UK-Irish Criminal Justice Cooperation Network

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Business and Law


One of the many challenges posed by Brexit is the risk of disruption to some of the means by which the security of the UK is ensured. This challenge comes from the fact that so much of our current national security is ensured through cooperation with EU partners. The country that we work most closely with is Ireland - with whom we share a close history of cooperation in policing, counter-terrorism and criminal justice. The UK/Ireland Common Travel Area sets the relationship between the UK and Ireland apart from the UK's relationship with the rest of the EU. The change to the status of the Irish border (becoming a frontier between the UK and EU) not only complicates the setting for inter-state cooperation but it also increases the likelihood of a security threat as it potentially increases the incentive for smuggling, which is in turn lucrative for organised crime gangs associated with paramilitary organisations.

This proposed network of academics and practitioners across the Republic of Ireland and the UK seeks to respond to these challenges by addressing the need to protect and enhance criminal justice cooperation between both countries after Brexit. This network will be the first time in which academics and practitioners working across Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will come together to consider the following specific issues:

- Potential changes to patterns of transnational crime post Brexit. Such changes must be anticipated to the extent that is possible in order to consider the policing and border control strategies needed to ensure crime is adequately controlled.

- The use of technology to support a 'soft' border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Such use of technology has not previously been employed and could have significant human rights complications. For example it has been suggested that persistent surveillance of the border region can be achieved through the use of aerial-based solutions such as patrols by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) assets and deployment of aerostats. Such solutions have not yet been considered through a human rights and data protection lens and have already been criticised by political scientists such as Katy Hayward as potentially endangering the Good Friday Agreement.

- Extradition between the two jurisdictions. The European Arrests Warrant (EAW) is currently the only way to extradite between Ireland and the UK. If the UK leaves the EAW then alternative arrangements will be required.

- Impact on policing of cross border crime post Brexit. Most cross border policing between the UK and Ireland is conducted through formal European co-operation mechanisms. This has ensured quicker and clearer channels of communications and the disruption of Brexit to these channels needs to be anticipated with alternative arrangements to current cooperation methods considered and their impact assessed.

- Impact of Brexit on data sharing and examination of the legal possibilities of the continued exchange of personal data with Ireland both within and outside of the European Union.

Running through each of these issues will be an overarching consideration of the unique historical, economic, cultural and political perspectives between Britain and the island of Ireland and how the policing of borders and transnational criminal activity may change post Brexit. The network's events will include a two-day final conference entitled "UK-Irish criminal justice cooperation: Where to now?" which will be open to the public, practitioners and policymakers. Throughout the project and beyond, the Network's dedicated website will be open access and provide information for practitioners and policy makers on key aspects of criminal justice cooperation as they emerge throughout the Brexit process. The ultimate aim is to use the network as an interactive live think tank for rapid response to developments as the implications of Brexit unfold.

Planned Impact

Efforts in respect of non-academic outreach and engagement will occur at all stages of the networking process and infuse many of the approaches to academic dissemination and interaction outlined in the 'Academic Beneficiaries' section. Such outreach has already begun with a meeting organised by the PI and the Association of Criminal Justice Research and Development (ACJRD) in Dublin in June 2017. It was clear from the meeting that there was a significant desire from practitioners working in disparate criminal justice fields to have a forum for understanding the implications of Brexit within their field and to aim to inform the development of policy and practice. ACJRD subsequently made the decision to base their 20th annual conference on the theme of "The Brexit Impact on Criminal Justice Co-operation in Ireland". This event took place on Friday, 6th October, 2017 in Dublin. Distinguished speakers at this event, The Minister for Justice and Equality, the British Ambassador to Ireland and Therese Blanchet of the Council Legal Service were joined by national and international plenary speakers and workshop presenters from the criminal justice sector. The PI, Gemma Davies and Adam Jackson (a member of the steering group) presented their perspectives on Brexit. This demonstrates the potential ability of the network to engage with policy makers in a way which can lead to tangible impact.

The aim of the Network will be to stimulate academic and stakeholder engagement and to ensure outputs are collaborative in nature. The current chair of the ACJRD, Maura Butler, has agreed to sit as the non-academic chair of the steering committee of the network. Her considerable links to practitioners across the island of Ireland will be of significant advantage when attempting to reach non-academic stakeholders. The involvement of the Northumbria University, Queen's University, Belfast and ACJRD will aid in the dissemination of results and the inclusion of a wide variety of experienced criminal justice practitioners and policy makers from each jurisdiction.

At the stakeholder engagement meeting in June 2017 it became clear that many stakeholders have limited information on how Brexit may impact their daily working lives and have not felt that their practice expertise is being taken into account by politicians who will ultimately negotiate Brexit. The network will seek to ensure impact for its academic research by engaging with policy makers, civil servants and politicians directly involved in the realisation of Brexit to ensure they have a clear evidence base to inform decision-making. Despite the UK Government's insistence that it will seek to protect cooperation after Brexit it is nonetheless clear that the process of withdrawing from the EU will make the need for criminal justice cooperation between Ireland and the UK simultaneously more vital and more difficult. As with such challenges - but particularly so in this regard - there is an urgent need to prepare for the changing conditions and environment for criminal justice cooperation prior to the full impact of Brexit being felt. It is essential that continuity is maintained, good practice is protected, and areas for enhanced cooperation (given the growing areas of risk, such as in relation to the smuggling of goods and people as visa and tax regulations diverge) are identified through open, frank and close channels of communication.

The network has the potential to extend past the award period and it is hoped that AHRC funding will be a catalyst for further research funding. Working papers and research summaries will be created after each of the network workshops and will be made freely available on the network's dedicated website as well as being circulated to the network participants who can then circulate throughout their own networks. The network will engage with Government consultations and submit evidence on behalf of the Network throughout the award period.


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Description The network is still in its early stages and one workshop was successfully held and the second is planned for April 16th. The findings of each workshop are helping us to understand the implications of Brexit for criminal justice organisations.
Exploitation Route It is too early in the award to comment on the use of findings.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

Description The network has only recently began but impact is embedded into the design of the network and we are working to ensure that each event enables the 22 criminal justice institutions involved are able to work together as they prepare for Brexit. Academics from 8 Irish and British universities are ensuring accessible information is available alongside academic analysis of the risks of Brexit.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services