continent probably
more than any other county in England, certainly as far as policing
is concerned. At the moment I think we are dealing with something
like 26 million people a year using Kent as a corridor on their
way to and from the continent. Our involvement in cross-border
relationships goes back to 1967-68 when the then Chief Constable,
Sir Dawnay Lemon, identified an operational need for co-operation
and, quite interestingly, the problems at that time were both
immigration, the beginning of illegal immigration, and drug trafficking.
He set out on what was quite a difficult path to make contact
with our near neighbours in Northern France and Flanders. In a
sense the problem was made more difficult in those days because
of the centralist system within France. Until that point most
of the co-operation and liaison had been achieved through Interpol
London, so a localised programme of liaison and co-operation was
something entirely new. With police services from Northern France
and Flanders he was a founder member in setting up the Cross-Channel
Intelligence Conference which still meets today and is an important
feature where chief officers from the various services from Rotterdam
through Flanders through to Northern France and on our side from
Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, meet on a regular
basis. In a sense for many years that was the way that cross-Channel
liaison was built up. It was based purely on informality and the
fact that people got to know each other and to trust each other
that a lot of personal contacts were made. As I mentioned a few
minutes ago, the European Liaison Unit, of which I was the head
until December, was formed in 1991. That was part of a force review
bearing in mind that by this time the Channel Tunnel had come
along and there was an entirely different need to the one that
perhaps we perceived in the 1980s. The Channel Tunnel acted as
a tremendous catalyst, as the préfet said just a few minutes
ago, for improving co-operation with our French colleagues. It
has been a very useful framework on which to build up that co-operation.
In that time also we have been very lucky to have developed a
form of communication which you may be interested to know about
called Linguanet which has further helped our co-operation with
our near neighbours. It is a system of electronic e-mail and has
a translation capability. That particular project has been financed
in great part by European funding. Also, during this time we have
built up and continue to work very well with the central services
as well, with Interpol and with NCIS, and indeed I can expand
on that later if you wish. Suffice to say our relationship is
very much one of good co-operation. We actually exchange staff
members in each other's camps so that we know exactly what is
going on. Again, I suppose that success has resulted over those
years due to personal trust and friendship and the tremendous
daily contact that we have and, also, an understanding of the
important balance between the informal and the formal approach
and all the options in between that you can use to find a solution
in terms of a particular enquiry, whether it is a general enquiry
or a judicial enquiry. More recently, to bring you up to date,
I have had the job of writing a European strategy for the force
which is a medium, long-term view of how we can improve things
even further. I think that may be enough for you at the moment,
I can give you more details as we go.
60. Could you just explain one thing which
is you have so far described very clearly a sort of regional police
system of co-operation in the South East with our continental
counterparts but I presume that there are similar arrangements
covering the whole country, as it were, and covering our relations,
for example, with our other near neighbour, Ireland? You have
been describing one of a series of networks, is that right?
A. Yes, that
is right. In fact, the concentrated cross-Channel area is merely
a geographical situation and nothing more than that. Pro rata
as you go down the south coastI mentioned Linguanet, this
communication systemthe forces of Devon and Cornwall and
Dorset are linked into that Linguanet system and they link down
as far as Spain and whilst others link across to Normandy and
their respective counterparts. Equally up on the North East there
have been general liaison connections with Scandinavia, Humberside
into Scandinavia, and maybe the Netherlands.
Baroness Turner of Camden
61. You have been describing a system which
seems to have developed over a long period of time. Has the Schengen
system made any difference to it at all or is it just a continuation
of what you already had?
A. I think it
is much of the latter. We have to work as though Schengen is not
there. I do not think that our relationships have suffered so
much at the moment from us not being members of Schengen although
from a personal point of view I do pick up signs that at times
it is frustrating to some of my colleagues abroad that we are
not part of Schengen.
62. Could you give us some examples of,
as it were, the disadvantages seen from a police service either
on the continent or here of not being in Schengen?
A. I suppose
one of the problems that we may have in the future which we did
not formerly have is that a lot of the formalwhen I say
"formal" I mean formal with a small `f'frameworks
of co-operation that we have built up have been on a police to
police basis only in the form of memorandums of understanding.
