Suffolk police unable to release details of foreign criminal’s lengthy record due to data protection issues

Tim Passmore wants an urgent review of national protocol

Tim Passmore wants an urgent review of national protocol - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has called for an urgent review of a national protocol after it was blamed for his force being unable to publicise the lengthy criminal history of a foreign offender before he moved to the UK.

The EADT and The Ipswich Star have been told by our lawyers that we cannot name a Latvian man, now living in Ipswich, and report on his previous offences in other parts of the EU for legal reasons.

Suffolk police said the protocol forbids them from revealing overseas convictions if they are not read out in court. This is despite the immigration service now looking into the man’s UK status after his past was discovered.

The persistent offender has racked up 14 convictions for 27 offences, including 18 thefts, since coming to England only three years ago. He made his latest appearance before Ipswich magistrates charged with shoplifting.

Before arriving in the UK he had a criminal record spanning 14 years in Latvia and Sweden.

The EADT and Star have discovered that his convictions were for theft, drug offences, and two robberies for which he received an eight-year jail term at Riga District Court in 2003, however Suffolk police declined to provide any details about these offences.

Three immigration officers attended the magistrates’ court for the first appearance of his most recent case. However, the hearing was adjourned.

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When the man returned a week later he pleaded guilty to stealing perfume. He was sentenced to a community order and released from court.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore believes it is in the public interest to identify him and reveal his convictions abroad.

Mr Passmore said: “I’m elected to represent the public at all times and in my view the situation is remarkably strange.

“While I do understand the Data Protection protocol I think this needs an urgent review because I don’t think it is acceptable.

“Our top priority has to be public safety at all times. We need to be consistent and I don’t think it is consistent.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said: “If an EU national is the subject of criminal proceedings in the UK, the UK police force involved can request conviction information from the EU state of nationality, which could be taken into consideration in criminal proceedings.

“These convictions must be shared with the court to be used in the criminal justice process.

“They can also be used by the police to protect the public where there is a serious and immediate threat to public security.

“However, data protection and other legal considerations mean that a person’s criminal record cannot generally be shared by the police with other parties.”

EADT and Ipswich Star editor Terry Hunt said: “This is wrong. We will work with our lawyers to enable the people of Suffolk to be told about this man’s criminal record in the EU.’’

A spokesman for the Home Office said it was aware of the case.

Over the past three years we have reported on a number of cases involving sex offenders from other countries coming to England without the authorities being aware of their criminal histories. Another case involved a Polish criminal who absconded from a prison in his homeland and went on to murder a Bury St Edmunds’ jeweller.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer have been trying to get measures put in place for information-sharing between authorities across Europe to enable the tracking of criminals crossing borders.

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