Electronic database has dramatically improved criminal records exchange times between UK and Jamaica
Six years ago the Jamaican criminal records storage system was a cupboard filled from floor-to-ceiling with paper records.
Fast forward to today and the Caribbean island has a streamlined electronic criminal records information system in place – all thanks to a long-standing partnership between ACRO and the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF).
Jamaica has the second largest number of non-EU criminals in UK prisons, and is designated by HMG as a priority country for the UK in terms of foreign criminality so our collaboration is essential in ensuring safer communities in the UK and across the world.
Working with the JCF and the British High Commission in Jamaica, the project commenced in 2013 with ACRO completing the installation of the new digital system in March 2016.
And now, it has been signed off which marks the end of the six-year UK government-funded project that involved:
- scoping, procuring and delivering the IT, training and infrastructure;
- converting 500,000 pre-existing fingerprint normal records into skeleton records on the new database;
- considering the potential to link the database with the Jamaican ID card system;
- developing an interface between the new database and the fingerprint system already in place in Jamaica.
The digitalisation has saved the JCF significant time and resources and has improved our joint ability to track, monitor and manage offenders in our communities and exchange information with overseas law enforcement partners.
Pictured (L to R): Mr McArthur Sutherland, Jamaica Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ms Alethia Whyte, Legal Officer, Mrs Angela Patterson, Director of Corporate Services and Mr Douglas Walker.
A delegation from the JCF visited ACRO in July to complete the project which has seen criminal record request response times drop from an average 96 working days to just a five-day turnaround.
Jamaica Assistant Commissioner of Police, McArthur Sutherland, was full of praise for ACRO and the relationship that has developed over the years.
‘ACRO created an enabling environment for progress. You came over and met with us at the JCF and took time to understand our working environment, our system requirements and support needed.
‘You facilitated the programme in a very positive and meaningful way, for which we are grateful as it allows us to collaborate with our key stakeholders, primarily the judicial system and other key stakeholders in a more timely and efficient manner.
‘The digital system allows us to have rapid access to data, identify offenders and operate in a more secure data-driven environment. Turnaround times for requested data are quicker and our officers are more motivated as it speeds up the processes, including cross-border investigations in line with a more collaborative international environment.
‘I will underscore a point regarding the initiative that, the strength of our efforts locally and internationally, lies in our ability to effectively collaborate against criminality.’
Angela Patterson, is the former Director of Corporate Services of Special Services and was with the project from the beginning.
‘We love ACRO! We went from zero to start in a comparatively short period of time. Where we are now represents two significant project updates; it started as a criminal records management system and evolved into an interface with our fingerprint system.
‘We are now able to produce Police Certificates, all in that one workflow. It has grown with us and we praise ACRO for that.’
Forces around the country are also seeing the benefits of the improved criminal record exchanges.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh QPM of Avon and Somerset Police said: ‘ACRO’s collaboration with the JCF is just as much about safer communities here in the UK, as it is about international policing.
‘The ability of my officers on the streets of Bristol, for instance, to check a person’s criminal conviction history and get that information back in a timely manner is crucial, and ACRO’s work improving response times with Jamaica is undoubtedly helping us better manage threat and reduce risk and harm.’
Not only has policing benefitted from the faster turnaround time of responses, there are other benefits too:-
- police are now able to quickly access the details of people with previous convictions whose fingerprint records were uploaded into the database;
- police can check the details of people who come to their attention against those already on the system to help confirm whether or not they have a previous conviction;
- if someone who has never before offended comes to their attention, a new record can be easily created on the electronic database;
- if a previous offender comes to their attention again, police are able to convert that person’s paper records onto the system as a matter of priority.
ACRO CEO, Rob Price said: ‘ACRO’s partnership with the JCF has achieved a more efficient, effective and timely exchange of criminal history data that is directly supporting operational policing in the UK.
‘The project, which was driven by ACRO and which brought together partners from across government, law enforcement and the technology sector, has proven to be the catalyst for other countries within the Caribbean region to develop their own exchange systems in partnership with ACRO.
‘As such, it has laid the foundations of a pan-Caribbean strategy vital in terms of links to the Americas and combating the threat of serious and organised crimes, often related to the supply of unlawful drugs and use of firearms, not just within the UK but throughout the world.’
Here are some examples of how the installation of the digital management system is making a real difference to ensuring safer communities in the UK.
Example 1: A Jamaican national was arrested by the Metropolitan Police for rape. A request to Jamaica returned information that he had a previous conviction for the rape of a 13-year-old girl in 2017, for which he received a three-year suspended sentence. UK prosecutors used this as evidence of bad character in the subsequent court case.
Example 2: West Midlands Police arrested a Jamaican national for common assault. The response from Jamaica revealed that the man had a previous conviction for manslaughter (causing death by dangerous driving) and forgery. These convictions were added on to the Police National Computer, allownig law enforcers in the UK access to his full criminal history.
Read more about the development of the project
13th September 2019