That has been purely of our own volition. I have examples of an
exchange of letters between my Chief Constable and the Préfet
of the Pas- de-Calais. We have an exchange of an MOU between our
Chief and the General of the Gendarmerie Nord-Pas-de-Calais for
exchanges of personnel and training purposes. We have an operational
MOU with the Chief Constable of Zeeland. The value of those exchanges
is obviously very good. What is apparent to me however at the
moment, particularly speaking to Belgian colleagues, is that they
are basing all of their new initiatives relating to cross-border
co-operation on the Schengen Convention. It has been made clear
to me by Belgian colleagues recently that they can only see future
co-operation with ourselves if it is on more of a legal basis.
By that they mean either through an inter-governmental bilateral
agreement, through Schengen, which would be the easiest method,
or through Interpol. A great degree of our work goes through Interpol
anyway but we just could not deal with everything that we have
to handle going through a central service. We are down to either
a bilateral agreement or a Schengen Agreement framework. I was
at a conference about four weeks ago and it was quite strange
to hear the Benelux members talking about facts that I thought
were already in place such as strategies for linguistic difficulties
which I thought had been overcome, cultural differences, operational
and communications differences, but it looks as though this is
not so, even for a country such as Belgium working with their
neighbours in the Netherlands or the Belgians working with the
French. They are clearly using the Schengen Agreement as a means
of putting all of this right and to operate on a regional local
basis whilst keeping an eye on national and pan-European policies.
At the moment where we are sitting in Kent we are doing as much
as we can because we recognise the difficulties and we have gone
out of our way to make it as professional and efficient as possible.
In a sense there is a limit to what the Chief Constable can do.
63. The Schengen Information System, do
you have informal access to that at the moment even though you
do not have formal access?
A. No, we do
not. We know where they are situated. There is a terminal close
to my old office in Folkestone. Five minutes from that office
are the offices of the Police Nationale from the PAF, (as they
used to be called) or DICCILEC They have within their system
an equivalent of the PNC, the police national computer, and this
is integrated with the Schengen system as well; but I think it
would be improper of us to go and knock on their door and ask
for a Schengen check or whatever. Equally, the Belgian system
is such that they have outlying sub-terminals nearest to the borders,
or in our case nearest to the UK which is Bruges, and again there
is an equivalent of the European liaison unit in Bruges with the
Rijkswacht, and we know the Schengen information system is linked
64. Can I try and summarise therefore and
see whether I have got it right? Historically, there was an informal
system of agreements made regionally and each worked pretty well.
As the structures on the Continent become stronger and more formal
through Schengen, with us being outside, the police service in
Kent can only obtain comparable information to that under the
Schengen information system through Europol or the making of new
treaties between the UK Government and France, Belgium, whatever?
A. Yes, my Lord,
but it is dependent on who we are working with. One of the difficulties
we have is that our near neighbours only have to use a one-stop
shop, if they have an inquiry in Kent, which is the European Liaison
Unit. For us, when we enquire in France or Belgium we have to
decide where the problem is, and who is best to deal with it,
and they haveand I gather you have a background in France
so I am sure you would know thisdifferent police forces
split up into many directions and it is sometimes quite difficult.
The same happens in Belgium. Equally, when we are dealing with
day-to-day co-operation, we do not in fact have any real difficulties
at the moment. The French are very good to us and we exchange
information well. To a great extent that is the situation in Belgium,
although as I say I think it is changing, particularly with their
political situation as it is and the likely reformation of their
police forces into a national force of some shape or other in
the near future. With the Netherlands, again it is quite easy
to co-operate on a local basis. Whether that will always remain
so, I do not know, and obviously we are not getting the best access
to pan-European information that we would get within the SIS.
If we had access to that, together with the PNC, together with
the other systems in NCIS, together with the co-operation with
our customs colleagues and our immigration colleagues, we would
have very powerful tools to make sure we had a full picture of
exactly what was available.
Baroness Turner of Camden
65. What sort of major crimes do you confront?
What are the major areas where you require this amount of co-operation?
Is it drugs?
A. Yes, drugs
is always to the fore in that area. The frontier zones of the
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Kent and Flanders form a dynamic active area.
