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Brussels, 30 May 2008

Electronic interconnection of criminal records- establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System

Commission has adopted today a proposal for a Council Decision on the establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

"To reinforce the European Area of Security and Justice, and to ensure the security of citizens, it is important to establish at European level a concrete and user-friendly system which will enable an efficient exchange of information on previous convictions of criminals", declared Vice-president Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice Freedom and Security. "Information about previous conviction shall circulate between judges and prosecutors as well as police authorities. This is essential in order to provide adequate responses to crime but also to prevent new crimes from being committed ", he added.

A study carried out by the Commission in 2006 to examine the current situation of exchange of information on criminal records demonstrated that the existing mechanisms do not yield reliable results. National courts frequently pass sentences on the sole basis of the past convictions featuring in their national register, without any knowledge of convictions in other Member States. More generally, this information, which is of particular relevance for various purposes such as access to certain types of jobs, does not circulate properly.

In June 2007, Council came to an agreement on the Framework Decision on organisation and contents of the exchange of information extracted from criminal records between Member states. Its main aim is to ensure that the Member State of nationality of a convicted EU citizen is able to provide an accurate and comprehensive response to requests for information on previous criminal convictions concerning its nationals. For that purpose it lays down the basis for a computerised conviction-information exchange system, which is being developed further by the proposal adopted today.

The proposal of a Council decision is not just another piece of legislation. It aims at giving concrete tools to all 27 Member States for the exchange of easy-to-use information between Member States with different criminal legal systems, different languages, as well as different alphabets.

The proposal sets up the general architecture for the electronic exchange of information, laying the foundations for future IT developments related to the interconnection of national criminal records. ECRIS is a system based on decentralised information technology architecture, where criminal records data will be stored solely in databases operated by Member States.

The system aims at making sure that the recipient receives information in a form which is immediately understandable.

In order to achieve interconnection of national criminal records in a short delay, the Commission will, by the beginning of next year, provide for an interconnection software allowing all Member States to participate in the exchanges.

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