Suffolk: European criminals still allowed to hide history of offences upon entering UK, one year on
- Credit: Archant
Serious criminals, including rapists, can still enter the UK from EU countries without police and border officials being told of their convictions – one year after we exposed the loophole.
Politicians in the region had vowed to look into the issue, which emerged following two separate cases where rapists from Lithuania had moved to Suffolk.
Their criminal pasts were only revealed when they committed further offences in the county – albeit of a less serious nature – and police carried out background checks. They were then made subject of court orders.
But now the EADT can reveal no meaningful progress has been made in stopping similar cases, although MEPs and MPs have vowed to fight on to end the problem.
Last night, one MEP said the way information was shared should be a “critical part” of the debate when the UK renegotiates its relationship with the EU.
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Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore described the situation as “unacceptable and deeply concerning”, insisting young and vulnerable people were at risk.
“It is perfectly reasonable to expect the criminal history of people entering our country to flag up when they cross our borders,” he said.
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“People of a predatory nature are not going to come here and tell everyone they have committed crimes in the past – there is clear risk here to young and vulnerable people.
“It is also damaging to our judiciary system. Judges will not know the full history on these people when passing sentences.
“Our borders need to kept safe and secure and we need to seek reassurances that they are. Swift action is needed.”
In July last year the EADT reported how officers were hunting convicted Lithuanian rapist Gintautas Lipkinas after he fled while on bail for an unrelated offence.
His conviction emerged when the 21-year-old, of St Matthew’s Street, Ipswich, was due to appear before the town’s magistrates for an application to put him on the sex offenders’ register.
It was the second time in 2012 that a rapist from another European country was discovered to be living in Suffolk unbeknown to police, until they were arrested for other matters.
In February last year, an order was made to ensure Juozas Kancauskas, of Fore Hamlet, Ipswich, signed the sex offenders’ register following the discovery of his conviction for rape in Hamburg, Germany, in May 2006.
Neither man was compelled to inform the police of their convictions when they entered the UK, as other countries do not have such strict controls over sex offenders.
The situation has led to East of England MEP Vicky Ford and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer pushing for action to close the loophole and bring in uniformity across Europe in relation to keeping track of rapists and others convicted of sex crimes.
Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, said: “People would expect if you had been convicted of serious crimes in the past in one country that they would flash up and be an issue when you crossed the border in to the UK.
“They need to come to light when they cross the border. Why doesn’t it flag up?
“It flags up when British sex offenders leave the UK and when they return.
“There is a lot we can do to improve our information sharing with other countries and this will be a critical part of the debate about reforming and renegotiating our relationship with the European Union.”
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “It is going to take a long time – there isn’t going to be a quick fix. It is fiendishly complicated, but we are determined to improve the situation.”
The Home Office says all passengers travelling to the UK are checked against “a range of watch-lists” but currently the responsibility for flagging someone’s criminal history lies with the authorities in their home country, and without that information there would be no grounds to refuse an EU national entry to the UK.
In a statement, a spokesman said: “Where we receive information that foreign nationals present a genuine threat to society, we are able to take action to prevent their entry to the UK.”