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Crime: Suspicious Activity Reports

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government further to the Written Answer by Lord West of Spithead on 16 December 2009 (WA 16), what steps are taken to ensure that persons subject to suspicious activity reports (SARs) made anonymously or by unknown persons are checked before the SARs are recorded on the Elmer database of the Serious Organised Crime Agency; and how they will ensure that anonymous SARs which may have been made maliciously do not result in individuals being entered on to the Elmer database. [HL1154]

All suspicious activity reports received by the Serious Organised Crime Agency are recorded on the Elmer database. SOCA does not take steps to establish whether an unknown or anonymous reporter’s suspicions are unfounded before the information is recorded on Elmer. A SAR can be used in combination with other sources of intelligence to contribute towards a particular law enforcement investigation. If a SAR had been submitted maliciously, this fact would become apparent in the course of an investigation, when the information was cross-checked with other forms of intelligence.

In these circumstances, and where a SAR is submitted electronically, the relevant local enforcement agency can attach an appropriate flag to the SAR to indicate no further action. Procedures on the handling of SARs may be revised depending on the outcome and recommendations of the forthcoming Information Commissioner’s review.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will continue to allow local authorities direct access to the Elmer database of the Serious Organised Crime Agency; and what guidance has been given to local authorities about the purposes for which they should access Elmer. [HL1156]

No local authority has direct access to the Elmer database. However, accredited financial investigators at some local authorities have access through terminals housed in local police units. The Serious Organised Crime Agency provides guidance material to users and all users are required to attend training delivered by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) or SOCA before accessing the database.

Future access to Elmer by local authorities and other potential end users will be subject to review in 2010, as indicated in the action plan in the SARs annual report 2009.