A Sheriff has condemned the lack of information on criminals from the EU who appear in Scottish courts – warning “rapists, murderers or anything” could be standing before him.
Sheriff Craig McSherry complained he was having to sentence European nationals for crimes committed in Scotland without knowing about previous convictions.
Sheriff McSherry is reported to have made his comments while sentencing a Polish man at Dunfermline Sheriff Court, Fife.
The 31-year-old was accused of trying to use a fake £20 note in several high street shops in July.
The accused’s defence solicitor, Gwen Haggerty, said her client was a “first offender” and should get a community payback order.
But Sheriff McSherry said the courts were given very little information about EU nationals’ backgrounds and he was unable to be certain the accused was a first time offender.
According to a local newspaper, Sheriff McSherry told the court: “I’m bothered about people who appear in front of this court in their first few weeks of arriving as first time offenders and we don’t know if they are rapists, murderers or anything.
“In this case and in practically every case we are dealing with EU nationals.
“In this report the reporter is unaware of his offending in Poland – I don’t understand why we get very little details off them. I’m just making this point.”
Scotland has seen a massive increase in the numbers of immigrants from the EU following the relaxation of border controls and the right to work anywhere in the community.
Last year almost 15% of all non-UK born nationals in Scotland were from Poland, around 56,000 in all.
There were also some 23,000 Germans living north of the border.
The Scottish Tories backed the sheriff. Chief whip John Lamont said: “Given the ease of travel and information sharing across the EU, I find it almost unbelievable that this difficulty should exist.
“There’s no reason why these records can’t be more easily accessed, and I hope the Scottish Government does all it can to make this happen.
“We cannot have a situation where sheriffs are asked to impose a sentence on someone whose background is a complete mystery.”
Lyn Costello MBE, founder of Mothers Against Murder and Aggression said that not knowing the criminal background of offenders could mean that “very dangerous individuals” are getting lighter sentences than they should.
She said: “Previous offending plays a major part in how we sentence offenders in the UK, and is considered with the aim of protecting the public.
“Some very dangerous individuals could be receiving light sentences, that do not adequately protect the public, simply because the courts are not being given the appropriate information.
“MAMAA fully support Sherif McSherry’s view on information our courts have on the offending history of immigrants to the UK.”
Last year, Grzegorz Gamla, from Poland, was convicted of murdering his flatmate in Edinburgh.
The 26-year-old was found guilty of killing countryman Maciej Ciania, 37, who was found with 37 stab wounds.
The two men had had an argument over bills.
In December last year Pawel Rodak, from Poland, was jailed for 12 years in Edinburgh after being found guilty of culpable homicide.
The 21-year-old prostitute was found guilty of stabbing Heriot Watt University lecturer, Roger Gray, 114 times.
Rodak had his conviction brought down to culpable homicide from murder as he was a first time offender.
Earlier this year, three Slovakian nationals were jailed after they were found guilty of human trafficking.
Helena Kulova, 47, Renata Kulova, 20, and Ivan Balog, 27 were all sentenced to three years in prison for exploiting a young couple under the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004.
All three of those sentenced were found guilty of exploiting the young couple from Slovakia, who were seeking work in the UK.
Yesterday the Home Office declined to comment. Sheriff McSherry also declined to comment.
Last year the same judge hit the headlines when his mobile phone went off in court playing Guns N’ Roses, despite phones being banned in all Scottish court rooms.
The Sheriff was dealing with a drugs case when Sweet Child O’Mine rang out from his phone.