In order to improve security of citizens within the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice concrete steps enabling an efficient exchange of information on criminal convictions between the Member States have been taken at European level. In particular, a computerised system called ECRIS (European Criminal Records Information System) has been established and started operation in April 2012.
Stories such as the Fourniret case of 2004 and numerous subsequent studies have demonstrated that national courts frequently were passing sentences on the sole basis of past convictions featuring in their national register, without any knowledge of convictions in other Member States. Consequently criminals were often able to escape their past simply by moving between EU Member States.
ECRIS was created in response to this obvious need to improve the exchange of information on criminal records at European level. In practical terms the ECRIS system means an electronic interconnection of criminal records databases of all Member States, where information on convictions is exchanged between them speedily, in a uniform and easily computer-transferable way. It gives judges prosecutors and relevant administrative authorities easy access to comprehensive information on the offending history of any EU citizen, no matter in which EU countries that person has been convicted in the past. In this way, criminals will not be able to escape their criminal past simply by moving among Member States, and an adequate response can be given to crimes already committed. The system also serves to prevent crime.
General principles governing the exchange of information and the functioning of the system are regulated in the Framework Decision on exchange of information on criminal records and in the ECRIS Decision.
Member States should have implemented the system by April 2012. A number of technical and financial measures have been taken in order to help them to prepare the technical infrastructure to connect their criminal records systems. The Commission has put special software called 'reference implementation' at the disposal of Member States to facilitate their interconnection with other registers. Member States can also avail of financial support in the form of grants in order to modernise their national criminal records systems within the framework of the Criminal Justice Programme.
In line with provisions laid down in the European Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA, European Council Decision 2009/316/JHA and national provisions, the exchange of criminal record information can take place for other purposes than criminal proceedings. Further information on how to get an extract of criminal record for such other purposes can be found on the Member State page by clicking on the respective flag at the right hand side.
Already prior to ECRIS entry into force, several Members States (BE, CZ, FR, DE, ES, IT, LU, NL, PL, SK, UK) were exchanging information on criminal records electronically, within the framework of the pilot project 'Network of Judicial Registers'. The development and achievements reached by this project, in particular the IT architecture and the reference tables, were the basic inspiration for the ECRIS system.
ECRIS currently works efficiently with regard to EU-nationals. However, at this time it is not possible to determine whether third country nationals were previously convicted in other Member States without consulting them all.
On 19 January 2016, the Commission therefore adopted a proposal for a Directive amending Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA, as regards third country nationals and as regards the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), and replacing Council Decision 2009/316/JHA.
This page is maintained by the European Commission. The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice with regard to copyright rules for European pages.
The Commission is in the process of updating some of the content on this website in the light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.