Karen Bradley – the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime – has urged that more information on serious criminals must be shared across Europe in order to protect members of the public.
Bradley has also called for action to stop those responsible for crimes including murder, rape and child abuse from being able to cross national borders either to escape justice or prey on new victims.
Speaking to delegates at a conference in The Hague, the UK MP explained: “We must all face up to the fact that, while free movement is seen by many in Europe as having only positive impacts, there are some very clear negatives – not least of which is the ability for criminals to exploit this freedom of movement and further their own illegal activities across borders.”
Bradley continued: “If we’re to tackle this problem properly then the free movement of information needed to combat criminality must work as effectively – and, ideally, more effectively – than the free movement of criminals.”
Serious Offending by Mobile European Criminals Project
The minister told the final meeting of the UK-led Serious Offending by Mobile European Criminals (SOMEC) Project that great improvements had already been made on the sharing of information, but that more needs to be done.
Bradley stressed the importance of the UK remaining part of a number of crime and policing measures that Parliament will vote on and which have greatly improved our ability to find out about foreign offenders who move to the UK.
“Public protection must not be lost in a wider debate about the UK’s place in Europe,” stated Bradley. “More must be done to prevent offenders like paedophiles, rapists and murderers from exploiting free movement rights to slip unnoticed into another nation where they can then prey on unsuspecting new victims. It’s vital we know when these predators arrive on our shores. We need more powers to tackle them, not fewer. That’s why it’s in the public interest – and is absolutely essential – that the UK remains a part of key European measures.”
In conclusion, the MP commented: “Failure to do so would send us back to the Dark Ages of being unable to find out anything about foreign criminals who’ve moved to our country, in turn making it impossible to act against them. There’s no doubt that this would carry a serious public protection risk and could even cost lives.”
Management and exchange of data
The SOMEC Project was established to examine the management and exchange of data on mobile serious sexual and violent offenders across Europe. Final recommendations on how improvements can be made are expected to be published in early 2015.
Parliament will vote today (Monday 10 November) on a small number of EU crime and justice measures the Government intends to remain part of in the public interest after opting out of a much larger number.
The measures the UK intends to remain part of include the Swedish Initiative, the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) and the European Criminal Record Information System (ECRIS). These have all been identified by the SOMEC Project as being important existing tools that should be used more effectively across Europe so as to track mobile serious criminals.