Inadequate EU Withdrawal Agreement Threatens to Compromise Cross European Policing and Criminal Justice Cooperation

The UK left the EU without detailed alternative arrangements in place in many key areas including justice and security. It is, for example, no longer a signatory to arrangements concerning cross Europe policing and criminal justice cooperation. This should be a major concern as lack of adequately resourced processes and procedures to replace pre Brexit processes and procedures aimed at coordinating efforts across EU member states and other states with whom the EU has agreements. The UK effectively going it alone without properly negotiated arrangements in place leaves dangerous gaps in justice and security provisions that could be exploited. The UK no longer has straightforward access to previously accessible databases vital to security. The present reality is that vitally important arrangements, such as a satisfactory alternative to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), have as of January 2021 yet to be negotiated, and until this work can be done the assumption is that the UK will simply adopt a similar (inferior) arrangement that currently applies to Iceland as an interim measure, often referred to as EAW lite. The current situation simply beggars belief.

Article 8 of the withdrawal agreement is pretty clear regarding the fact that the UK will no longer enjoy access to all the very useful databases and tools that it has it has hitherto benefited from as an EU member. Extradition arrangements are just one example of a process that as a result of withdrawal has now become a lot more lengthy and complex. The UK simply does not have a treaty with the EU to deal with this and must now rely on the provisions of EU law that protect EU citizens from being extradited to non-EU countries that is a far more convoluted process than it is when extraditing someone from one EU member state to another.

The issue of the EAW in particular and other issues concerning cross Europe policing and criminal justice cooperation have been brought to the attention of successive PMs since the Brexit referendum and Boris Johnson has been warned on numerous occasions, including by senior police officers and experts in the National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2016, that these issues must be addressed. Without access to vital databases UK’s capacity to combat things like cybercrime, safeguard children and prevent terrorism or trafficking of people, drugs, dangerous substances or weapons could be impacted upon significantly.

It is surprising that Johnson’s party, that has made so much populist noise about the security of borders and supposedly regaining control, has apparently neglected to secure some of the key protections previously afforded to citizens of the four countries whilst the UK was a full member of the EU.

Even ex-PM Tony Blair appears to have done more thinking than the UK government about cross Europe policing and criminal justice cooperation. When asked recently about id cards he quipped that they would have made border and security matters a lot easier in the present crisis. In order to ensure other freedoms when travelling, the UK may be pressured to bring in some form of biometrically enabled ID card. This, of course, would be politically embarrassing. Rather than being able to negotiate the option to opt-out of EU arrangements the UK may find itself increasingly being obliged to opt-in to arrangements it may have previously felt empowered to resist. Times change as the reality of the UK’s now severely weakened position on the world stage begins to bite.

All the distracting popular media noise about the colour of passports and delays at airports now seems like trivial nonsense merely acting as a smokescreen to fundamentally important issues. The UK government appears to have completely failed to appreciate the hard fact that the UK has by default now opted out of sophisticated Europe wide justice and security arrangements they helped build and that have kept UK residents a lot safer and secure than anyone in the PMs inner circle apparently cares to admit. Without these arrangements, the UK is vulnerable and isolated in respect of a number of global threats.

In the absence of treaty provisions, the protections provided to assist EU member agencies to deal with Justice and security issues will start to fragment and fall away almost immediately. Cross Europe policing and criminal justice cooperation does not just happen nor is it inexpensive or uncomplicated. There are always considerable ongoing resource implications and costs involved for any state wishing to do this on their own. The fact is that the UK is no longer an EU member means that it no longer gets the full benefits in terms of access to information that it previously enjoyed. It may however be the case that it would be in the EU’s interest to have simplified reciprocal arrangements in place with the UK in order to ensure that it is not vulnerable from UK based threats. It is estimated that non- EAW extradition will take three times the length of EAW extradition and cost considerably more than previously. Delays in interviewing a person suspected of being involved in a serious crime may have a fairly obvious impact on an investigation. In the case of organised criminals, this would allow time for entire operations to be wrapped up and for those responsible for the crime to escape justice.

