Sex offenders, including child abusers and rapists, convicted in certain EU countries are free to come to Britain using the fundamental European freedom of free movement of persons. British police can apply for orders to stop sex offenders registered in the UK from going abroad but 22 other EU member states have no such system meaning the guilty are free to travel.
The Daily Mail reports Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Austria and France maintain a sex crime database similar to that used to record more than 46,000 sex offenders in the UK. The remaining EU members states do not have such registers and as such convicted rapists and even child abusers are able to arrive in the UK without authorities being aware of their criminal background.
Campaigners, including the mother of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, are now calling for an EU-wide scheme facilitating the sharing of sex offenders’ details across national borders. Indeed, Portugal and Spain are already setting up such a scheme.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children backs the move, believing there to be a “gaping hole” in child protection. It said: “UK agencies inform other countries when known sex offenders travel aboard. It should work in reverse.”
Momentum for the move has built following the case of Slovakian sex offender Eduard Peticky.
He moved to the UK in 2008 seeking a better life. In 1988 he had been imprisoned for more than eight years after gangraping two women in a Slovakian park. Peticky was jailed for life in the UK earlier this month for a series of sex crimes against young children in Rotherham.
Between 2010 and 2012 he trafficked a young girl for sex, also abusing her himself, and sexually abused a boy aged between three and five years old. His brother Ludovit Peticky was also jailed for 12 years for offences involving the same children and a third victim, who was between 10 and 11.
Judge Peter Kelson QC said improvements are needed in the way courts are provided with EU nationals’previous convictions when they are involved in UK criminal proceedings. Even though the prosecution and police had, in the judge’s words, “acted with the utmost urgency in trying to obtain the relevant information” it still took 13 months to find out that he was a dangerous repeat offender with convictions for rape, sexual abuse and robbery who posed “a significant risk to members of the public.”
Judge Kelson added: “It is an inevitable consequence of freedom of movement but somehow something must be done to improve the obtaining of criminal records and proof of them for criminal proceedings.”
Merely relying on the EU to provide a register would not, however, solve the problem. Instead a wider international response is needed. The Daily Mail reports a Home Office spokesman saying:
“In the last five years, we have strengthened the UK’s ability to request and obtain criminal records data from other countries about foreign nationals who are arrested in the UK.
“Since 2010, checks on foreign nationals going through the UK criminal justice system have increased by more than 1,000 per cent, helping ensure more foreign criminals are taken off our streets and making our communities safer.
“The Government is also providing leadership in Europe, and across the world, on efforts to improve the proactive sharing of information between countries about foreign offenders.”