Britain joins EU crime data system

Britain has finally signed up to access a vast pool of European data on tens of thousands of wanted criminals, missing people and national security alerts.

The Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), which was established in 2007 and is already used by 28 European countries, will help to stop offenders slipping unnoticed into the UK.

Ministers have previously faced criticism for not being a signatory to the wide-reaching alert system, including from the spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, in its scathing report last October on managing foreign national offenders.

Britain has signed up to the European SIS II system which provides information about wanted criminals, missing people and national security alerts

Britain has signed up to the European SIS II system which provides information about wanted criminals, missing people and national security alerts

Data available includes a round 250,000 wanted or missing people, including 37,000 European Arrest Warrants, more than 43,000 alerts for national and public security threats, including suspected foreign fighters and 60,000 alerts for missing children and vulnerable adults.

The system also provides access to more than 100,000 alerts for judicial purposes, such as a court summons, 40 million alerts on identity documents, three million on vehicles, and eight million on other lost or stolen items.

Warnings from other countries will automatically appear on the UK Police National Computer and on border watch lists, and alerts can be issued by the UK to help find criminals who offend here and flee abroad.

It will also provide automatic access to every European Arrest Warrant - making the UK aware of more than 15,000 additional warrants. Previously the warrants were only circulated to the UK for more serious crimes or where there was a known link to this country.

A meeting of ministers in Europe formally approved the UK joining the system on April 13.

In October, the National Audit Office singled Britain out as being one of four countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) not to sign up to the system.

Serious concerns were raised last year over the effectiveness of police and border background checks following the case of now-dead Arnis Zalkalns, the prime suspect in the murder of schoolgirl Alice Gross who had served seven years for killing his wife in his native Latvia.

Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: "Foreign criminals and terrorists have no place in the UK and this Government is using every resource available to root them out and protect the British public.

"We have an outstanding system of public protection that is rightly held up as an example across the world. SIS II will strengthen this and provide another vital weapon in the fight against global crime and terrorism.

"The system will give us access to alerts that could help prevent terror attacks, trace vulnerable people, bring offenders back to the UK to face justice, and stop dangerous foreign criminals before they reach our shores."

SIS II was one of the EU crime and policing measures the UK opted to remain part of last November after opting out of a much larger number.

SIS II was established in 2007 but did not go live until 2013.

The first version of the system, which the UK did not sign up to, was operational in 1995.

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