LP Magazine EU

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INDUSTRY FOCUS

Cross-Border Co-operation

There’s an old Irish Proverb that says, “You can’t plough a field by just turning it over in your mind.” Rather like the Nike swoosh logo and strapline “Just Do It,” meaning that you have to get things done rather than simply talking about getting things done, this goes to the heart of the ORIS Forums philosophy. After all, when all is said and done in life, there is more said than done.

ORIS Forums was founded on the basis of action first. Eleven years ago there were - and still are - plenty of “talking shops” for retailers to air their grievances about Police responses, sentencing of shop thieves, and so forth, but very little was being achieved in a positive way to “get things done.”

ORIS Forums, which is a division of the ORIS group of companies that secured Vendor of the Year 2017 at the Retail Risk Awards in Leicester in October, is all about collaboration and engagement with the sole purpose of getting things done. It is therefore fitting that Ireland, the home of the proverb that started this article, is the subject of ORIS Forums’ latest round of engagement.

Law enforcement in a pre-Brexit era in Ireland has proved a challenging issue with the free movement of people across a non-physical border between the north and south of Ireland. This is also because of the equally free movement of travelling organised retail gangs and their stolen or counterfeit goods.

The border between Europe and the UK is the Irish border, and it has become a major bargaining chip and one of the first stumbling blocks of the preliminary talks between Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and David Davis, the UK’s Brexit Secretary. On one point they are agreed - no one wants a physical border between the two territories because of its symbolic representation of past divisions in Ireland when the British Army and then the Royal Ulster Constabulary manned checkpoints to prevent paramilitary groups raging cross-border turf wars.

But while the UK wants to maintain free trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic - which represents the closest border between the UK and Europe - there has to be some form of agreement on how to control and monitor security and trade. It is understood that the EU is in favour of the island of Ireland as a whole remaining members of the EU in order to remove part of this issue, but there is little political will in Northern Ireland for that happening because of opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party, one of the main parties to power sharing in Stormont and the organisation holding Theresa May’s flimsy Parliamentary majority in place.

Whatever happens, the ORIS Irish Retail Loss Prevention Forum is maintaining its activities to prevent organised retail crime in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI). One of the initiatives being looked at by the forum is holding persistent shop thieves to account.

In Northern Ireland, the Belfast Retail Crimewatch Scheme has worked with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on an initiative to thwart persistent shop thieves. If they continue to offend after being issued with a banning notice, they will see the charge change to one of burglary because they are in breach of the order and committing trespass. So far, one offender has served a two-month custodial sentence in Belfast for burglary as part of this trial, which is being closely watched by the Irish Forum and the Garda in the ROI.

The Irish Forum has now asked for a meeting with Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, the data commissioner and the director of public prosecutions (DPP), to discuss adoption of a similar scheme in the ROI. The forum is working closely with the Garda Síochána to help bring all parties together to make this happen in the ROI.

This is an example of cross-border co-operation that could work pre and post-Brexit without the need for a hard border between the two territories. It is also further proof that talking is one approach; ploughing on is another. 

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