On September 30th, AMBER Alert Europe hosted the webinar ‘Save The Missing Person First, Solve The Crime Later’ in cooperation with Eurojust and the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP). Over 50 law enforcement professionals and Eurojust members from 22 countries across Europe attended the online event. During the webinar, speakers from the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK, addressed the differing priorities between pursuing a prosecution and saving a missing person.

Mr. Han Moraal, Chief Prosecutor and National Member of the Netherlands at Eurojust, kicked-off the webinar by welcoming all participants and emphasizing the importance of a good balance between the search for a missing person and the judicial process. Especially when these missing person cases concern children.

“We all agree that everything should be done to fight crimes, especially those that involve children. In order to act quickly and effectively, we need to work together, not only nationally but also across borders. This is exactly what Eurojust is for”, says Moraal. “However, sometimes priorities for law enforcement and judicial authorities are not the same. Traditionally, prosecutors are looking for proof to support their cases, which might not always be in line with law enforcement’s main objective of finding the missing person. Therefore, this webinar is of the utmost importance.”

Strong variety of presenters

The first presenter, Mr. Frank Hoen, Founder and Chairman of AMBER Alert Europe, stressed the importance of national AMBER Alert systems, citizen sourcing and good cross-border law enforcement cooperation. He also briefly touched upon the future goals of AMBER Alert Europe.

Subsequently, Mr. Charlie Hedges, European Training Coordinator at AMBER Alert Europe and PEN-MP, explained how risk assessment enables an understanding of each missing persons’ case. By highlighting parts from his guide to “Understanding and Managing Risk in the Context of Missing Persons”, Hedges demonstrated how risk assessment is crucial in order to determine which steps need to be taken to successfully recover a missing person.

Ms. Susanne Welander, Police inspector at the Swedish National Police, gave firsthand examples of the challenges to locating people versus the pursuit of an offender. Furthermore, she elaborated on how the differences in legal bases between countries are currently forming an obstacle for effective cross-border law enforcement cooperation.

To close the webinar, Ms. Izanne de Wit, Team Leader at the National Missing Persons Bureau of the Dutch Police, explained exactly how the Dutch National Police act when a person is reported missing. She pointed out that in the Netherlands responding rapidly to a life-threatening missing person case is not hindered by judicial hurdles.

“When the life of the missing person is in danger, the police can use track and trace methods even in the absence of legal framework. It must then concern emergency assistance from the police where permission cannot be awaited”, according to de Wit.

Given the success of this webinar, a second webinar will be held in the upcoming months.