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Police arrested 173,0000 foreign crime suspects last year – one in every seven people who were apprehended nationwide.
The figures from Association of Chief Police Officers Criminal Records Office reveal the extraordinary strain being placed on the justice system by overseas criminals.
In many cases, the suspects have lengthy criminal records back home which should have prevented them from entering the UK – or would allow for them to be deported.
But, alarmingly, police are only bothering to carry out checks in only 30 per cent of cases and in some force areas it is as low as six per cent.
It means offenders who should have been detained are being bailed or, when they appear before the British courts, are not being sentenced properly because judges do not know about their criminal past.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, said: ‘It is simply unacceptable that people with serious convictions could be allowed to enter the UK in the first place.
‘We need to tighten up our borders and get as much information as possible from our EU partners.’
The figures, released by ACRO to a BBC Five Live investigation, showed 14 per cent of all arrests in England and Wales last year were foreign nationals. (MUST)
The National Audit Office told the BBC that the failure to carry proper checks is the result of the Home Office not having access to up to date computer and information sharing systems.
In 2006, the Labour Government declined to join up to a Europe-wide information sharing regime, known as the Schengen Information System that would have given access to alerts on known criminals.
It leaves Britain as one of only four countries out of 32 in the European Economic Area that cannot access the data.
Under the Schengen arrangement, 2.5million alerts about EU criminals are issued every year.
The UK does receive some information under separate data sharing arrangements – but missing out on half, or a disturbing 1.25million.
There is a separate computer system, known as ECRIS, which the UK does have access to – but can only be used when a suspect is already inside the UK’s borders.
In only three out of every ten cases are officers bothering to use it.
During October, there were huge differences between the number of checks carried out by individual forces.
London’s the Met – which is running a specific operation to deport more foreign offenders – did checks in 100 per cent of cases.
But for Greater Manchester Police the figure was only eight per cent. For Cleveland and the British Transport Police, it was just six per cent.
The NAO said the system for tracking foreign offenders was in chaos.
The Home Office has lost track of 760 of the 4,200 criminals who have been freed back on to our streets, including 58 ‘high harm’ individuals – a category that includes rapists, killers and drug dealers.
Despite a ten-fold increase in case workers, the number of foreign prisoners has gone up by four per cent, to 10,649. Meanwhile, one in six overseas inmates freed from jail has absconded.
The row follows a devastating report last week by the Chief Inspector of Immigration which revealed how foreign criminals – including a killer – had been able to obtain British citizenship.
Home Office staff are not bothering to check for criminal records in a person’s homeland which could lead to their application being turned down.
Yesterday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed that, under Labour, ‘stronger checks’ will be carried out.
Anyone seeking citizenship would have to produce the equivalent of Criminal Records Bureau documentation from their homeland.
She told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think it's shocking that we have had people including serious criminals and killers being given British passports and British citizenship because the Home Office failed to do basic checks.’
Conservative backbencher Peter Bone blamed EU rules on free movement for allowing criminals into the UK.
He said: ‘If someone is coming from the European Union, and we're talking about hundreds of thousands each year, there are no controls. They're not allowed to have controls, the EU won't let you.’
ACRO Chief Executive Ian Readhead said that, while criminal record checks had been carried out on only 30 per cent of suspects in 2013/14, progress had since been made.
For the single month of October 2014, checks were made in 67 per cent of cases.