Sugden extends AccessNI criminal record checks to EU countries.

Date published: 17 October 2016

Justice Minister Claire Sugden MLA has announced an extension to AccessNI criminal records checks in some EU countries.

The change now allows AccessNI to check whether applicants coming from a number of EU countries who want to work with children in Northern Ireland, have criminal records in their home countries. 

Working in partnership with ACRO Criminal Records Office, AccessNI will, where the applicant comes from Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania or Spain, check whether he or she has a UK criminal record and whether they also have a record in their home country.

Minister Sugden said:  “This extension builds upon a pilot project to obtain criminal record information about applicants from Latvia and Holland. Following the pilot, I have decided to continue with these checks but to focus on those EU countries where most of our applicants come from.”

Employers can continue to obtain a certificate of good conduct from any country that any AccessNI applicant may come from.  However, for the countries within the scope of this project, AccessNI will automatically, with the help of ACRO, obtain any criminal record information available and if relevant, disclose this on AccessNI certificates. 

Minister Sugden continued: “This scheme will add to the safeguarding arrangements already in place by providing further reassurance to those employers that comprehensive checks have taken place to ensure that applicants are suitable for this work.  If successful, I will consider extending the project to other EU states.”

ACRO Senior Manager Lucy Saunders said: “We’re pleased to have been part of this pilot with AccessNI which has developed the way in which we use criminal records information to protect the public.

“As a national police unit, ACRO’s mission is to keep communities safe in the UK and across the world. I’m sure the information we return to AccessNI from other European countries will prove massively beneficial to, and help reassure, organisations that support children when making decisions about who to employ.

“ACRO is the UK’s Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records Information with other EU Member States, a responsibility that is delegated to us and a role we take extremely seriously. We manage hundreds of thousands of criminal records on a yearly basis and we do so effectively and securely.”

Notes to editors: 

1. AccessNI is able to obtain information from other EU states via ACRO, due to EU Directive 2011/92 that deals with the combatting of the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.  Article 10(3) of the Directive (Disqualification arising from convictions) requires Member States to take all necessary measures in relation to the exchange of criminal records.  This is to be done in accordance with the procedures set out in Article 6 of the Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA.  

2. AccessNI already has arrangements in place to check whether applicants who currently or have recently lived in the Republic of Ireland have a criminal record in that jurisdiction. 

3. Northern Ireland had previously taken part in a 6 month pilot established by the Home Office for applicants from Latvia and Holland.  The new scheme is aimed at those countries that have significant numbers of EU citizens applying to work with children in Northern Ireland. 

3. This scheme came into effect on 10 October. It is only available where applicants wish to work with children.  It does not cover those working with adults as the EU Directive covers children only.

4. The issue of the exchange of criminal records is a reserved matter and is the responsibility of the Home Office.

5. ACRO Criminal Records Office is a national police unit. It delivers a range of criminal records management services to law enforcement and public protection agencies as well as the public. These include Police Certificates for migration purposes, International Child Protection Certificates, Subject Access and Record Deletion requests as well as PNC enquiry checks on behalf of non-police agencies. ACRO has the delegated responsibility for managing the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records (UKCA-ECR) with other EU Member States. ACRO also works with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Interpol to exchange criminal records information with agencies in countries outside the EU.

6. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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