Other EU countries security services deeply regret that the UK is no longer an EU member as the more valued participants in collaborative security arrangements the greater the mutual protection. The UK has been a valued partner in the fight against terror and serious crime through its own and links to other security services it has played its part and has for a number of years benefited from the treaty regulated two-way flow of information. What now has to happen is that new regulations safeguarding and protecting EU and UK citizens will have to be negotiated and put in place. This could be done fairly quickly whilst the UK is aligned with the EU but until this happens the UK, as a state outside the EU justice and security system and will need to be treated by the EU in a similar way to any other essentially friendly non-EU state. The negative effects of the process of decoupling are likely to be amplified if the UK appears to deliberately seek to distance itself from EU justice and security arrangements. Diverging too much from EU arrangements both present and future may well prove to be a costly mistake.

Apparently, the UK government is prepared to ignore any expert advice that appears to highlight the fact that Brexit negotiations glossed over potentially sticky areas of potential contention simply because the government feared opening yet another can of politically sensitive worms. In October 2020 Dr Amanda Kramer (Lecturer in Law, Queen’s University Belfast) and Dr Rachael Dickson (Research Fellow, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham) made a number of important points and warnings in their submission to Parliament that should not be ignored including their view that

‘Despite government assurance, such as those made recently by Michael Gove that the UK could do “better” without joint law enforcement operations,[1] evidence demonstrates that being outside EU mechanisms is harmful to justice and security. It is suggested that the government provide more detail to evidence these claims’

[1] Lisa O’Carroll, ‘” Utter Rubbish”: Theresa May incredulous at Michael Gove’s Brexit Claims’ The Guardian (19 October 2020)

A constant feature of Johnson’s government prior to the COVID-19 crisis has been a certain degree of anti-intellectualism and its willingness to ignore expert advice regarding justice and security both domestically and internationally and instead it appears to rely on the often dubious and evidently inexpert opinions and gut reactions of outspoken representatives such as Michael Gove (who some will remember passed on his favourite advisor Dominic Cummings to Johnson – a very mixed blessing) Ian Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling. Uber polite Gove, like Ian Duncan Smith and the calamity prone Chris Grayling, has often intimated that he knows best in marked contrast to expert advice and appears to have an irrational distrust of experts, presumably also shared by Cummings, who famously wanted to increase his own power and influence in order to shake up and disrupt the civil service to presumably be more amenable to acting recklessly and abandoning the checks and balances that more or less help our increasingly vulnerable democracies to function.

The EU withdrawal agreement does include some mention of ongoing police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters but most provisions will now have ended following the expiry of the transition period. The last year should have been spent putting satisfactory interim provisions in place but unfortunately, this work if started has apparently not been effective. Access to vital databases such as the Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA) and Eurojust can now only be accessed for a year after the end of transition for a fee. The details of how this will work, processes etc are apparently a matter for others to work out and still being discussed. Requests can be made in respect of other matters related to justice and security but these requests might well be denied by individual states depending upon their constitution and delays seem inevitable. Sorting these matters out and making things run smoothly in agreement with others is after all the purpose of treaties and why neighbouring states with common interests usually want to join together rather than go their own way.

The devil is always in the detail and there are numerous devils to be dealt with. The details of alternative provisions are often a lot harder to resolve and a lot knottier than simply withdrawing from existing arrangements without something suitable in place and hoping the consequences of doing so won’t be as bad as the experts fear. The UK has now left the EU with a half baked trade deal and a Brexit agreement that leaves more loose ends to be resolved than a loose ended thing ought to have at any time. Of course, having made a mess of negotiations (the code for which = ‘done his best’) Johnson will no doubt be anxious to move on to an easier win leaving civil servants to try to clear up after him because that is what has happened in the past.

Boris Johnson must realise that the UK cannot be governed indefinitely in this cavalier way. Unfortunately, his government’s reckless gamble with post-Brexit justice and security arrangements may very well backfire on all of us in some way. When this inevitably happens no one should be in any doubt who is to blame and Johnson cannot claim that he was not warned or simply blame experts this time around.

Talking About Dolphins, Habitat, and Wearable Technology

I was intrigued to learn recently that the first dolphin conversation has been observed. We have long known – though many might dispute it – that we are not the only intelligent or indeed conscious animals on Earth. Depending on how it is measured we may not even be the most intelligent life form currently inhabiting this planet. We really cannot even be absolutely certain that there have not been other life forms on earth that were or are more intelligent than we consider ourselves to be. Whatever factors lead to the development of  intelligence other factors such as attrition due to the destruction of habitat,  predation, or a pandemic can wipe out a sustainable population of any geographically specific species in a short period of time and probably have done thousands of times perhaps leaving a few survivors to seek out or be discovered by others who might find enough genetic similarities to breed or provide ahandy meal.

