In a Parliamentary Question Anas Sarwar asked what steps the Home Office is taking to increase sharing of criminal records files with other EU member states. Lynne Featherstone replied in a written statement as follows:
Criminal record exchange within the European Union takes place within the framework of Council Decision 2005/876/JHA on the exchange of information extracted from the criminal record. Between 2007-08 and 2009-10 the amount of criminal convictions exchanged has increased:
- Notifications received of UK nationals convicted in the EU increased from 3,120 to 6,298.
- The number of notifications from the UK to other member states about the convictions of one of their nationals here has increased from 12,736 in 2007-08 (when only the first conviction of an EU national was sent) to 33,583 in 2009-10 (when all convictions were sent).
- The number of requests received for the criminal record of UK citizens subject to criminal proceedings in other member states has increased from 190 to 341 in the same time period.
- The number of requests made by the UK police and law enforcement agencies in relation to EU nationals subject to criminal proceedings here increased from 2,372 to 6,513.
As a result we now know a significant amount about the offending of UK nationals abroad and the previous offending history of EU nationals being prosecuted here. A new Framework Decision (2009/315/JHA) will make exchange mandatory from April 2012 and so we expect to see further increases in exchange.
The UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records is leading a project to look at how the exchange of fingerprints can confirm the identity of individuals being prosecuted in the UK so that the correct previous convictions can be obtained from the country of nationality. Significant results have already been obtained through finding out the true identity of individuals being prosecuted here. The UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records has also begun to exchange criminal convictions electronically with other member states through the Network of Judicial Registers Project. Electronic exchange is quicker and cheaper than existing methods and should ensure that there is a continued increase in the number of criminal record files exchanged with other EU countries.