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Child exploitation and trafficking is a cross border problem

July 11, 2013 1:17 PM
By Catherine Bearder MEP in British Influence EuropeWatch
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Closer police cooperation across Europe has made life tougher for trafficking gangs. Catherine Bearder MEP explains why opting out of EU crime fighting measures would be a backward step in the fight against child exploitation.

Ah, 'peddling the paedo line, eh Mrs Bearder?! Out to petrify the public again!'

Political opponents have been circling on Twitter.

There is nothing that gets people animated in 140 characters like the proposed Government's Justice and Home Affairs opt-out on EU crime fighting measures.

And I, apparently, am a chief scaremonger. By scaremongering, my critics must mean: pointing out some facts.

I presume they object to a host of examples where criminals have been collared at home and abroad thanks to UK and other EU police forces working together.

And, when it comes to my main campaign - fighting human trafficking - cross border cooperation is integral to tracing gangs and helping victims.

Combating this awful crime is a top priority in the European Parliament. It was, in theory, top of the coalition Government's 'things to do list' as well.

But Tory pressure to pull out of EU policing measures flies in the face of that particular target.

The jailing at the Old Bailey of an horrific child exploitation and trafficking gang from Oxford highlighted this real life crime in our neighbourhoods.

TraffickingAnd we need to be doing more at home and abroad to stop it.

It was not that long ago that the Government threw its weight behind new EU laws aimed at fighting sex and labour trafficking, as well as child exploitation.

The effectiveness of the European Arrest Warrant squeezes the space for criminals to hide in the other member states. They can be arrested and quickly put on planes to face court.

Meanwhile, teamwork between European police, as well as criminal record exchanges, are undeniably our most powerful tools in smashing trafficking rings.

There is no doubt without it catching criminals would be a slower, more complicated process.

A House of Lords committee reported earlier this year that any decision by the Government to opt-out could have "negative repercussions" for UK internal security.

Eurosceptic tub-thumping of promises to repatriate powers may appease Tory backbenchers, but it does little to enable UK authorities to tackle real threats to our safety.

Backing out of this key crime fighting partnership inadvertently gives the green light to modern-day slave masters and paedophile networks.

In Prime Minister David Cameron's constituency, a 27-year-old man from Witney, Oxfordshire, was captured after a video was posted online of him sexually abusing a child.

The operation to snare this vile individual was impressive not only in its hi-tech approach, but its speed.

The video was flagged to Danish Police who, thanks to the EU link, could contact officers in the UK, who made the arrest within 14 hours of the film appearing on the web.

A result which was borne out of quick and effective police work, which - it would be fair to suggest - may not have happened without the partnership.

This is not a one-off example. Criminals have faced justice in every corner of this country thanks to this improved way of working.

But, hey, I suppose I'm just scaremongering again.

Catherine Bearder MEP

Catherine Bearder is one of two Liberal Democrat MEPs who represent the South East region in the European Parliament. She is a member of the Parliament's Committee on Regional Development, Committee on International Trade and a substitute member of the Transport committee. She is also a member of the Parliament's delegation to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly between the EU and the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Regions) which requires working with representatives from some of the poorest countries on the planet. Previously Catherine was Director of Campaigns for Britain in Europe in the South East region, in which role she worked to highlight the economic benefits of EU membership.