Supporting police forces and keeping the public safe from criminals

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Andrew Warltier and Emma Rogers discuss work on Police Certificates

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Every criminal record in the UK is filed by the Acpo Criminal Records Office. But this is only one part of the work they do. Reporter Ellie Pilmoor visits the team to find out more about them.

With thousands of new criminal records filed every day and convicts crossing international borders, the Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office (Acro) has a lot of responsibility.

Agenda acro pic 2 rep ep''Panel pic caption: ACRO staff undertake conservation work in a voluntary scheme to give back to the community

Agenda acro pic 2 rep ep''Panel pic caption: ACRO staff undertake conservation work in a voluntary scheme to give back to the community

The organisation works on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers and, thanks to its work, UK and foreign forces can keep tabs on criminals entering and leaving their countries.

Nestled on the outskirts of Fareham, Acro works hard to ensure the UK has a safe community by providing information to help forces in their investigations and criminal proceedings.

The centre of excellence is one-of-a-kind serving the whole of UK and its 300 staff provide a number of documents not only to help the police but also the public.

Superintendent Paul Brooks, head of Acro, said: ‘Our focus remains on protecting the public by making sure the range of services we provide to customers is both accurate and timely.

‘The intelligence we provide the police and law enforcement bodies with has led to many arrests and convictions of those trying to harm our communities.’

As well as providing police certificates, which are needed for people who want to apply for a visa to live abroad, upon request Acro can give people their own criminal records.

By applying through Subject Access, an individual can find out what information is held about them on the Police National Computer.

But Acro’s international work is also an important aspect of day-to-day business as it helps identify foreign convicted criminals living in the UK.

Through the International Criminal Conviction Exchange, Acro can obtain conviction information from other countries to support UK investigations and criminal proceedings.

Since opening its centre near Fareham in 2006, Acro has been working with more countries to encourage them to sign up to the programme.

But their two main aims are to bring offenders to justice and keep communities safe.

Case studies

A FOREIGN conviction check made to Acro by Hampshire Constabulary after an arrest of a minor offence uncovered a rape conviction and assisted in the criminal’s removal from the UK in May 2014.

A foreign national, known as ‘S’, was arrested by Hampshire police following a report of shoplifting in 2012.

Hampshire officers submitted a foreign conviction check to Acro, which revealed a number of convictions including a rape for which a seven-year prison sentence was imposed.

This information was added to the Police National Computer to prevent an immediate and serious threat to public security.

The information was also disseminated by the Acro intelligence unit to Hampshire police and the Jigsaw Unit in London, which deals with the management of sex offenders.

This resulted in the successful application of a notification order under Section 97 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

‘S’ is now subject to the Violent and Sexual Offenders’ Register registration for life.

He has since been convicted for failing to comply with notification requirements - a condition of sex offender registration.

Two concurrent sentences of 14 weeks imprisonment were imposed.

As a result of ‘S’s serious offending history in the UK and overseas, and continuous failings to comply with notification requirements, he was ordered to be removed from the UK on May 5 of this year.

He was flown back to his home country where he should remain.

Keeping up-to-date

ENSURING updated, correct information is available to police forces is a big part of the work Acro does.

Its criminal records team files every record so police officers can work with correct information.

They file DNA data and fingerprints and work with old records through the Back Record Conversion scheme.

Microfiche records predating 1995 are uploaded by the team at Acro and stored in the Police National Computer.

During the course of this around 300 offenders of serious crimes, including murder and rape, were added to the Police National Computer for the first time.

Finally, since 2012 when the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 came in, Acro has had the extra responsibilty of managing applications for biometric information to be deleted off the system.

Since the act came in, Acro has assisted in the removal of DNA and or fingerprints from 260 Police National Computer records.

Crossing borders

ONE of the most important functions of Acro is preventing convicts crossing international boundaries without their criminal histories being known.

Through the International Criminal Conviction Exchange Unit, Acro can help UK police forces obtain criminal records from other countries which might be helpful in criminal proceedings or investigations.

But this is a two-way initiative as it can provide foreign countries with information on criminals convicted in the UK.

This process is key in keeping communities safe as it makes forces aware of known criminals as well as those who are just travelling through the country.

Acro works with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command to ensure those applying to work with children overseas are appropriate for this kind of work.

It issues International Child Protection Certificates which are used by more than 79 countries.

Visa information

PEOPLE wanting to emigrate and apply for visas for other countries need a police certificate to do so.

They are issued by Acro which processes more than 100,000 applications every year.

By giving people their police certificates, Acro can check people with pending prosecutions are prevented from leaving the country.

In this situation, information of the pending prosecution is passed to the intelligence team who liaise with police forces to find out why the individual wants to leave the UK.

The issuing of police certificates also helps foreign embassies in deciding who to give access to enter their countries.

Similarly, the certificates are used as a second way to see if someone is eligible to work with children through the International Child Protection Certificates.

In April this year, 924 ICPC checks were made and 95 of those included incidents where the person had a criminal record.

Accessing your records

A SERVICE which has recently been centralised to Acro is subject access.

This allows any member of the public to see what information is held about them on the Police National Computer.

The right is available under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 and people will soon be able to apply for their criminal record online through the Acro website.

The service used to be run by local police forces but it was too time-consuming and became centralised to Acro to ease financial and administrative burden on the forces.

By transferring this service, Acro saved police forces more than £750,000 and 99 per cent of the applications were completed within the 40-day statutory time limit.

But the subject access information can only be applied for by the individual the information is about.

Last year, more than 31,000 subject access applications were processed by the Acro team.

Hard work

IN ITS 2013/14 Annual Report, Acro had some outstanding statistics showing the hard work staff put in including:

- Exchanging more than 61,000 convictions across the world for foreign nationals subject to criminal proceedings in the UK.

- Processing 31,699 Subject Access applications.

- Producing 6,780 Internation Child Protection Certificates to help protect children overseas.

- Adding 232 serious offences to the Police National Computer after converting 7,036 historical records.

- Producing 103,006 police certificates.

- Checking 4,700 foreign nationals in prison against Interpol databases to identify more than 300 people wanted in other countries.