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International Criminal Justice Cooperation

JUEST Network Research Statement

Professor Tim J Wilson FCSFS, Northumbria University Centre for Evidence and Criminal Justice Studies (NCECJS)

Approach to research and external funding declaration

1. Much of the research covered by this statement has been undertaken jointly with academic and professional colleagues from NCEJS[1], other EU member states and EU institutions. It will be supplemented in due course by additional statements from those colleagues and other members of the JUEST network.

2. I came to this area of academic research after a previous career in the Senior Civil Service. In addition to insight into policy making, this earlier work resulted in an appreciation of the challenges – not least finding the resources for international criminal justice cooperation – created by the significant and rapidly increasing globalisation of crime.

3. From 2013 to 2016 my research benefited from EC financial support. All of my current external research funding, however, comes from Scandinavian, Dutch and UK research councils. [2]

Knowledge and Research

4. The study of any aspect of EU criminal justice cooperation (in my case primarily forensic biometric data sharing) places some of the implications of Brexit into sharp relief:

  1. Brexit (in any form) will not result in a major reduction in the need for effective criminal justice and security cooperation. The UK will still receive millions of foreign citizens a year and a very small proportion of them will be serious criminals who present major threats. The principal challenge is to identify and obtain information about the members of this small group within the generally law-abiding and tax-paying crowd.
  2. The range, effectiveness and continued improvement of UK-EU cooperation after Brexit will also have a major impact on the safety and rights of many UK citizens abroad, whether they are in the diaspora or simply travelling for work or holidays.
  3. The value of individual criminal justice and security cooperation measures (however good) will only be realised fully within a comprehensive system. For example, the use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) needs to be underpinned institutionally in complex cases (e.g. by Eurojust) and subject to parliamentary and legal scrutiny (ultimately, in the UK, by the Supreme Court and CJEU, though ECtHR jurisprudence has also proved critical for the protection of fundamental rights).
  4. UK global economic and political status was significantly reduced on 23rd June 2016 and a badly handled Brexit will further diminish this country’s influence. There will be little or no scope for UK bespoke arrangements for police and judicial cooperation or for UK influence over enablers, such as scientific standardisation, that can be demonstrated to reduce cost and improve timeliness.

Losing access to those elements of the EU system in which the UK Government decided to participate after the Protocol 36 reviews (many personally commended to Parliament by Home Secretary May), or the loss of later cooperation measures, such as the EIO (European Investigation Order) that the present Government brought into effect in July 2017 (the tenth earliest member state to transpose the directive into its national law), would be inexplicable and likely to prove to be reckless.[3]

Application of Knowledge and Research to the Development and Implementation of the Proposed EU-UK Security and Criminal Justice Treaty

5. The landscape of international criminal justice cooperation is complex and evolving rapidly, for instance:

  1. There are four levels of cooperation in terms of structure, speed, cost and risk of error: (a) the algorithmically-enabled high volume sharing of scientifically standardised data that is quick and inexpensive because it requires little human intervention (e.g. most forensic DNA exchanges);  (b)  the algorithmically-enabled high volume sharing of data that has to be rationed because searching requires a great deal of processing capacity and the results need careful validation because the quality of  information from the crime scene is often poor (e.g. most crime scene to ten print fingerprint comparison work);  (c) judicial record sharing that may require some knowledge of comparative law when used to inform decisions within another  jurisdiction (e.g. European Criminal Record Information System (ECRIS)); and  (d) evidence gathering and criminal justice casework that may be time consuming (thereby expensive) because of complexity arising from differences in procedural law or the law of evidence between jurisdictions (e.g. the European Investigation Order (EIO)) .[4]
  2. Science and technology is transforming EU member states’ responses to cross-border crime, for example, sharing forensic DNA data via the Prüm directives even allows the cross-border movement of offenders to be plotted on maps.[5] At the same time rapidly increasing cyber-enabled (e.g. IT infrastructure attacks) or cyber-enhanced (e.g. cross-border fraud) crime together with the increasing relevance of digital evidence (e.g. from social media in rape investigations) place a huge demand on criminal justice resources, and can give rise to troubling questions about the reliability of evidence and compliance with procedural rules (e.g. for disclosure to the defence of potentially exculpatory material).
  3. The securitisation of criminal justice in response to terrorist crimes is adding urgency to achieving interconnectivity between public data systems (e.g. EU criminal and refugee record systems and databases) and with private data (e.g. transport companies for advance of travel information sharing under PNR (passenger name record) legislation).[6]
  4. While changes in legal practices will inevitably fall behind the technological developments in crime, the EU has been in the forefront of moving from cooperation between criminal justice agencies and courts based on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to judicially supervised Mutual Legal Recognition (e.g. the EAW and EIO). MLR is speedier, less-expensive and more likely to result in action being taken against offenders than under a MLA regime. It also reduces the risk of political intervention in most criminal justice casework and, subject to the national law of the EU member states in any single case, has increasingly (consistent with long-established UK legal doctrine) recognised the critical importance of defence autonomy in the criminal  process.[7]

