The ever increasing expansion of travel and the relocation of citizens for employment has resulted in vast movements of persons across the globe. As people move so does crime, both organised crime penetrating across borders, but also the single transient offender seeking crime opportunities, the avoidance of regulations and management, and escape from stigma and surveillance at home. A recent project completed for the European Union examined current issues and potential solutions for effective information exchange and management of serious sexual or violent offenders who move across EU borders. Significant issues are presented by this group, not least because different EU states have differing risk assessment procedures, and differing categorisations of such offenders. A number of Member States do not particularly identify such offenders, and in some Member States they are not subject to post sentences licences or sex offender registration. This means in effect, that such persons are free to move across the EU without their Home Member State knowing where they are going, and can enter countries appearing as a ‘clean sheet’, with no notification to the receiving state about previous offences and current risks. This has resulted in a number of tragic cases where EU nationals with significant previous convictions have re-offended seriously in the country they enter (e.g. Marek Harcar and the murder of Moira Jones in Scotland; or Robert M and the commission of 67 counts of rape of a minor in the Netherlands).
How can this situation be improved so that citizens are better protected? Firstly, it is possible to notify Member States about convictions. ECRIS (European Criminal Records Information System) can be used to notify a home state if a national commits a crime in another state (for example whilst on holiday or in employment). This notification means the conviction can be known and appear on their record should they again come to notice at home. For sexual offenders engaging in ‘sexual tourism’ this can be important to later risk assessments and court appearances. Previous convictions can be requested on foreign nationals from their home state, again significant for accurate risk assessment, and critical for court appearances. In terms of prevention, information can be exchanged via police personnel in Europol with designated officers passing information back to Member States, or by probation services. This can be done even if a sentence has been completed, so long as the risk justifies it, and the exchange occurs in order to prevent crime. A common approach to risk is required to facilitate such exchanges across a range of jurisdictions, and guidance with relevant templates can be found at: https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/12142 An overview of the information exchange mechanisms can also be found at: https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/12148
Data protection, confidentiality and privacy laws are often presented as barriers to effective information exchange in the European arena. However, there is a presumption for exchange if it is to prevent crime, and the potential harm and the vulnerability of victims (often children) can outweigh rights to privacy. Practitioners should justify their decisions to disclose with reference to well evidenced risk assessments and that such a disclosure is necessary to the effective management of the person. Further information can be found at: https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/12143
Professor Hazel Kemshall (De Montfort University, UK) and Sarah Hilder, Ph.D., (Nottingham Trent University, UK).
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ECRIS (European Criminal Records Information System) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/criminal/european-e-justice/ecris/index_en.htm