United Kingdom – INTERPOL’s Yellow Notices, and why not every missing person becomes the subject of one

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I recently ran across this article by journalist Sally Murrer. The author does a sound job of parsing out the differences between a case of a domestic investigation regarding a missing person versus that of an international search. Murrer noted that, in the case of Leah Croucher, who disappeared in 2019 at the age of 19, some observers wondered why her name did not appear on a list of missing persons who were the subjects of Yellow Notices.

The question is a valid one, and the response requires a bit of education on the purpose and reach of a Yellow Notice. INTERPOL issues these notices when one of its 195 member countries requests assistance from INTERPOL in finding a person who has been listed by law enforcement officials as missing. INTERPOL reports that in 2020, it issued 2,554 Yellow Notices, and it describes Yellow Notices as follows:

A Yellow Notice is a global police alert for a missing person. It is published for victims of parental abductions, criminal abductions (kidnappings) or unexplained disappearances.

The Yellow Notice can also be used to help identify a person who is unable to identify himself or herself.

This is a valuable law enforcement tool that can increase the chances of a missing person being located, particularly if there is a possibility that the person might travel, or be taken, abroad.

In the case of Ms. Croucher, local authorities explained that they had not requested a Yellow Notice in the case of Ms. Croucher because there was “no evidence to suggest she left the UK.” While a Yellow Notice is most commonly utilized in cases of suspected international travel, INTERPOL’s rules do not necessarily require that travel abroad has already occurred in order for such a notice to be issued.

Rather, the rules require that a Yellow Notice, like any notice, not be issued unless it is of interest for the “purposes of international police cooperation.” Thus, while international travel is certainly contemplated in realtion to the issuance of a Yellow Notice, it is not expressly required to be established prior to one being issued.

The other absolute requirements for a Yellow Notice to be issued are set forth in INTERPOL’s Rules on the Processing of Data. We will address that in the next post.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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