More information on serious criminals must be shared across Europe to protect the public, Karen Bradley has said.
The Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime called for action to stop those responsible for crimes like murder, rape and child abuse being able to cross borders to escape justice or prey on new victims.
Karen Bradley, Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime told a conference at The Hague:
We must all face up to the fact that whilst Free Movement is seen by many in Europe as having only positive impacts, there are some very clear negatives.
Not least of which is the ability of criminals to exploit this freedom to further their own illegal activities across borders.
If we are to tackle this problem properly the free movement of information needed to tackle criminality must work as effectively, and ideally more effectively than the free movement of criminals.
The minister told the final meeting of the UK-led Serious Offending by Mobile European Criminals (SOMEC) project that great improvements had already been made on the sharing of information, but that more needs to be done.
She stressed the importance of the UK remaining part of a number of crime and policing measures that parliament will vote on next week that have greatly improved the our ability to find out about foreign offenders who move to this country.
Karen Bradley said:
Public protection must not get lost in a wider debate about the UK’s place in Europe.
More must be done to stop offenders like paedophiles, rapists and murderers exploiting free movement rights to slip unnoticed into another nation where they can prey on unsuspecting new victims.
It is vital we know when these predators arrive on our shores. We need more powers to tackle them, not fewer - that is why it is in the public interest, and is essential, that the UK remains a part of key European measures.
Failure to do so would send us back to the dark ages of being unable to find out anything about foreign criminals who have moved to our country, making it impossible to act against them. There is no doubt that this carries a serious public protection risk and could even cost lives.
SOMEC was set up to examine the management and exchange of data on mobile serious sexual and violent offenders across Europe. Final recommendations on how improvements can be made are expected to be published in early 2015.
Parliament will vote on Monday 10 November on a small number of EU crime and justice measures the government intends to remain part of in the public interest after opting out of a much larger number.
The measures the UK intends to remain part of include the Swedish Initiative, the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), and the European Criminal Record Information System (ECRIS). These have all been identified by SOMEC project as being important existing tools that should be used more effectively across Europe to track mobile serious criminals.