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UK government seeks stronger legislation on use of foreign criminals’ biometric data


The UK government is aiming to expand the types of cases in which law enforcement can request access to biometric and DNA data of suspected criminals from other countries.

Previously reported, UK Biometrics Commissioner Alastair R. MacGregor publicly released his first annual report in mid December in which he warned of the thousands of foreign criminals convicted of offences outside England and Wales have had their DNA profiles and fingerprint details deleted from British police databases.

In a response to the report, Lord Michael Bates writes that fingerprints and DNA profiles captured from suspected criminals with foreign convictions can be kept on file if certain requirements have been met.

Bates maintains that the EU limits the right to request foreign requirements on a broad level to current investigations out of concerns for public security.

The UK government has “widened the cases in which information can be retained on the PNC [Police National Computer] beyond that agreed by the previous government,” which will effectively result in “more situations in which the foreign conviction is available to the police,” the statement said.

Additionally, the statement said that the UK government considers legislation that extends the types of arrest following which police can continue to store biometric data such as DNA and fingerprints.

Bates requested his officials to research various crimes including the import of Class C drugs and knife offences to a list of “qualifying offences”.

The standard protocol is to delete any biometric data of those individuals who do not have any prior convictions once an investigation is completed, unless it directly relates to one these qualifying offences — in which case, the data can be retained for three years.

In his statement, Bates agreed to order a full review of custody images and facial recognition following the parliamentary committee detailing in the commissioner’s report that it was concerned that the British police was uploading custody photographs of people to the Police National Database and using facial recognition software on the images, completely free of any regulations.

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