New law to catch felons that 'fall through EU cracks'

2nd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Dec 2 (AFP) - European Union justice ministers agreed Thursday the outlines of a new law to accelerate exchanges of information on criminals who currently fall through cracks between member states.

BRUSSELS, Dec 2 (AFP) - European Union justice ministers agreed Thursday the outlines of a new law to accelerate exchanges of information on criminals who currently fall through cracks between member states.

The need for EU-wide action has been underlined by recriminations between France and Belgium over a self-confessed French serial killer, Michel Fourniret, who is now in detention in Belgium.

The broad legislative text hammered out by justice ministers at talks here specifies that when an EU country convicts someone from another member state, it must inform that state's authorities without delay.

And member states must reply within 10 days to a request for information about a criminal suspect detained in another EU country.

Under a 1959 convention, EU countries have previously been obliged only to exchange information on convictions of other states' nationals once a year. France, Germany and Spain have already been running a pilot project on exchanging information on criminal convictions.

But the EU ministers have yet to find agreement on the exact wording of the legal text, including what types of conviction must be listed and how many years can pass before a conviction is erased from the record.

Belgium's government has complained at the poor flow of information between EU judicial authorities after Fourniret managed to get a job as a school canteen monitor despite a 1987 conviction in France for raping girls.

The new EU law would not cover cases such as Fourniret, as the Frenchman was convicted in his homeland rather than another EU country, but it is a "first step", Belgian Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx said.

Fourniret, 62, was arrested in Belgium in June last year over the abduction of minors and sexual misconduct. He has since confessed to nine killings, mostly of young girls, in the late 1980s in France and Belgium.

To round out the new legislation, Belgium has proposed that EU member states be obliged to share information to prevent convicted paedophiles getting jobs involving children.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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