December 17, 2014 -
The UK Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material has published a new report that reveals that the DNA and fingerprint samples belonging to thousands of foreign crime suspects have been deleted from British databases because police are barred from storing details of offenders convicted abroad, according to a report by The Telegraph.
In the report, Alastair MacGregor QC warned the UK public that they may be at risk because of the “obviously unsatisfactory state of affairs” which makes it mandatory for police to delete the biometric samples of those criminals who have committed offences abroad and then come to Britain.
Only when offenders have been convicted or if officers decide to reopen an investigation and take new samples are police allowed to store the biometrics, by which time the suspect may be impossible to locate, said the new report.
The commissioner also warned that recent reforms made by the Home Office may not resolve the issue.
“This problem was raised with me in the context of an application … of an EU national who had been arrested for, but not charged with, burglary,” MacGregor wrote in his annual report. “I was informed – and have no reason to doubt – that although enquiries of the relevant member state had established that he had served over 13 years’ imprisonment in that state for numerous similar offences, … it was not in practice open to the police to take and retain biometric material under those sections.
“Although I acceded to that application in respect of the material which had been taken when that individual was arrested, the relevant biometric records will, of course, be subject to a much shorter retention period than would have applied if the police had been able to rely on those sections. This seemed to me to be an obviously unsatisfactory state of affairs which might well be putting the UK public at unnecessary risk.”
The Home Office has specified a list of crimes for which data can be stored, which it has called “qualifying offences”.
In addition, biometric data collected from people that are simply suspects, as opposed to being convicted, cannot be stored indefinitely based on the fact that they were convicted of a “qualifying offence” outside the UK, said MacGregor.