UK Liberty

Lords come through again

Posted in DNA database, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on November 5, 2008

The BBC:

The government has been defeated in the House of Lords over the issue of keeping peoples’ DNA and fingerprints on the police national database.

Peers backed a Conservative amendment calling for national guidelines for deleting material by 161 votes to 150.

Ministers said the safeguard was not needed and could hinder anti-terror operations but critics said innocent people should not be stigmatised.

The defeat is the latest inflicted by peers on the counter-terrorism bill.

Debate here:

Baroness Hanham (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Conservative)

My Lords, we had an interesting debate in Committee on the retention of samples such as fingerprints and DNA. The Minister kindly followed that up with a comprehensive letter which included a fact-sheet compiled for the police on the retention and use of such samples. As I indicated in Committee, I was not particularly reassured by the Minister’s answers, and therefore I return today with the second of the two amendments I tabled at that stage. The aim of this amendment is to try to spark a national debate about the retention of samples and to inform the public about what information is being held on them.

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to draft and lay before Parliament regulations governing the procedures by which people can discover what information is held about them and under what circumstances a request can be made by them to have samples taken during an investigation by the police destroyed. As we will see, there is no transparency in the current situation and the dice are severely loaded against innocent people being able to ensure that their most personal details are not kept indefinitely following their exclusion, either by a court or following a decision that there is no reason for them to be involved further in any inquiry. No one disputes the value of DNA and fingerprint information in identifying criminals and possibly terrorists, and that it has and will continue to make a useful contribution in pursuit of identifying and bringing to justice perpetrators of crime and terrorism. However, there is wide concern about the retention by the police of information on samples taken from a wide range of people during their inquiries which is then retained indefinitely on the police national computer. The provisions in this Bill add to those already in PACE 1984 and, as we now know, this legislation can be used to justify action over a wider range than counterterrorism purposes.

Few innocent people will resent helping the police by giving samples whether they are innocent at the time or subsequently found to be, but they question, as we do, the justification for their personal identification material being held and for it to be difficult to find out how they can have it removed from the police national computer. There is an additional factor in that such information can now be transferred to other EU countries.

And companies.

The general assumption in those countries is that anyone whose details are held on the database is guilty or at least suspected of being associated with crime. Transparency is needed. …

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