What is certain is that our own species of hairless apes has relatively recently begun engaging in activities that are rapidly destroying the habitats that our fellow life forms rely on to survive and this behaviour cannot be considered intelligent as it will impact on us too. It is a great shame that at a time when we appear to have the means to live sustainably and in relative harmony with the planet that progress is seemingly only possible if the environment is damaged and little consideration is given regarding the impact of our activities, and the way we choose to live, on other species and the overall well-being of the planet. Of course if we all agreed to stop harming the planet and respect life and the environments that sustain it then that would be a huge step forward.

The dystopian future that H. G. Wells portrayed in his book ‘The Time Machine’ often haunts me. A world where technology is present and used but not understood and where our species has merely become a source of food for a stronger species

I think wearable technology has a role to play in that it might be adapted to help us to measure the impact we have on the environment in a variety of ways. For example our food choices might be monitored and we might be advised to make decisions about what we eat that are better for the environment. We might be advised regarding transport that has less of an impact or interact with intelligent home environments that maximise energy efficiency and help us to minimise harmful waste. We might for instance live in greener cities that use renewable energy resources and our wearable technology will enable us to make smarter choices living in them helping to keep us fit, healthy and safe.

We don’t have to plunder and damage the planet if we share resources and only use what we need being sure to take into account the impact of what we do and replant, replace, and renew as we go.

Permanent or Biodegradable Implantable Electronic Monitoring Technology 

Permanent or Biodegradable Implantable Electronic Monitoring Technology 
The existence of viable and potentially useful technology of this type is a relatively recent development and already there is talk that it could potentially have a number of applications including those useful for medical, military, criminal justice purposes and produce an increasing number of data sources that could be used in an increasing number of ways. Activity type monitoring collecting data on heart rate, respiration, location, temperature, and alcohol use are just the beginning. 

In the future our bodies may well be equipped with a fairly standard set of tiny networked sensors and other subdermal electronic devices that are designed to be permanent and may provide a variety of services including real time information (perhaps a bit like some cars that can be connected to computers to provide an ever increasing amount of diagnostic and information that can also be used to predict future problems) monitoring our status and any changes in normal functions. 

We may also have additional sensors implanted monitoring specific areas perhaps as a result of being assessed to be at higher statistical risk of developing certain congenital/hereditary) health problems. If this is likely to be necessary for only a short time period for example following surgery or because of other diagnostic information then the sensors could be made biodegradable in the same way that some sutures are simply dissolve or are absorbed over time. 

The main driver for the widespread use of this technology may well prove to be the health/life insurance industry with lower costs for those who are considered to be lower risk and much higher costs for those who are assessed as being at higher risk leading to a form of social sorting on the basis of health/life expectancy and lifestyle. 

There is therefore a slightly worrying element to the development of these technologies that may appear to be on the one hand a useful and beneficial use of technology but may also prove to be used in such a way as to become socially divisive and potentially open to abuse. Would we really want for example for our lifestyle choices to be precisely monitored and those that choose to lead riskier or indeed sedentary lives (poor diet, drinking, smoking, high adrenaline sports etc) to be compelled to pay more for healthcare than those who are in low risk occupations and don’t take risks and take every precaution in order to evidence that they have acted at all times within approved and safe parameters? 

Society may eventually be divided between those considered deserving of healthcare and those considered less deserving based upon their respective lifestyle choices. 

We may well ask how will society will treat those who might be considered to have been reckless with their health or who are predicted to be expensive to treat in the future but are without the resources to pay for the treatment of anticipated health problems? Who will own or have access to our data that might make predictions possible? Would data collected when for instance we were being monitored for alcohol use (that might include other unrelated biometric data) following a drink driving conviction be sold on to an insurance or finance company and used to assess our risk when we apply for life/medical insurance or if we apply for a loan?

The potential to place biodegradable devices inside the body that can monitor chemicals associated with pain and respond accordingly by administering precise doses of drugs (either internally or via external devices) might assist with the management and treatment of medical conditions and illneses but might also open up possibilities for control and manipulation. For example precisely controlled hormonal implants to treat medical conditions might also be used to attempt to control/treat undesirable impulses or behaviours in sex offenders. 

Implants might also be developed to administer pain, nausea, or other discomfort if someone was doing something or going somewhere that was prohibited. Implants might also be developed to manipulate or control people in different ways such as keeping them awake, relaxed or sleepy in order to remotely manage those in an institution such as a prison or indeed to respond in a variety of ways if certain substances were detected. 

