Identity theft is already a devastating crime and exchanging information about drivers – such as DNA and other details – at EU level would only make the threat worse, writes UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom on PSEurope.
•A few days ago I was a guest on a radio phone-in programme. Amongst the topical questions concerned my response to a request from European Union police authorities for the details, including DNA, of all British drivers. The Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency at Swansea, under instruction from the Home Office, have quite rightly refused.
The host on the radio show affected not to understand why I had a problem with the concept. Now it is quite possible he was playing devil's advocate, but I am not altogether convinced. He suggested that if a German driver had caused a serious accident it is not unreasonable to argue the British police should have instant access to all relevant details on a European data base.
After eight years as a member of the European Parliament I have grown very cynical about the control freakery of the Brussels bureaucracy. So much is promoted as being in our own interest. Yet most proposals remind me of those colourful cocktails served in the bar at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. They are often blue or yellow, with loads of ice and a little umbrella. Harmless, amusing, nothing to worry about.
The next thing you know you are flat on your back, speaking Esperanto or challenging the big guy in the corner to step outside because you did not like the way he was looking at you. Now whether my host was an agent provocateur or simply naive it matters not. Plenty will take the view: what have I got to worry about? I have done nothing wrong.
Well, let me spell it out for you. There are 27 police forces in the EU. Some are incompetent and some downright corrupt, some a bit of both. Add a local legal system that does not recognise habeas corpus, trial by jury or the presumption of innocence. Inject if you will the most sinister of all EU tools, the European Arrest Warrant, and bingo you have a potential cocktail even worse; this one is pure nitro-glycerine.
British drivers' details could be stolen, cloned and used to make false identity papers. Once this is done, criminals could use this stolen ID as the springboard to identity theft related crimes against British citizens, ranging from credit card and mobile phone contract fraud to fraudulently claiming benefits in their name. Identity theft is a particular problem in London, with Londoners four times more likely to be victims than anywhere else in the UK.
Identity theft is already a devastating crime. Every year, identity fraud impacted the UK economy by £2.7bn, and there were 1.8 million victims. The Prum Treaty could make it even easier for these crimes to be committed as some EU countries have well deserved reputations for identity theft. Within the EU, there are often extremely poor records on identity security. Even in nearby Ireland, IT firm Origina found that a shocking 30 per cent of Irish organisations do not have proper identity data protection controls in place.
The European Arrest Warrant means you can be arrested by a foreign policeman in the UK for an alleged offence which is not even a crime in the UK. No prima facie evidence is required or magistrate's warrant. Off to pokey you go in Greece, Bulgaria, Spain or Ruritania. You sit in your cell wondering how your life went so wrong.
You slowly decay physically and mentally for a year, then one day the door springs open the sunlight streams in and a mildly apologetic junior official offers an explanation. You blink into the sun and try to understand the broken English. Apparently it was all a mistake, a mix up on the names, a bureaucratic error in the Department of the Interior. These things happen. Still no harm done, what is a year of your life one way or the other?
Fanciful? Sadly not at all. My research department will give you chapter and verse on a number of such cases past and present. The old joke, pre-war, when going abroad was "don't drink the water". I suggest now, when offered a harmless little cocktail from the man in Brussels, you pour it discreetly into the Aspidistra.
Godfrey Bloom is a UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire in the UK