November 27, 2015 -
After years of debate, the UK government now says that there is a “clear and compelling case” to sign the European Union wide agreements, or Prüm convention, for the rapid and efficient sharing of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle information, according to a report by Police Professional.
This will give UK police access to a much larger collection of biometric and biographic data, hopefully closing more unsolved crimes and improving international searching. Under the convention, UK law enforcement would have access to more than five million fingerprints, DNA profiles and car registration records held across Europe by the member states which have already signed up to Prüm.
Biometric information sharing is currently possible through Interpol but under Prüm, the government says, will work much faster. For example, it currently takes on average 143 days for a DNA match to be returned through an Interpol request, compared with just 15 minutes under Prüm.
Speaking in Parliament, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said the benefits of joining the convention outweigh the negatives.
“Giving our police access to the tools they need to rapidly and efficiently identify foreign criminals who have committed serious offences in the UK – and detecting crimes which may otherwise go unsolved – will help to keep the public safe and is clearly in the national interest.”
The Home Office had previously released a report that warned of UK police, prosecutors and the National Crime Agency (NCA) running the risk of being inundated with a “high volume” of DNA and fingerprint requests from European Union countries if Britain signs the Prüm convention later this year. The report also mentioned that some EU countries use lower quality DNA matching criteria than Britain, which could lead to innocent British citizens being accused of a crime because of “false positive” DNA matches.
However, UK Ministers have recently pledged that if the UK votes in favour of joining Prüm, safeguards will be in place to protect civil liberties such as legislating to ensure demographic details are only provided if the hit is of a scientific standard equivalent to that required to report a hit to the police in the UK.
The UK has until December 31 to opt-in to Prüm after it opted out last December during negotiations on other EU justice measures.