Drugs is always, and always will be, a problem. Also, as you have
mentioned this afternoon, there is illegal immigration. We have
another problem, mainly dealt with by our customs colleagues,
of bootlegging but that brings local problems to the Police in
Kent because the people operating it are now domiciled in the
Dover district, for instance, and causing us some operational
headaches there. In addition there is always the constant problem
of theft of high value vehicles, caravans, lorries, loads and
things like this. The use of stolen credit cards is also a problem.
66. If someone is suspected of a serious
crime and comes from elsewhere in the European Union than the
Channel countries of the Continent, let us take Greece as an example,
is the problem that it is easy to get information about the crime
and the criminality from Belgium, France and the Netherlands,
but if someone comes from further afield in the Schengen area
the information about that person would be on the Schengen information
system which you do not have direct access to, or indirect access
to? Therefore there is a barrier to the free flow of information
to the Kent Constabulary, unless you can get it in some other
way, say, through the police national computer system or Europol?
Have I understood this correctly?
A. Yes, you
are right. If somebody was being checked on entry by the police,
let us say at Dover port or Coquelle, we would have to make an
enquiry and if they were from that far afield it would have to
be through Interpol or some other means.
67. Is that less efficient than the Schengen
A. There may
be a time factor.
68. That sounds quite important. Time can
be very important in detecting crime.
69. So is there a real gap, a real area
of concern here that by being outside Schengen our policing is
less effective or likely to become less and less effective?
A. I think there
is an emerging gap. With the freeing up of the borders post-single
European market, it is quite obvious. The figures which have arisen
over the last few years in terms of people moving across into
our area show quite clearly that we need all the help we can get
in terms of making sure the people coming in are the people we
want to be here. I think to that extent, I would agree with you,
that we would obviously fare better by having access to their
SIS. If not, we are going to have to start to use the emerging
Europol lines, although of course the Schengen information system
is a very quick system in terms of the fact it is hard information,
it is not intelligence-based, it merely tells you the first steps
in respect of who you are dealing with and where you might go
from there. From our point of view in Kent, it must not be seen
to be the cure for all ills, we are only really interested in
what is happening in our own back garden, but equally because
of the movement of people from all over Europe and beyond, we
do need to be in the best position we can to serve our public.
70. Presumably in your mutual co-operation
with other police forces throughout England and Wales, and for
that matter the whole of the UK, you are on the front line and
need to be in a position to pass on information quickly and accurately,
which you derive from whatever computer base you can?
A. Yes. That
is particularly important, of course, for our colleagues who have
to work in Coquelle on the juxtaposed controls, because there
is always the business of having to get offenders back or other
information back into the UK from our offices on the French side.
71. Are there any ways other than by joining
Schengen in which you consider the present arrangements for cross-Channel
co-operation could be improved?
A. As I say,
a lot of it is to do with locally based things, but I have been
very lucky to be part of the design team for these memorandums
of understanding, and I have seen their value. But I do not think
that is enough. I have now retired from the force and I would
have liked to have left leaving on the shelf a set of guidelines
underpinned by some sort of bilateral agreement structure.
72. What in broad terms would be the content
A. We would be
merely underpinning what we do informally in terms of the way
we co-operate, the accountability, the responsibility. Rather
than relying on informality and people working very hard to build
up this trust and continued working relationship, I would like
to see some sort of redress if things went wrong, where you could
actually go back and argue the point. At the moment we are very
lucky, as the préfet mentioned, in respect of the relationships
between ourselves and France. Recently a green light from Paris
has been given to the Regional Préfet who has, subsequently,
come to us offering initiatives on specific areas of co-operation
between Kent and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, which they have never
done before. I do not know if this is a precursor to something
else later on, ie some sort of bilateral agreement between Paris
and London. The Regional Préfet seems confident that we
are going to make real progress. I see that as a half-way house
between our previous MOU and a full bilateral agreement. The two
areas they are looking at are firstly on the exchange of information
and, secondly, the exchange of best practice. In fact, today an
application has gone into the Interreg Programme, which is the
European Union regional local fund, to see if there will be some
financial support for those initiatives. Even if that does not
come along I am sure the hope is that we will go forward with
that initiative anyway.
73. Your dream of a fully developed, more
formal system before you retired, was that something that you
had developed in a paper or in any other way which was not pursued
for some reason by governments in the past?
