Immigration and migrants' rights

Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ Super-Complaint on data-sharing between the police and Home Office regarding victims and witnesses to crime

In 2018, Liberty and Southall Black Sisters (SBS) launched the first ever police Super-Complaint – a new scheme which allowed designated bodies to raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful and systemic practices by the police.

The Super-Complaint concerned the fact that the police share the data of victims and witnesses of crimes with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes. The data-sharing includes all victims, even those who are victims of extremely serious crimes such as rape, modern slavery and human trafficking. This undermines the fight against crime as it has a real deterrent effect on people with insecure immigration status seeking the support of the police. As a result, victims are unable to access justice while perpetrators remain free to commit further crimes and threaten public safety.

On 17 December 2020, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) published their report responding to the Super-Complaint. The report called for an overhaul of the laws and policies on police data-sharing with the Home Office.

It agreed with Liberty and SBS’s view that data-sharing caused “significant harm… to the public interest”. This is because many victims of crime with insecure immigration status, in particular migrant women subject to domestic abuse, are afraid to report the abuse in case their details are then handed to immigration enforcement.

The report also supported Liberty and SBS’s concerns over the inconsistencies and confusion across police forces about how to deal with victims and witnesses who have insecure immigration status. It recommended that the legal framework and policy underpinning data-sharing should be reviewed.

The Home Office is currently conducting this review into the legal framework and policy and is engaging in a series of consultations with victim support groups, including Liberty and SBS. In these consultations, Liberty and SBS are calling for the introduction of a complete firewall between the police and the Home Office applicable to victims and witnesses of all crimes.

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