Within such a dynamic criminological context the great strength of the EU lies in the pooling of the resources and problem solving power of its member states and institutions to overcome cooperation asymmetry:  ‘governments remain extremely reluctant to cooperate on security matters …, terrorists have cooperated in networks since the onset of modern day terrorism..’. [8] To take advantage of all that the EU system offers will require a very deep and flexible UK-EU relationship after Brexit. Ideally new developments in the EU system should be available to UK law enforcement authorities and made compatible with legal procedure in all three UK criminal jurisdictions as rapidly as they are implemented within the European Union itself.  



Sandler (2006) T Sandler, ‘Recognizing the Limits to Cooperation Behind National Borders: Financing the Control of Transnational Terrorism’ in I Kaul and P Conceiçăo (eds.), The New Public Finance: Responding To Global Challenges, OUP.

Wilson et al. (2016) T J Wilson, M W Stockdale, A Jackson, S Carr, G Davies, D Johnson and E Piasecki, Evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee Implications of Brexit for the justice system inquiry: evidence by members of the Northumbria Centre for Evidence and Criminal Justice Studies, School of Law, Northumbria University. < http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/Justice/Implications%20of%20Brexit%20for%20the%20justice%20system/written/43268.html >

Wilson, T (2015), ‘The Global Perspective’ in M. Peplow (ed.), Annual Report of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser 2015: Forensic Science and Beyond: Authenticity, Provenance and Assurance: Evidence and Case Studies, Government Office for Science. < https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/506462/gs-15-37b-forensic-science-beyond-evidence.pdf >

Wilson, T. J., ‘Criminal Justice and Global Public Goods: The Prüm Forensic Biometric Cooperation Model’, The Journal of Criminal Law, 2016, 80(5) 303-326. < http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/27800/1/TJW%20JCL%20April%202016%20Seminar%20paper%20post%20proof%20version.pdf >

Wilson, T.J. (2018), ‘The implementation and practical application of the European Investigation Order in the United Kingdom: an academic perspective’ (English text only) in Á Gutiérrez ZarzaLos (ed.) Los avances del espacio de Libertad, Seguridad y Justicia de la UE en 2017: II Anuario ReDPE ,Wolters Kluwer edit.


Professor Tim J Wilson FCSFS

Tim Wilson’s academic interests and funded research include the governance of forensic bioinformation, the role and organisation of forensic science and medicine, transnational offending, international criminal justice cooperation and institutions, criminal justice resource allocation and marketization within the criminal justice system.

After leaving the Senior Civil Service he was for several years a visiting fellow at the PEALS (Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences) research centre at Newcastle University. He has also served as the lay chair of the Home Office sponsored Forensic Pathology Disciplinary Committee.

Professor Wilson was made a Fellow of the Forensic Science Society (now the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences) in 2011. In 2018 he was appointed as a member of the Scientific Committee for EAFS2018 (the major triennial EU forensic science conference) by the conference organisers, the Institut National de Police Scientifique (France).




[2] For details see the above staff profile on the Northumbria University website.

[3]Wilson et al. (2016).

[4] Wilson (2018).

[5] Wilson (2015).

[6] Wilson (2016).

[7] Wilson (2018).

[8] Sandler (2006, 195).