A FUGITIVE unit is to be launched in Scotland aimed at catching criminals as they try to flee abroad, Chief Constable Stephen House said yesterday.
The unit, part of the new national police force, will also target foreign offenders who head to Scotland to evade justice.
Police Scotland, the single force that comes into being on 1 April next year, is also involved in talks about a possible Europe-wide serious and organised crime unit, in partnership with Europol.
Mr House, the head of the new force, said: “Smarter international engagement and co- operation will ensure that Scotland is a hostile place for criminals involved in serious organised crime and that neighbouring European countries and nations further afield are hostile places for those fleeing Scottish justice.
“The public in Scotland rightfully expect to be kept safe from threats that originate from outside the country. They also expect criminals who flee serious crimes by hiding across the world to be lawfully apprehended and to stand trial.”
The unit will go live with the launch of Police Scotland.
Officers are increasingly looking beyond Scotland for ways of tackling crime, such as drug-smuggling, money-laundering and cyber crime.
The Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency, which will be subsumed into the new single force, already undertakes a lot of work overseas. Last month, officers from Strathclyde Police visited Spain to try to trace two of Scotland’s most wanted men, who are believed to be hiding on the Costa del Sol.
Detectives working with Spanish police visited homes of expats believed to be sheltering William Paterson, 33, a suspect in the gangland shooting of Kevin “Gerbil” Carroll in an Asda car park in Glasgow, in 2010, and Derek McGraw Ferguson, 48, who is wanted for the murder of Thomas Cameron on 28 June, 2007, at the Auchinairn Tavern, in Bishopbriggs. And in July this year, one of Spain’s most wanted terrorists was arrested in Scotland after apparently living a double life for more than a decade.
Beñat Atorrasagasti Ordonez, a member of the Basque terrorist group Eta, was arrested during a raid on his home in Edinburgh.
“A dedicated international unit within Police Scotland will ensure we continue to maintain and grow our connections to improve international police-to-police co-operation,” Mr House said. “A dedicated fugitive unit will have domestic and global reach to ensure those who flee crimes in Scotland or flee to Scotland are apprehended and brought to justice.
“It will be able to embark on fugitive hunts across countries. As those involved in criminality exploit cross-border opportunities, so must law enforcement and other agencies work together to exploit opportunities and share information.”
The announcement follows a successful campaign, led by Victim Support Scotland and Alyn Smith MEP, for a minimum standard of support to victims of crime across the EU.
Mr Smith said: “It’s good to see the new Scottish police force setting out its plans for making sure that criminals who commit crimes in Scotland will not escape justice by fleeing abroad.”
And a spokesman for Victim Support Scotland added: “This kind of joined-up thinking seems eminently sensible.”