EU Wants Faster Exchange Of Non-EU nationals’ Criminal Records
The European Parliament has backed a European Commission plan to create an EU database to enable EU countries to exchange non-EU citizens’ criminal records faster.
It follows a call in 2015 by then Home Secretary Theresa May for the EU to safeguard the public by sharing more information about known criminals.
The European criminal records information system (ECRIS) was established in 2012 to enables the efficient exchange of information between member states regarding criminal convictions in the EU.
EU member states currently send around 288,000 requests per year through ECRIS on previous criminal convictions across the EU.
At the moment, most of the information exchanged is on EU citizens. Although it is already possible to exchange information on third-country nationals through ECRIS, there is currently no common European procedure or mechanism in place to do so effectively.
Information on convictions of third country nationals within the EU is not gathered in the member state of nationality, as it is for EU nationals, but only stored in the member state where the convictions have been handed down. A complete overview of the criminal history of a third country national can therefore only be obtained by sending a request to all member states.
By sharing more information about a person’s criminal past, law enforcement officers can better manage and monitor any serious criminals they may have in their neighbourhood, thereby increasing the safety of the public.
The ACRO Criminal Records Office is a national police unit in the UK responsible for managing the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records (UKCA-ECR) with other EU Member States.
Since spring 2012 UKCA-ECR have been conducting this exchange through secure electronic channels allowing for a quicker, safer and more cost effective exchange process.
UKCA-ECR’s main responsibility is exchanging criminal record information with countries in the European Union (EU). This work is carried out on behalf of the UK Government in support of law enforcement and authorised agencies throughout the country.
The EU’s plan to create its bloc-wide data base to enable EU countries to exchange non-EU citizens’ criminal records faster, were backed by the European Parliament yesterday when the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee approved plans to create a new centralised database on third country nationals to complement the ECRIS system.
The ECRIS Third Country National (TCN) system, will enable national authorities to establish quickly whether any EU member state holds criminal records on a non-EU citizen. It will contain data such as names, addresses, fingerprints and facial images (in compliance with EU data security and data protection rules).
EU member states’ judges and prosecutors, Europol, Eurojust and the future European Public Prosecutor's Office will have access to the ECRIS-TCN system.
The EU sees the system as an important cross-border crime fighting tool for European prosecutors, judges and police forces, who currently often rely solely on data available from their own national criminal record systems.
Rapporteur Daniel Dalton said, “The fast, reliable exchange of information is key in the fight against crime at all levels. This measure will close the loophole allowing third country nationals to hide their criminal records, while protecting peoples’ rights and information."
In a gathering of European ministers in 2015, when she was Home Secretary, Theresa May said, “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 Serious Offending by Mobile European Criminals (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”.
The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the proposal in the plenary session, possible as early as this week (w/c Jan 29). Once approved, the proposal will then be further discussed by the Council of Ministers. Once the legislative process has been completed, the Directive will enter into force one year after publication in the Official Journal.
A written ministerial statement said “The Government has decided to opt in to a new EU proposal for a Regulation to establish a centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) (“the draft Regulation”).
It said, “This draft Regulation aims to supplement and support the existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) so that Member States can more effectively obtain the EU-wide criminality history of TCNs”.
“This draft Regulation therefore will increase the efficiency of the process and help ensure that our law enforcement agencies have more information available to them when they encounter TCNs than they do at present” It added.