Merseyside Police Chief Constable, Andy Cooke, give us his views on the value of ACRO checks to his force
The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police is commending the use of ACRO checks to officers across the country.
Andy Cooke was speaking on a visit to the ACRO offices in Fareham at the beginning of October in his role as the NPCC’s new crime lead.
What were your impressions of ACRO before today and have they changed?
I think it’s fair to say they’ve massively changed since the visit. Probably like most chiefs and chief officers across the UK, I had a vague notion of what ACRO did and it’s not until you sit down and speak to the people who understand the different working how important it is, how critical some of the processes you do here are, and how much work it saves individual police forces having this centralised, specialist approach.
Have you seen any direct benefits of ACRO to your frontline police service?
Oh absolutely. In relation to foreign national offenders, the reduction in workload for my own staff by having ACRO here to do a lot of the enquiries abroad is massively beneficial. There will be many, many other examples where it’s saving police officers and staff across the country a lot of work being done far more expertly than if it was being done 43 different ways.
What can we do more to get the message out to frontline officers?
I think the message needs to be about the importance of the checks that ACRO does. The one in ten, one in twenty checks that might not come back as negative could save someone’s life. Each check is important. ACRO is here for a reason. The different parts of ACRO are here for reason. I would encourage every police officer and police staff member to use it. Advertising that fact, though, is very difficult. I think highlighting success is always the best way to do it.
(L-R: ACRO CEO, Rob Price; Merseyside Police Chief Constable, Andy Cooke; ACRO International Services Senior Manager, Lucy Saunders; ACRO Head of ACRO, James Fulton)
Case study: child sex offender deported
A man arrested for drink-driving in Liverpool was deported six weeks later on the strength of his overseas conviction.
He was detained by Merseyside Police in November 2017. They made a request via ACRO for his criminal records in his home country.
The check confirmed he had previously been convicted in Romania of a child sex offence.
The information was shared with Immigration Enforcement and he was later deported from the UK in December of the same year.
ACRO created a sex offender record for him on the ViSOR so we can effectively manage the risk he poses should he ever return to the UK.
The case demonstrates the value of the ACRO check and the importance of ensuring a request is made in respect of every foreign national police encounter, even for less serious offences.
It’s been almost three years since Merseyside Police streamlined their process for making most ACRO checks.
The system, known as the Niche module, was introduced into custody suites across the force in November 2016 and replaced the manual process of filling out and emailing a form.
It prompts police to make a request for every foreign national brought into custody and further prompts them with the questions they need to ask to ensure the request meets country requirements.
Not only does the system improve compliance rates, it’s also designed to improve the quality of submissions and reduce the number of rejections.
Completing the submission with the subject present also makes it easier for officers to get the information they need, therefore saving further time and effort.
Overseas conviction requests made by Merseyside Police via ACRO:
2015/16 = 1,608
2016/17 = 1,334
2017/18 = 2,063
2018/19 = 2,093
Keith Davis, ACRO's point of contact for Merseyside Police for making requests, said: "Merseyside Police worked closely with ACRO in order to develop the automation of foreign national checks from our Niche RMS system through to ACRO. As lead force in this development Merseyside piloted the way forward which now enables all other Niche forces to utilise the same processes.
"We are now realising the huge benefits in this process allowing the completion of data within fields our system and negating the requirement for forms ensuring mandatory fields are completed in order to comply with country requirements. Data quality has improved significantly. The process not only allows checks to be carried out by custody but also voluntary attendees and witnesses. Without this partnership with ACRO we would still be completing word document templates. The real time completion saves time and effort.
"The responses from ACRO have proved valuable in identifying potentially dangerous persons with serious convicitons, ensuring that Merseyside Police has full knowledge of these persons and can take the appropriate action to ensure that we keep our communities safe."
25th October 2019