A. No, not really.
If you look at the history of the development of our co-operation
with Francelet us take France as an examplewe have
actually done very well in the 30 years. I know it seems a long
time. On a day to day basis things have been fine. There are hiccoughs
but the fact that people like myself have to go back and work
with the counterparts the following week means that you make sure
you stick to simple philosophies, such as the fact that the French
do not do things wrongly they do things differently and if you
always expect the unexpected then you will not be disappointed.
By keeping those sorts of things in our minds we have been able
to pursue those co-operation agreements thus far. It has been
the case that we in Kent have been able to progress these things
fairly successfully. The longer that I have been in this area
of work the more I have been able to identify that you need to
go further than that. In a sense a good example of best practice
is with the Channel Tunnel because the Channel Tunnel is underpinned
by an Act of Parliament in this country and one on the other side.
Associated with that are protocols that tell you and tell the
officers, whether customs, immigration or police, exactly how
to behave and what they can or cannot do. Step one metre outside
of the Channel Tunnel site and you are in the same position that
we were 30 years ago, you are back mainly into informality. There
are a few very useful conventions, such as the conventions on
mutual legal assistance and extradition, but short of that there
are not a lot of legal frameworks for us on which to build our
co-operation and some may say but all the time that it is successful
leave it alone.
74. What about your information technology
and linguistic systems? You have mentioned that you are all on-line
regionally, as it were. Is all that working well? Do you have
common information technology systems, the same software? Are
you able to cope with linguistic differences?
A. From the
linguistic point of view we are very lucky in Kent because a lot
of our officers are linguistically skilled. In my old team a basic
criterion to be on the team was that you had to speak a minimum
of French but within the team we also have, Dutch, Spanish, Russian
and German speakers. In terms of trying to reach a much wider
sphere of understanding linguistically and with the help of colleagues
from Wolfson College, Cambridge, we developed a system originally
called Police Speak, which was perhaps not the best of names.
That moved on with European funding to the Linguanet Project.
This is a system based on very straight forward user friendly
software which is able to translate into five languages a lot
of pre-formatted messages that we use on our day to day enquiries,
such as stolen vehicles, missing persons, etc., etc. That has
had the advantage of progressing co-operation further. It has
stimulated more communication, clearer communication, and more
accountability. How far that system is going to go pan-European
wide we do not know but at the moment it is a very robust system.
I can leave a brochure about it if it is of any help to you.
75. We would be very grateful.
A. It gives
you a bit more detail. It has been used in all sorts of ways.
For instance, it can be used on a mobile basis. During the World
Cup the préfet of the Pas-de-Calais asked us to assist
in Lens and we took a mobile Linguanet across with us and that
helped very much in the very quick flow of information.
Baroness Turner of Camden
76. I suppose you have had problems with
this new system of trying to prevent football hooligans from going
abroad. Is that the sort of problem you have had to have contact
with the French police about?
A. It is an
interesting point you make because it is typical of the work that
we deal with. We have spoken about crime so far but when 26 million
people move through the county you end up with all sorts of other
policing problems. We must be careful not to associate Schengen
necessarily or cross-border co-operation only with crime matters.
We do have to deal with a lot of public disorder enquiries from
France. The people in Calais have a lot of problems at times,
as do the Belgians. Because of our close proximity and relationships
the Kent Police are often asked to go as observers or as liaison
officers. It helps in other times, such as the terrible disaster
in 1987 of the Herald of Free Enterprise. We could not have coped
with that had we not had a basis of good co-operation. And recently
working for the French with the Channel Tunnel fire enquiry. All
of these things come together when there is a real major incident
problem and even when there are problems such as people going
missing or accidents. We do work a lot on behalf of the coroners,
for instance. These types of enquiry are often as important as
any detection of crime at the borders.
Chairman: Mr Gallagher,
you have given us information that I have never thought about
before and it has been very interesting indeed and you have done
it without using police-speak. I think we have now covered all
of the questions we can reasonably ask you. We are very grateful
to you. May I also say that we are grateful to the staff who stayed
late this evening in order that we could have a record, and to
the shorthand writers who have had to write it all down. We are
very grateful to all of you. Thank you very much for coming. We
will circulate your evidence to the other Members of the Committee
who could not be here. Thank you.