By Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC
I was both delighted and proud to read a joint statement from the British and Spanish Governments this week signalling that both countries are preparing to call “time” on the so-called Costa Del Crime.
James Brokenshire, the Home Office Security Minister, and Francisco Martínez Vázquez, the Spanish Security Minister, jointly declared at a meeting in London that the end of the era when British criminals on the run can find sanctuary on Spain’s southern “Costas” is now in sight.
As someone with a long-standing commitment to fighting crime, I was delighted that major criminals from Britain and other European countries no longer see it as an easy option to flee to Spain and enjoy the good life using their ill-gotten gains.
And I was proud, too, because the two ministers publicly championed the achievements of Operation Captura, a seven-year campaign run jointly by the National Crime Agency and the Crimestoppers charity.
With the help of other agencies, I founded Crimestoppers in 1988 and there is no better way of ending the year during which we have marked out 25th anniversary than to be lauded by two governments for the effectiveness of our work.
As the two ministers noted, through concerted publicity activity and public information, together with tough enforcement action, 56 of the 76 wanted drug dealers, violent robbers and sex offenders highlighted by Operation Captura as being on the run have been arrested and brought to justice in the UK.
As part of a review of the recent successes of Operation Captura, the two ministers issued a joint statement that speaks volumes for the achievements of Crimestoppers and the National Crime Agency.
The statement read:
“With over three quarters of Britain’s most wanted in Spain arrested over the last five years, the message is clear: there is no hiding place for criminals on the run. This is good for both our countries.
The efforts of our police and security agencies, supported by the excellent work of Crimestoppers and the Operation Captura campaign, have had a substantial effect. It’s a great example of cross-border policing and security cooperation in action. We are determined that it will continue and determined to work together even more closely to deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crimes, by recovering their assets.”
Finally, the statement looked ahead to the UK’s integration in October 2014 to the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). SIS II is a European computer network that will make it easier and more efficient for police forces and officers at borders across Europe to share information in real time about criminals, their vehicles and documents. As well as helping the police in the UK to arrest criminals on the run in Europe, it will also improve other countries’ ability to identify foreign offenders hiding in the UK.
Once they have been found, the European Arrest Warrant means they can be extradited from the UK to the countries where they are wanted. More than 4,000 wanted people have been removed from the UK in the past four years, including 57 people wanted for child sex offences, 105 people wanted for murder, and 86 people wanted for rape.
I founded Crimestoppers – initially called Community Action Trust – in 1988 as a three-way partnership between the business community, the police and the media. Businesses put up money to finance the scheme, the police are willing to act on information from the public and the media highlights the charity’s work. Twenty-five years on, Crimestoppers remains the only charity in the UK that seeks to solve crime.
Today I would like to join the British and Spanish Governments in saluting the innovative and effective work of all the staff, volunteers and supporters of Crimestoppers. A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to one and all.