Foreign criminal checks

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Report suggests failures to check the criminal records of foreign offenders



“Appalling” errors in the Home Office have been brought to light after it was revealed that seven out of ten foreign suspects had criminal records in their native countries.


A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) also claimed approximately 58 high risk foreign criminals went into hiding in the UK after being released from prison to await deportation.


Overall, 760 foreign offenders living in Britiain have gone on the run and of those, 395 have been fugitives for at least four years.


It has been alleged that if strict searches through criminal records were carried out then hundreds of offenders could be discovered each year.


These findings emerged after Latvian born Arnis Zalkalns, the prime suspect in the Alice Gross murder case, was discovered to be a convicted killer in his home country. This was not however revealed after he was arrested for molesting a teenage girl in London five years ago.


The NAO outlined the following:

  • Apprehending foreign criminals in Britain costs the tax payer approximately £1 billion per year, £81 million in legal aid, £401 million in prison costs and £148 million in policing
  • Foreign offenders, including EU citizens, were not being turned away from the border
  • In addition to previous costs, foreign criminals cost tax payers £70,000 in criminal justice and other admin costs
  • Home Office investment in foreign criminal cases has increased since 2006 but the number of overseas prisoners and the numbers deported has not changed
  • Ineffective technology is used to track down foreign criminals


A spokesperson for the NAO said, “There are some really crucial things that are being missed here.


“One key database which police can use to check whether a foreign national who has been arrested has any convictions in their home country is only used in 30 per cent of cases.


“If the Home Office was performing border checks better and the police were carrying out the checks efficiently we think they could save £70 million a year.”


Margaret Hodge MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said, “It’s appalling that only 30 per cent of potential foreign national offenders in custody were searched on immigration databases to see if they had committed crimes overseas.


“It beggars belief that the Home Office and Ministry of Justice are managing the removal of foreign national offenders without knowing basic costs and how best to target their resources.”


Head of the NAO Sir Amyas Morse said, “too little progress has been made” in dealing with foreign criminals.”


David Hanson MP, the shadow immigration minister, stated, “David Cameron made a commitment to reduce the number of foreign prisoners and to deport more of them, but yet again he has failed to deliver.”

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