Guidance for UK police and law enforcement teams
If you're dealing with a foreign national and need to know their overseas conviction history, you'll need to make a request via ACRO.
We are the national police unit responsible for managing these requests from UK police forces and other law enforcement agencies.
Much of the conviction information we return can be used to investigate crime, protect the public and bring to justice people who cross international borders to re-offend.
The overseas conviction check is one of four main conviction exchange processes:
- Requests received from within the UK for conviction information held overseas ('requests out')
- Requests received from overseas for conviction information held in the UK ('requests in')
- Notification messages sent overseas about foreign nationals convicted in the UK ('notifications out')
- Notification messages received about UK nationals convicted overseas ('notifications in')
Within the European Union these four processes are well embedded and supported by legislation and ECRIS, a secure conviction information exchange system. ACRO has the delegated responsibility of managing the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records with other Member States.
ACRO also exchanges conviction information with countries outside the EU. These processes are currently not as standardised as those that exist within the EU. To develop and improve information sharing, we are working with a range of countries including the USA and Jamaica. See our international development work for more.
If you are a non-police agency, city council or solicitor seeking to send a court order request to ACRO for information that has been mandated by a UK court, i.e. child protection matters / family court, please send your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that your request does not need to categorically state that ACRO is responsible for responding to the court order. However it must state that foreign conviction checks must be carried out on a named party.
In the event that your request states that a UK police force is responsible for responding, but is received by ACRO, we will respond affirming that you’ll need to contact the appropriate force directly. Within this, we will include details of why we’re unable to provide the information that has been requested.
Requests to third countries will be made at a charge, however this will be fully detailed in ACRO’s response to the initial court order.
To complete a court order, we require basic information to ensure the request is processed correctly and includes the following necessary detail:
- Middle name and maiden name(s) where applicable
- Date of birth
- Nationality and country of birth
Please be aware that the time limits handed down by a court order may not always be met. Where ACRO must obtain data from a third country, we rely on the country’s timely response.
International timeframes are as follows:
• EU countries responding to requests for criminal proceedings: 20 working days.
• EU countries responding to requests for non-criminal processings are not bound to a response timeframe.
• Non-EU countries are not bound to a specific turn around agreement.
Furthermore, some countries are non-responsive. Where a deadline will not be met, ACRO will communicate this and, where a response is unlikely or not possible, this will also be communicated.
Once the relevant information has been obtained, ACRO will respond via email to the original request with the information required.
If you, or your organisation, have any queries regarding the court order process, please direct them to: email@example.com.
For the majority of police forces, the process of requesting an ACRO check whenever a foreign national is brought into custody is now automated.
This saves up to around 10 minutes per check compared with having to complete a request form.
Please be aware, however, that different countries require different information in order to process a request. Some need both parents' names, for example, others require the subject's place of birth.
If this information is not made available, you may receive an automated email asking for it. It's worth taking the time to gather this data because without it you may not be able to access conviction information that could prove vital to safeguarding our communities.
It is still possible to make a request for UK nationals brought into custody as well as people who've not been arrested but who are still subject to relevant proceedings. Such requests have to be made via the request form.
Likewise, those forces that are not currently automated are still able to make a request by completing a request form.
You'll find details of how to do so from your local International Liaison Officer or equivalent.
Further guidance and training
Police teams should in the first instance contact their force's International Liaison Officer or equivalent for further support.
Officers with non-police agencies can contact ACRO directly regarding specific requests.
If you need to contact ACRO directly, please search for our contact details on your internal systems or go to our Knowledge Hub community: ACRO International Conviction Request.
On Knowledge Hub you will find further information including:
- country requirements
- discussions on best practice
- updates on development work
- case studies
An e-learning training package is available for registered users on the NCALT Managed Learning Environment. Log in and search for 'Requesting foreign convictions.'
Guidance for members of the public about criminal conviction exchange
For statistics on the number of requests received and notifications sent, see the annual reports and quarterly profiles.