In the Media

EU criminals 'can't be checked'

PUBLISHED January 16, 2007

A fresh row over criminal databases broke out last night with the revelation that immigration officials frequently cannot check on the criminal past of European Union citizens entering Britain.

The admission is contained in a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph and written by Joan Ryan, the Home Office minister caught up in the criminal records row.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, yesterday announced a "root and branch" review of criminal databases as a senior Home Office official was suspended over the affair.

That came after the official "volunteered information" about the department's failure to enter details of the convictions of Britons abroad on to the national police computer.

Mr Reid, with his ministerial colleagues Miss Ryan and Tony McNulty, have been under increasing pressure since last week over the failure to update the police national computer with details of more than 500 British serious offenders who committed crimes overseas.

It emerged that there was a backlog of 27,500 cases that had not been entered.

Last night, the row broadened to include access to criminal records on people from the entire European Economic Area (EEA) ? including all EU states ? coming into Britain.

In a letter dated last June and addressed to the Labour MP Chris Mullin, Miss Ryan admitted: "The UK Immigration Service is unable to routinely access details of an EEA national's personal information or criminal record in their country of origin."

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said the admission showed "shocking complacency towards the matter of stopping dangerous criminals at our borders". At the weekend, a judge reportedly called for an EU-wide criminal record system after problems checking previous convictions on two Lithuanians convicted of gun-running.

By coincidence, Miss Ryan is in Dresden today to argue with other EU interior ministers for better criminal record sharing.