UK police failed to tell EU countries about convictions of over 100k criminals

British police failed to send alerts on 135,000 foreign criminals’ convictions to their home countries, it can be revealed today.

Almost 200 killers and rapists were among the huge number of European offenders whose UK court records were missed by a catastrophic computer glitch, potentially putting lives at risk.

The Home Office knew about the problem six years ago but tried to hush it up and the massive backlog of files is still being sent to police forces across the continent, most to Poland, Ireland and Romania.

It means dangerous predators could have returned to their home countries without the authorities knowing about their convictions, and gone on to commit further crimes or been allowed to work with children when they should have been barred.

Almost 200 killers and rapists were among the huge number of European offenders whose UK court records were missed by a catastrophic computer glitch, potentially putting lives at risk

Almost 200 killers and rapists were among the huge number of European offenders whose UK court records were missed by a catastrophic computer glitch, potentially putting lives at risk

The true scale of the Police National Computer blunder, revealed today by the Mail, comes as the Home Office scrambles to recover records of more than 112,000 people wrongly deleted from the same creaking IT system.

The problem was caused by the Police National Computer, a massive database of information about criminals operated by the Home Office which generates daily files of the latest updates on convictions.

If a foreign offender is sentenced then ACRO Criminal Records Office, a UK body responsible for international police data sharing, is meant to alert their home country’s force via the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

But as far back as six years ago, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, officials realised there was a serious glitch in the system and warned the Home Office.

A note written on February 10th 2015 for ACRO’s Strategic Meeting explained that many of these Daily Activity Files were not being created as intended.

Where no fingerprints were recorded or where the offender had dual nationality, the file was not being generated and so ‘in the region of 30% of DAF’ were being ‘suppressed’.

In addition, the files were not being created when an offender was recorded as coming from 49 current countries and another 92 historic ones such as Rhodesia.

Another error meant that 15 individuals were listed as coming from Pitcairn Island who were actually Polish, and several were recorded as coming from a tiny atoll in the Pacific Ocean known as Wake Island when in reality they lived in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The report makes it plain that this had been raised at a senior level within the Home Office: ‘Significant funds and resources would be needed to process the missing records and engagement has already started with HO Colleagues, by the Head of ACRO.’

A second internal ACRO report shows that a detailed ‘change request’ to correct the DAF software was sent to the Home Office in January 2017 – but it was delayed.

And although police continued to raise the issue with Government, it was kept secret from overseas forces.

A note from an ACRO meeting in May 2019 admitted: ‘There is a nervousness from Home Office around sending the historical notifications out dating back to 2012 due to the reputational impact this could have.’

It was only after the scandal of the missing alerts was uncovered by a newspaper a year ago that Ministers pledged to fix it.

At the time the number of missed records was estimated at 75,000.

But new figures obtained by the Mail show that the true number is almost twice that.

Extracts from a meeting in December show that the ‘legacy notifications’ started to be sent to countries across Europe last autumn.

A letter sent to each one admitted: ‘This is clearly a significant number that will have an impact upon you.’

By November, 60,614 had been sent with another 23,137 about to enter the system and another 51,769 waiting – many of which require ‘manual intervention’ to include changes to the records – suggesting a total of 135,520.

Some are likely to relate to career criminals like pickpockets or shoplifters who received more than one conviction in the UK in recent years.

By last week 81,706 alerts had been sent out, including 19,565 to Poland, 17,996 to Ireland and 12,466 to Romania.

Police said the records included details of ‘109 convicted killers, 81 rapists, and 1 subject convicted of both types of offences’.

Almost all of these are likely to remain behind bars in Britain, or have been deported to their home nations.

But MEP Sophie In’ t Veld, who sits on the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said: ‘The day will come that one of these people commits a very serious crime and then everybody is going to be up in arms and say ‘how come we didn’t know about it?’.’

She said it raised questions over whether or not the UK would abide by the security and data-sharing arrangements agreed in the Brexit deal.

‘I’m worried, and irritated. What’s the point in having an agreement if even before the ink is dry, they’re not living up to it.

‘Already the UK was not meeting its obligations when it was a member of the EU and now we have less means to enforce it.’

The Home Office said: ‘The Home Office has been working with ACRO at pace to ensure the necessary data is shared with affected Member States. The majority have now been issued and we are working through the remaining data files, which require careful manual intervention.

‘The individuals relating to the data have all faced justice in the UK and will have received the appropriate sentence.’

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