By William Mills
On 22 August 2015 Spanish Police tried to stop suspected smugglers by firing warning shots into the sea off Gibraltar.
A small craft failed to stop when challenged by Spanish Police and was chased into Gibraltar’s territorial waters leading to complaints by the Government of Gibraltar of sovereignty infringement.
As the UK Government is responsible for Gibraltar’s defence and foreign affairs the FCO in London issued the following statement on 28 August;
We remain deeply concerned at the fact that live shots are now confirmed to have been fired during this incident and we have been reassured by the Spanish Government that safety of lives at sea is a top priority for all concerned and their law enforcement agencies will operate with the utmost respect for this principle in the future.
Regardless of our respective positions on questions of sovereignty, it has been agreed to step up law enforcement cooperation in the fight against organised crime, including pursuits of vessels involved in illegal activities and a commitment to better facilitate the successful prosecution of criminals.
Spain’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs also issued a statement agreeing to improve cooperation and timely cooperation by the competent authorities.
The aim, according to the Spanish statement, would be to “guarantee joint action” in the fight against criminality, “…as well as maintain a commitment to the mutual exchange of evidence in order to facilitate the effective prosecution.
Gibraltar’s Government further stated;
Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar cannot accept that there was any valid reason which could have justified the firing of live shots, which has now been officially confirmed, and which created a risk of danger to life. It should never have happened.
In a separate incident shots were fired inside Gibraltar’s airport terminal by British Police
The Royal Gibraltar Police have confirmed that one of their armed firearms officers fired a weapon without authorization in the air terminal building.
The RGP confirmed that an internal investigation is currently underway and that the police officer concerned has been relieved of firearms duties pending the result of the investigation.
We were not aware whether any member of the public, staff or police was injured or put at risk at any point. The unauthorized discharge of the weapon was within the AFO office at the air terminal building.
Gibraltar’s main income comes from selling duty free items to cruise liner passengers. Also being a tax haven boosts the local building industry as the new citizens have to buy a house in order to qualify as ‘residents’.