Home Secretary Theresa May urged EU partners to safeguard the public by sharing more information about known criminals.
Speaking at the Justice & Home Affairs Council in Riga she made clear that existing EU mechanisms are not fully utilised by other member states to identify released offenders who continue to pose a public protection risk and who may try to travel across Europe. To be able to refuse such offenders entry at our border, the UK needs to be told about them in advance.
That is why the UK is already leading the way by heading up the EU-funded international SOMEC (Serious Offending by Mobile European Criminals) Project to push other EU member states to share more information, particularly about dangerous offenders and their convictions.
Identify foreign criminals
The UK is taking a number of other steps to increase its own ability to identify foreign criminals and prevent them from causing further harm. For instance:
• Under this Government checks on foreign national offenders have increased by more than 700%. Since April 2014 over 61,000 checks have been carried out on foreign nationals via the ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO). This includes 38,836 requests to EU partners and 22,218 to non-EU countries.
• We have also enhanced the Police National Computer (PNC) database to allow convictions outside the UK to be recorded once they are known. Anyone identified as having overseas criminal records will be considered for deportation wherever possible.
• Operation Nexus - a joint police and Home Office partnership - has led to closer working between immigration enforcement officers and the police to check the immigration and criminal histories of foreign nationals. This has resulted in more than 3,300 people being removed from the UK in less than three years, including 269 dangerous criminals.
• In December, the UK opted to remain part of a number of key EU measures, including ECRIS (European Criminal Record Information System), which help to protect the public. It also opted to remain part of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), which the UK is due to connect to shortly to further strengthen the UK’s ability to detect foreign criminals at the border.
EU Partners urged to speed up the process
But, with the responsibility lying with the authorities in individual member states to notify the UK about the criminal records of their citizens, the Home Secretary has today made clear that more must be done by other EU countries to speed up this work. In particular, she highlighted the discrepancy between the length of time different member states retain information about spent convictions for serious crimes such as murder.
She told the gathering of European Ministers:
We must work to share more data about criminal convictions, and must accelerate work to consider how we share conviction data proactively. We are making some progress through the SOMEC project on mobile criminals, but there is more to do. We need to ensure that all member states retain and share information about ‘spent’ convictions for serious offences for appropriate lengths of time.