National courts often pass sentences in criminal cases taking into account past convictions an offender has in their national criminal records register. Under EU law, they are obliged to also take into account convictions in other EU countries. ECRIS, a decentralised system for exchanging information on previous convictions between the Member States, supports this process.
Connecting national criminal record databases
The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) was established in April 2012 in order to improve the exchange of information on criminal records throughout the EU. All EU countries are currently connected to ECRIS.
- ensures that information on convictions is exchanged between EU countries in a uniform, fast and compatible way
- provides judges and prosecutors with easy access to comprehensive information on the criminal history of persons concerned, including in which EU countries that person has previously been convicted
- removes the possibility for offenders to escape the consequences of their previous convictions in another EU Member State
On 28 June 2017, the European Commission published its first report on the use of ECRIS by EU countries, covering the years 2012-2016. The second such report, with its accompanying Staff Working Document, was adopted on 21 December 2020. It gives an overview on the use of ECRIS in the years 2017-2019.
Information on non-EU criminals
ECRIS allows the authorities to obtain information on EU nationals. However, it is currently not possible to easily find information on previous convictions of non-EU nationals. To obtain this information, the respective EU countries have to be contacted one by one.
In 2017, the European Commission presented a proposal for a Regulation to establish a centralised ECRIS-TCN system that will be operated by the EU Agency for large-scale IT-systems (eu-LISA). An agreement on this Regulation was reached in the spring of 2019. The system is currently in development, and expected to be operational in 2022.
The existing procedure remains unchanged for decentralised exchanges of full conviction information on non-EU nationals, after the convicting EU country has been identified through the ECRIS-TCN system.