WORK is underway nationally to highlight the importance of checking for previous convictions outside of the UK when bringing foreign nationals into custody in this country.
In 2011, over 200,000 foreign nationals were arrested but only around 10,000 requests for foreign conviction information were submitted to the ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO). It is anticipated that in 2012 the number of requests submitted will increase to over 13,000.
Figures held by ACRO show that while it costs forces nothing to make a request many officers are still not asking for foreign conviction information as part of their routine investigations.
To promote the use of foreign conviction checks and to assist officers in understanding the key information they will need to capture in order to request foreign previous convictions, ACRO is issuing pocket note book inserts for all officers and posters for each police station. Officers should receive their pocket guide along with their June payslip.
ACRO is also in the final production stage of an e-learning package designed to assist officers dealing with foreign nationals and making conviction requests overseas.
The package will be available in the near future via the NCALT online training system and ACRO is hopeful that it will help to increase knowledge of how, when and why officers should be making requests.[pullquote_right]“…these conviction checks provide us with a significant opportunity to not only tackle some of our most serious crime locally, but also to disrupt volume crime across the force and wider country.”[/pullquote_right]
The ability to obtain foreign conviction information ensures that criminals, who travel from country to country committing crimes, cannot do so without their previous convictions coming to light.
In addition, The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 enables courts to take into consideration foreign convictions to the same extent as domestic convictions, which can have an impact upon bail conditions and sentencing and can be used as bad character evidence.
If foreign conviction checks reveal that a subject is wanted in another country, they may be liable for extradition. By removing dangerous offenders from the country, police and UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers are able to reduce the risk they pose to the UK public by preventing further offending.
Knowledge of a subject’s foreign criminal history can also influence risk management for officers and partner agencies.[pullquote_left]“I am pleased to say that some of our LPUs have already started to increase the number of foreign conviction checks they carry out. Almost immediately this has allowed them to reduce intelligence gaps and target suspects who were previously unknown.”[/pullquote_left]
Superintendent Keith Wilson, from Force Intelligence, said: “With increasingly transient communities across the West Midlands, it is more vital than ever we continue to carry out all relevant foreign conviction checks when bringing offenders into custody.
“For example, if officers stop or arrest a foreign national here in the West Midlands they can often show no trace on PNC or via local intelligence. This is despite that fact that they may be well known to authorities in their country of birth.
“Therefore, these conviction checks provide us with a significant opportunity to not only tackle some of our most serious crime locally, but also to disrupt volume crime across the force and wider country.
“They can also allow us to deport overseas offenders using European Arrest Warrants and to identify previous offending behaviour suitable for use in ‘Bad Character’ evidence at court.
“I am pleased to say that some of our LPUs have already started to increase the number of foreign conviction checks they carry out. Almost immediately this has allowed them to reduce intelligence gaps and target suspects who were previously unknown.”
Officers should also remember that requests for foreign conviction history can be made not only for suspects, but for witnesses and victims too.
In her recent review, A Common Sense Approach, Mrs Sunita Mason, the Government’s Independent Advisor on Criminality Information Management wrote: “It is clear that we should be making such checks routinely when EU nationals are arrested and charged.
“Even minor offending in the UK might lead to the disclosure of much more serious offending overseas.
“ACRO can find numerous examples where their investigations of overseas records have led to dangerous criminals being apprehended in the UK and they are making effective connections with UKBA so that such individuals can be considered for deportation before they go onto commit more serious offences here.”
To make a conviction request, or for more information, please contact your local Single Point of Contact (SPOC).
Every LPU intelligence department has its own SPOC – please contact your local team in the first instance or call the force’s Interpol Liaison Officer, Graham Rose, on 7630 6143 for a full list of SPOCs.