It’s certainly been a momentous week. As we write, not only has the UK electorate voted to get out of Europe, but the England football team has also been unceremoniously kicked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland.
Whilst the repercussions of both exits will no doubt be felt for years to come, we’re sure both can be resolved by the swift appointment of a safe pair of hands.
So whilst those around us are contemplating an England led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and manager Gareth Southgate (maybe they should swap roles? Just a thought), not to mention the imminent prospect of President Trump for our special relatives over the Atlantic, we have been busy considering the implications of Brexit Britain on the law.
We’ll start by saying we are not overly concerned with the myriad of often wrongly reported EU rules and regulations on straight bananas and how powerful your vacuum cleaner can be. There are hundreds of articles detailing the pros and cons of our decision to remove ourselves from EU reach, and if you are really interested dear Reader, we suggest a quick Google to bring yourself up to speed as we have neither the time nor the inclination to fill you in here.
In the work that we do as Private Investigators, we often encounter scenarios whereby our investigations into a case take us outside the cosy confines of good old Blighty. We have dealt with investigators and police forces throughout Europe, and are well aware of the advantages the European Arrest Warrant has had on crime prevention and law enforcement. Prior to the UK signing up to this mutually beneficial policy, it could take years, to extradite criminals who had tried to escape UK justice by fleeing to the Continent.
Less than two months after the 7/7 bombings in 2005, one of the suspects who had fled to Italy was on a plane back to the UK thanks to the Italian authorities. They had followed agreed procedures under the terms of the European Arrest Warrant, thereby ensuring a swift resolution to a situation which previously could have taken upwards of 5 years.
But it is not just the speed of securing criminal convictions that we can thank the EU for: from the Eurojust headquarters in the Hague, investigators from all 28 (soon to be 27) member states, work together exchanging information and helping to prevent and control crime. Since its inception, great strides have been made in dealing with child abusers, human traffickers, gun runners and terrorists. But this has only been possible because of cross border cooperation. Once article 50 is signed, and our withdrawal from the EU complete, the UK will no longer be party to these valuable criminal justice measures.
The European Arrest Warrant and Eurojust were clearly set up to help countries fight crime. But on a more individual level, the EU has also been responsible for another important law: The Right to be Forgotten.
If you have ever searched somebody by name on Google, you may have noticed whilst scrolling down the search entries, a phrase which pops up “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe”. If you click on the “learn more” button which follows it, you will be re-directed to a page explaining how Google is bound by the Court of Justice of the European Union’s decision on the Right to be Forgotten.
This ruling came into effect in 2014, when the European Court of Justice ruled that internet search engines must remove anything which is deemed “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”. It came about after a Spanish citizen complained to Google that a newspaper article about his past insolvency was still on the search engine for all to see. He felt that as a private citizen, he had a “right to be forgotten”. The ECJ agreed with him, deeming Google to be a holder and controller of personal data, and as such must abide by EU rules on data protection.
The upshot of this, is that anyone can request Google remove personal information about themselves if it complies with this ruling. Figures for 2015 show that in the UK alone, the search engine received 32,076 requests to remove a total of 126,571 links. Google says it approved just over 37% of the requests.
The Right to be Forgotten is not without controversy, focusing as it does on the boundary between the indivdual’s right to privacy and freedom of speech. If and when the UK finally removes itself from the EU, this Right to be Forgotten may no longer apply to British citizens. Google could apply to a British court and ask for a ruling that following their withdrawal from the EU, the ruling does not apply to those resident in the UK.
Like many, we as investigators are waiting to see what the final repercussions of Brexit will be. Uncertainty seems to be the watchword, and we have no doubt we are all in for a bumpy ride. But spare a thought for our friends across the pond – their ride could be even bumpier after November…