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Public Protection: Overseas Convictions

Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Statement to Parliament on Wednesday 10 January 2007 I would like to provide an update to the House on work that is being undertaken to deal with the issue of overseas convictions of UK nationals.

At my request the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) have now checked whether any of the offenders named in the 540 most serious notifications had sought a disclosure from the CRB after their return to the UK and been offered employment.

In relation to the notifications for which there were sufficient personal details to enable an entry on the police national computer, ACPO and the CRB have now established that five individuals committed offences in the EU that should have been on the PNC at the time that they sought a disclosure. None of these offences was of a violent or sexual nature but they included four drugs-related offences and one of assisting illegal entry into a country. Of these five people, we now know that one was never offered employment and that two are no longer in employment with the employer who asked for the CRB check. In relation to the other two, each employer has now been provided with the new information on overseas convictions.

ACPO and the CRB have also checked for CRB requests relating to notifications where the identity of the offender is less certain. This search has yielded nine such individuals, none of whom had overseas convictions of a violent or sexual nature. Contact has now been made with all nine employers involved. In four cases the individual was never offered employment by the employer who asked for the check. In two other cases the individuals are no longer employed by the employer who asked for the check. In relation to the remaining three, the CRB has contacted their current known employer and made them aware of the possible new information.

In addition to the measures outlined above, the police are activating powers to place on the sex offenders register all positively identified sex offenders on the list and will go to magistrates’ courts to apply for notification orders under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in all applicable cases. At a local level, where necessary, risk assessments and multi-agency protection panel arrangements will be invoked.

The police are also looking urgently at individuals with overseas convictions for other violent offences. Where necessary the police will undertake risk assessments on these individuals and can include them in local multi-agency protection panel arrangements.

The events of last week have made clear to me the complexity of the issues we face across government and beyond. This is not helped by the differences in systems, procedures and criteria for recording and using for public protection information about criminality in this country and outside the UK. I have therefore written to Cabinet colleagues proposing a thorough review of the way in which such information is shared and used.

I can tell the House that within the past 24 hours I have had extremely productive conversations with Vice-President Frattini of the European Commission and German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries. We have agreed to work closely together to accelerate a programme of work to improve both the speed and the quality of data exchange across Europe, and I have emphasised the importance of including biometric data. Joan Ryan has raised these issues at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Dresden this morning.

The UK has been a strong supporter of exchanging information with member states and will continue to press for progress to be made in this area.