Military applications of this technology are fairly obvious with the the real possibility of producing enhanced soldiers that might be precisely monitored and controlled. Implants that simply melt away might for example be mission specific. 

As is usual the technologies that are becoming available are being developed ahead of the ethical discussion and although much is now becoming possible that was previously science fiction we may have to consider fairly quickly what permanent and biodegradable implantable technologies are desirable and what are not and think carefully about how this technology might be used/abused and how it might be regulated.

‘Prisoners on parole to be fitted with alcohol detector tags’

Quite puzzled by an article in The Sunday Times today with the headline

‘Prisoners on parole to be fitted with alcohol detector tags’

This is certainly news to me and quite possibly to the rest of the electronic monitoring community.

The article starts off stating that ‘Criminals will be banned from drinking alcohol when they are released from prison’. However, the article neglects to say how this will be accomplished. Present legislation has allowed Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring tags (TAMs) to be piloted in London by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. These are not GPS enabled as the article suggests nor are they currently authorised for use as part of parole supervision or indeed as part of supervision for those serving sentences of less than 12 months.

We do know that the government plans to expand the use of electronic monitoring in a bid to reduce the prison population but largely due to incompetence and changing the goal posts/obligations for suppliers etc the roll out of the long awaited GPS tags has been delayed and delayed. We may still have to wait until much later in the year until anyone other than MoJ staff are actually fitted with one.

The article suggests that tomorrow UK PM David Cameron will announce the authorisation of something that does not currently exist ie a GPS enabled alcohol monitoring tag to be used with groups of offenders ie Parolees for which legislation does not currently exist to make wearing these tags a condition of their licence. It therefore beggars belief that this is what Cameron will do and if he does announce this it is highly unlikely he will be able to deliver it anytime soon.

Even if everything was in place to roll out a system that as the article suggests would mean that ‘Thousands of prisoners will be fitted with tags and told to stay away from drink as part of the terms of parole’ how is that even remotely practical to enforce? Even monitoring 111 people through an 18 month pilot took a large number of dedicated people putting in some very hard work indeed to produce ‘proof of concept’. A small scale pilot to produce proof of concept is a long way from a national roll out and expansion to totally different groups of offenders.

Such a measure would not be about treatment or rehabilitation but be about restriction of liberty and punishment. It would impact disproportionately on the poor and persons with particular lifestyles whether or not alcohol had featured in their offending. The alcohol monitoring tags are larger and hence more visible than standard RFID tags and, for instance, you would have difficulty wearing work boots (or for women in particular to wear work boots or calf length boots) and you cannot take a bath with one on. This may well make getting a job and even undertaking work safely such as labouring or indeed getting clean afterwards a lot more challenging.

During the pilot suitability for the tags was carefully assessed and most of those found suitable were people who had committed drink drive offences. They are not suitable for those who are alcohol dependent.

There is also mention in the same article of ‘Smart Tags’ that are lauded as a means to ‘reduce the number of babies born and raised behind bars’. I am at a loss to know how this will be achieved. Are male and female offenders to be tracked like tagged wild animals in a breeding project and somehow kept apart to prevent sexual relations taking place?

The article also mentions the use of mobile phones in prisons that I have always thought is a security issue as unmonitored calls related to illicit activity are the problem. The suggested solution is for mobile phone companies to cut off their signal to prisons. This is technically very problematic and would almost certainly mean that prisons and the area surrounding prisons would become mobile phone dead zones. This would be very inconvenient for anyone living near a prison and could itself cause a security risk with communications limited to landlines alone.

I await Cameron’s speech and hope it makes more sense than this article does.

What’s all the fuss about global navigation satellite systems?

The ability to know your exact location and also the precise time at that location has become increasingly important to those who rely on a range of technologies that in turn rely on satellite systems to facilitate navigation, monitoring, and tracking. For example commercial operations are increasingly reliant on satellite aided systems to ensure that goods get to where they are supposed to. When the U.S. Air Force successfully launched new GPS satellites via an Atlas V rocket this was reported extensively in China.(1) China happens to be one of several countries that is now vying for new business in this important area.

