Home Secretary Theresa May has urged the UK’s EU partners to safeguard members of the public by sharing more information about known criminals. Speaking at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Riga, May made it clear that existing EU mechanisms are not fully used by other Member States to identify released offenders who continue to pose a public protection risk (and who may attempt 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’s 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 towards sharing more information, particularly in relation to dangerous offenders and their convictions.
The UK is taking a number of other steps designed to increase its own ability to identify foreign criminals and subsequently prevent them from causing further harm. For example:
*Under the present 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
*The coalition Government has also enhanced the Police National Computer (PNC) database to allow convictions outside the UK to be recorded once they’re 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 service to check the immigration and criminal histories of foreign nationals. This has so far resulted in more than 3,300 people being removed from the UK in less than three years, including 269 dangerous criminals.
*Last 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 members of 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 in further strengthening our ability to detect foreign criminals at the border
Given that responsibility rests with the authorities in individual Member States to notify the UK about the criminal records of their citizens, the Home Secretary has made it clear that more must be done by other EU countries to speed up this work.
In particular, Theresa May highlights the discrepancy between the length of time different Member States retain information on spent convictions for serious crimes such as murder.
Speaking to the gathering of European Ministers, the Home Secretary explained: “We must work to share more data about criminal convictions and accelerate work to consider how we share conviction data on a proactive basis. We’re making some progress through the SOMEC Project on mobile criminals, of course, but there’s more to do. We need to ensure that all EU Member States retain and share information about ‘spent’ convictions relating to serious offences for the appropriate lengths of time.”
£10 million Police Knowledge Fund unveiled by Home Office
In parallel, the Home Office has announced a new £10 million Police Knowledge Fund designed to support closer working between the police service and academia in order to promote evidence-based policing and more effective responses to criminality.
Home Secretary Theresa May made the announcement during a keynote address to the inaugural International Crime and Policing Conference hosted by the Home Office in central London.
The event brought together academics, charity leaders and senior police officers from across the globe to explore the sharp decline in crime across much of the Western world in the last 20 years and also address challenges posed by previously under-reported crimes or new technology.
The Police Knowledge Fund will play a key role in developing that understanding. It will be jointly funded by the Home Office and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which will administer the Fund. Its scope and aims have been established in partnership with the College of Policing.
It’s hoped that the police will join forces with experts from academic fields like criminology, economics, neuroscience and computer analytics to better understand why crimes are committed and use that evidence to develop new and innovative ways of policing.
Home Secretary Theresa May commented: “The new Police Knowledge Fund will be critical to increasing knowledge, evidence and expertise on policing and cutting crime. Police reform is working and, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales, crime is down by more than 20% under this Government. However, we’re not complacent and we know that the picture is becoming more complex. We must develop better analysis and evidence on crime trends and drivers and share it so that police forces and others can ensure crime keeps falling.”
May continued: “I’m clear that Government and law enforcement do not have all the answers and that we need to harness knowledge and expertise from a range of different fields. Policing and crime reduction should have the same relentless focus on evidence as our medical and legal professions. That’s why I’m delighted to have convened the International Crime and Policing Conference 2015, and to be joined in London by over 120 of the brightest minds from around the world and from a wide range of fields to discuss emerging challenges in crime and the police response.”
The Home Secretary stated that the Home Office will be working with both Surrey Police and Sussex Police to develop a prototype for people such that they can report non-emergency crime online at: www.police.uk. This will afford victims greater choice over how they report issues to the police service and could eventually be made available across England and Wales.
It’s estimated that online crime reporting has the potential to save anything up to £3.7 million and 180,000 officer hours per year if the procedure is adopted by all forces.
*The International Crime and Policing Conference 2015 was attended by delegates from the US, Canada and New Zealand including Professor Franklin Zimring (UC Berkeley School of Law), Toronto’s Chief of Police William Blair and former Mayor of Christchurch Sir Robert Parker