Police adopt guidance as campaigners lodge data sharing super-complaint
New guidance has been adopted by Suffolk police in light of a ‘super-complaint’ against the sharing of crime victim data with immigration officials.
The first super-complaint was made against all forces by campaign groups Liberty and Southall Black Sisters, claiming victims and witnesses were frequently referred to the Home Office when questions arose over immigration status.
Both groups argued the practice deterred those with uncertainty over right to remain from talking to police, allowing criminals to coerce them into not reporting.
The super-complaint system launched in November, allowing 16 organisations to raise public concern on systemic issues.
The first complaint was drafted, in part, as a result of information the groups said showed forces lacked policies on Home Office data sharing.
In December, the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) announced new guidelines, stating police will never check a database solely to establish a victim’s immigration status.
The groups said that, by stating victims should be treated as victims, but that data should be shared if a police become aware a victim is suspected of being an illegal immigrant, the guidance did nothing to clarify confusion.
The complaint said officers faced conflict between their duty to protect the public and a perceived duty to enforce immigration rules, with the effect of data-sharing going beyond the target group of people with uncertain immigration status, as criminals who are not reported were free to offend against other members of the public.
Liberty has called for the formal creation of a data ‘firewall’ – promising personal information about victims and witnesses will not be shared for immigration enforcement purposes.
The complaint will be reviewed by a joint team from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and College of Policing.
A Suffolk police spokesman said: “Latest guidance on this issue has been disseminated to officers and the expectation is that our teams work to this guidance.
“Whilst at all times a victim will be treated with due care and consideration, the guidance clearly states that should officers encounter victims that do not have appropriate status then they should contact immigration enforcement.”