However, it is  perhaps prudent to consider the fact that the US GPS network, that most of us increasingly rely on for navigation, is primarily a military system owned and developed by the US Air Force and paid for by the Pentagon and was not originally conceived as having a civilian role. It is one of the systems that that is known to be used to assist military hardware, such as UAVs, to pinpoint targets. The civilian signal that most of us use with our SATNAVS and increasingly on our smartphones is freely accessible to anyone with suitable equipment but that service can just as easily be reduced or taken away. the loss of this service might mean I am embarrassed to arrive 10 minutes late for a meeting until I can find the information I need via an electronic street map but to a motorcycle paramedic on the way to the scene of an accident the service can mean the difference between life and death.

It is realised that there has been an exponential increase in reliance on the global positioning system to work reliably and in recent years the Pentagon have come under increasing pressure from the multi-agency National Space-Based Positioning Navigation and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board and others to agree that they will not reduce the accuracy, degrade, or switch off civilian access to the system. The main arguments are that to do so could potentially endanger life and disrupt commercial activities as this would have a global economic impact that is somewhat difficult to calculate but potentially catastrophic.   Although not life threatening to the persons concerned disruption of the service would also interfere with electronic monitoring systems such as those in security industries or those increasingly used in the criminal justice system to track offenders resulting in a loss of confidence in their use. Such systems have in any case only been viable since 2000 when, in a popular move, President Clinton ordered that the US military switch off selective availability (SA) thus substantially  increasing accuracy.

Analysts believe that it is highly unlikely that the GPS signal would be used to thwart threats to US or their allies national security as the fallout from such action would be potentially too unpredictable and harmful.  GPS however remains a potentially powerful weapon that continues to attract public interest not least as a tangible benefit resulting from a considerable investment in the space programme but also as a very real reminder of the US’s reach beyond its borders as a global power. Any hint therefore that the service might be used in a different way without the involement of democratic process is therefore of concern. President Bush, commenting on US GPS policy in 2004, said that the US would ‘improve capabilities to deny hostile use of [satnav], without unduly disrupting civil and commercial access to [GPS] outside an area of military operations, or for homeland security purposes…’ presenting the possibility that in certain circumstances SA might be used defensively or offensively to counter perceived ‘threats’. However, it would be naive to assume that those with hostile intent who are sophisticated enough to make effective use of GPS to achieve their aims would not also have access to fairly advanced technical resources that could be used to overcome any temporary limitations and quite possibly used against civilian populations by hostile groups seeking to cause disruption and gain publicity.

Not surprisingly other countries who have the necessary access to the technology to do so have been keen to develop their own systems. These countries are very clear that they do not want to rely too heavily on what is essentially a US military system that they realise could well be used strategically to disrupt the activities of others not acting in what the US may at any time to consider its interests (either military economic or political). The Russian military have developed GLONASS as have the military in China who have their own independent satellite navigation and positioning systems and a growing number of countries that prefer not to use the US system such as Pakistan, Thailand, China, Laos and Brunei use the Chinese system, for a variety of reasons, not just cost but also as a result of a web of treaties and understandings. It may be for example that one country’s military may well be wary of buying into a system that could well mean that the US can use this technology in combination with others in order to monitor and map over time the movements of their vehicles and personnel. They might suspect that the same system that is used to remotely to pilot drones towards selected targets could also be turned against them. The global navigation satellite systems can therefore be used.

The EU GALILEO global navigation satellite system (part funded by China) is a bit different from other systems as it is not only under full civilian control (we hope it will not be used to gather data on users without their knowledge) but also accurate to within a few centimeters whereas the US GPS network is only accurate within a few meters. The Galileo system is compatible with both the US and Russian systems but importantly it will enable a far wider range of applications, such as use with driverless cars, improved air traffic control systems, and in tests has proven more accurate than other systems that tend to struggle to maintain accuracy in urban areas. The EU system is even able to pinpoint the precise location of individuals within buildings if wearing suitable devices opening up new possibilities for those developing monitoring technologies.


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Dear All

Welcome to the newly revamped

We are now a dot com and will probably end up selling t-shirts and badges etc before too long.

In the weeks and months to come I hope to post as many links as I can under the umbrella of surveillance technologies of control and punishment including Electronic Monitoring in all its various forms.

Please bear with me as I get started and be sure to come back soon. I look forward to your comments in due course.



David A Raho

Drones: Guardians or Menace to Privacy

In the past few years, the singular use of drones in conflict zones has dominated the news media. University of California-Berkeley researchers, however, are working on what they perceive as “good drones,” according to SF Weekly.