Documents considered by the Committee on 19 October 2016 Contents

4Exchanging information on criminal convictions

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Directive amending Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA as regards the exchange of information on third country nationals and as regards the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) and replacing Council Decision 2009/316/JHA

Legal base

Article 82(1)(d) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV

Department

Home Office

Document Number

(37463), 5438/16 + ADDs 1–2, COM(16) 7

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

4.1The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) was established in 2012. It enables Member States to exchange information on the criminal convictions of EU citizens. Maintaining a complete record of previous convictions can make an important contribution to public safety, ensuring that criminals cannot escape their criminal past by offending in a different Member State. The proposed Directive seeks to make ECRIS a more effective tool for the exchange of criminal record information by including a new mechanism for sharing details of the offending history of third country (non-EU) nationals within the EU.

4.2The UK participates in the current ECRIS system. The Government informed us in May that it had decided to opt into the proposed amending Directive. We requested regular progress reports on the negotiations as well as further information on how the concerns identified in the then Immigration Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum on the proposal—for example on the handling of “spent” convictions, the mandatory storage of the fingerprints of convicted third country nationals, the mechanism for exchanging fingerprints, and the treatment of dual nationals—were being addressed.

4.3The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service (Brandon Lewis) reports that EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers agreed in June that the decentralised mechanism originally proposed by the Commission for the exchange of criminal record information on third country nationals was not technically feasible and that discussions were proceeding on the basis of a new centralised model which would increase the efficiency of ECRIS.

4.4We ask the Minister whether the approach agreed by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in June, which will involve the setting up of a centralised, automated system for the storage and exchange of fingerprints and alphanumeric data of third country national offenders within the EU, will increase the costs of ECRIS for the UK, and by how much.

4.5The Presidency’s progress report on negotiations (which formed the basis for discussions at the June Justice and Home Affairs Council) indicates that the development of a centralised automated system would have implications for the legal form of the proposal. The Presidency suggests that “the present draft Directive cannot serve as a basis for the ECRIS proposal” and that a Regulation is likely to be the most appropriate legal instrument.10 We ask the Minister whether Justice and Home Affairs Ministers agreed in June that a Regulation, rather than an amending Directive, would be necessary and, if so, to set out the next steps. In particular:

4.6We remind the Minister that we also expect to hear how the concerns identified in his predecessor’s Explanatory Memorandum, for example on the handling of “spent” convictions, the mandatory storage of the fingerprints of convicted third country nationals, the mechanism for exchanging fingerprints, and the treatment of dual nationals are being addressed in the negotiations.

4.7The Minister draws our attention to the Roadmap to enhance information exchange and information management, including interoperability solutions in the Justice and Home Affairs area published by the Dutch Presidency in June. We ask him to provide us with a copy.

4.8Pending further information, the proposed Directive remains under scrutiny. We draw it to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.

Full details of the document

Proposal for a Directive amending Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA, as regards the exchange of information on third country nationals and as regards the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), and replacing Council Decision 2009/316/JHA: (37463), 5438/16 + ADDs 1–2, COM(16) 7.

Background

4.9Our earlier Reports (listed at the end of this chapter) provide a detailed overview of the proposed Directive and the Government’s position.

The Minister’s letter of 12 October 2016

4.10The Minister provides a brief update on the progress made in negotiations. He explains that the rapporteur appointed by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, Timothy Kirkhope, MEP, to prepare an initial report on the proposed Directive has resigned from the European Parliament.11 He will be replaced in his role as rapporteur by Daniel Dalton, MEP.

4.11The Minister notes that the way in which the proposed new mechanism for exchanging criminal record information on third country nationals operates “may change”. He continues:

“The Commission’s original proposal outlined a ‘decentralised’ system for the exchange of data. This means that Member States would store information on a third country national, convicted in the EU, on interconnected systems held at the national level. However, technical experts have since examined this approach and found that it would not be feasible for transmitting the large amount of data necessary for exchanging fingerprints (fingerprint files are individual images, rather than coded data, as is the case with alphanumeric data). They now recommend considering a ‘centralised’ system, meaning that ‘pseudonymised’ data would be held centrally to reduce the number of transmissions required and increase the efficiency of the system. The secure ECRIS channel would remain for the full transmission of criminal records requests.”

4.12The Minister adds that this revised approach was “discussed and endorsed” by the Justice and Home affairs Council in June and that “the then Immigration Minister intervened to support the principles behind the ECRIS TCN [third country national] proposal and to emphasise the importance of finding a suitable technical solution to data sharing, including with appropriate data protections”.

4.13Finally, the Minister reminds us that the Dutch Presidency published its Roadmap to enhance information exchange and information management, including interoperability solutions in the Justice and Home Affairs area in June. The Roadmap encourages Member States to make full use of ECRIS and was endorsed at the June Justice and Home Affairs Council.

4.14The Minister undertakes to update us “with any and all pertinent developments”.

Previous Committee Reports

Fourth Report HC 71–iii (2016–17), chapter 6 (8 June 2016) and Twenty-fourth Report HC 342–xxiii (2015–16), chapter 10 (24 February 2016).


10 See the Presidency’s progress report of 3 June 2016.

11 His resignation follows his nomination for a peerage by the former Prime Minister (David Cameron). He will sit in the House of Lords as Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate.




21 October 2016