James Wood, Daily Mail, December 7, 2018
Police should not take action against crime victims they suspect of being illegal immigrants, according to national guidance for forces.
The policy has been agreed by chief officers amid ‘heightened interest’ after the Windrush scandal.
It states that where a person reporting a crime is also identified, potentially, as a person without leave to remain or to enter the UK, the ‘fundamental principle’ must be to ‘first and foremost’ treat them as a victim.
‘Where police are investigating a crime, and during that investigation, whether on the initial report or subsequently, it becomes apparent that the victim is also suspected of being an illegal immigrant, it is wholly appropriate that the officer in the case should contact Immigration Enforcement at the appropriate juncture, whilst ensuring they are also treated as a victim,’ a paper setting out the approach says.
‘The police will share that information with Immigration Enforcement, but will not take any enforcement action in relation to any suspected immigration breaches.’
It is accepted that investigators may carry out Police National Computer or other intelligence checks on a victim, according to the document, titled Information Exchange Regarding Victims Of Crime With No Leave To Remain.
But it makes clear that a PNC check ‘must not be carried out solely to establish if the victim has breached immigration legislation’.
The paper adds: ‘This issue is of heightened interest post-Windrush, with police forces receiving FOI (Freedom of Information) inquiries regarding their information exchange with Immigration Enforcement which highlight the potentially inconsistent response.’
The policy — details of which were reported by the Guardian — has been drawn up after police faced criticism for sharing information about crime victims with immigration authorities.
In May, the BBC reported that more than half of forces referred victims and witnesses to the Home Office for immigration enforcement.
Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for immigration crime, said: ‘We have recently set out a clear position on exchanging information about victims of crime with Immigration Enforcement to encourage a consistent approach across the country.
‘Chief constables have endorsed this position and are amending local policies accordingly.
‘When someone reports a crime, police will always, first and foremost, treat them as a victim.’
He said there are occasions when officers will need to carry out police database checks on people involved in reporting a crime, such as to inform decisions on how best to protect a victim or to help progress an investigation.
‘Police will never check a database only to establish a victim’s immigration status,’ Mr Sawyer added.
‘If an officer becomes aware that a victim of crime is suspected of being an illegal immigrant, it is right that they should raise this with Immigration Enforcement officers and not take any immigration enforcement action themselves.
‘Throughout, the police should treat them as a victim of crime.
‘The police priority is to protect victims and investigate crime, and we are extremely careful about doing anything to deter victims from reporting to us.’
Corey Stoughton, advocacy director at campaign organisation Liberty, said: ‘We have repeatedly raised our concerns about this practice of sharing a victim’s data with the Home Office and we are pleased the NPCC is finally addressing it.
‘This inherently biased practice actively discourages victims and witnesses of crimes coming forward, leaving criminals to continue committing crimes with near impunity and victims with no recourse to justice.’
She said the issue will persist unless there is a ‘complete firewall’ between police and the Home Office.