Alice Gross family urge tougher monitoring of foreign criminals
The family of murdered schoolgirl Alice Gross have called for a "careful and targeted" reform of the system for exchanging information about high-risk offenders across Europe.
As an inquest jury announced its conclusion that 14-year-old Alice had been unlawfully killed, a coroner stated that she was "highly likely" to raise "a list of concerns" with the police and Home Office.
It is believed Alice died at the hands of builder Arnis Zalkalns, who had served a prison sentence for murdering his wife in his native Latvia.
Alice disappeared from her home in Hanwell, west London, on August 28 2014. Her body was found on September 30 after Scotland Yard conducted its biggest search since the July 7 London bombings.
Zalkalns, who came to the UK in 2007, was found hanged in a park a few days after Alice's body was discovered weighted down with bricks and logs in the River Brent. Police said the 41-year-old would have been charged with her murder had he lived.
On the sixth day of an inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, a jury of eight men and three women found she had been killed in a sexually motivated attack and her death was "consistent with compression asphyxia".
Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said her possible list of recommendations included that it should become mandatory for all police forces in England and Wales to perform automated Acro criminal records and Interpol warnings checks on foreign criminals, with further checks as required in individual cases.
Another was that audit systems should be put in place to see that the mandatory checks were being carried out and the warnings lists updated so that persons with serious convictions were "appropriately detained".
She told the jury last week that evidence given at the inquest did not support conclusions that would "imply that any actions or inactions" of the Home Office or police "caused or contributed" to Alice's death.
Alice's family, represented by human rights organisation Liberty, said they were "pleased that the coroner seems likely to make a number of recommendations to the police and the Home Office to improve their systems, which reflect our concerns".
They said in a statement: " Our concern has been to ensure that there are fair and proportionate rules governing the movement of serious criminals within Europe, whether that is a Latvian coming to the UK or a dangerous UK citizen travelling abroad.
"We believe that, had such measures been in place, Alice's death might have been prevented.
"We do not want to see another tragic example of a pointless and avoidable death. We do not want another family to suffer what we have been through. That was our main goal in going through this tortuous inquest."
Alice's father Jose Gross, sister Nina Gross and mother Ros Hodgkiss added: " We would like to take this chance to reiterate that, like Alice, our family is in favour of freedom of movement, in favour of the EU, and all the good things it has brought to our lives.
"We do not believe that any citizen deserves to be treated differently based on their race or nationality.
"We ask in the strongest terms that our position not be misunderstood or abused in order to support an anti-immigrant position with which we profoundly disagree, particularly in the current political climate."
Liberty said the family wishes to see "a targeted, proportionate and proactive system of information sharing about the relatively small number of very high-risk offenders who travel across borders, and whose actions can have catastrophic consequences".
Alice's sister said outside court: " Life is broken and cold without her. Regardless of whether legal responsibility can be attributed to the State for Alice's death, I believe the State failed Alice and our family. Alice was not tragic, but what happened to her was."
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse said: "Over the last two years we have put significant efforts into making sure that when we arrest foreign nationals, checks for previous convictions are carried out in as many cases as possible, making sure we can deal with them as effectively as we can UK nationals."
:: Following Alice's death, her parents established Alice's Youth Music Memorial Fund in tribute to Alice who was a keen singer, songwriter and musician. Donate at: http://alice.poppymadeleine.gross.muchloved.com/"