Police errors, paperwork delays force destruction of biometric data of 800 terror suspects
According to a report in The Telegraph, the fingerprint and DNA profiles of up to 800 terror suspects have been destroyed because of errors by the police and the Security Service. That is approximately 10% of the individuals whose biometric profiles are held in the UK Government’s counter-terrorism databases.
Sources told The Telegraph that the destruction took place because paperwork was not completed which would have allowed biometric data to be stored indefinitely while critics called for an investigation into the data destruction and said that it was “appalling” that mistakes by the police mean that evidence on potential terrorists has to be destroyed “on a technicality”.
The forensic samples and fingerprints are from suspects who have been arrested by police but never charged. The law requires material from suspects against whom no charges are brought to be destroyed or deleted within six months but senior police officers can apply for them to be held indefinitely if they apply for a “national security declaration”.
The Biometrics Commissioner put the blame for the destruction of the evidence on repeated delays in transferring DNA material by police, and on substantial delays by the Security Service in providing assessments of suspects.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Barr, deputy senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism, confirmed the biometric information had been deleted and commented: “This was a result of a number of different factors across our processes. We have worked with the Biometrics Commissioner to develop a comprehensive plan to rectify the immediate issues and to ensure this will not happen again. The identity of these individuals is known and the risks they potentially pose are being managed in conjunction with partner agencies to minimise any long term risk to the public.”
A Home Office spokesman added: “The Home Secretary is grateful to the Biometrics Commissioner for his follow-up work since the 2015 report was published. The Commissioner has concluded that steps are being taken to address these issues, and the police have provided further assurances that they will be kept under close review.”
In related news from The Register, a new report by the the UK’s Biometrics Commissioner Alastair MacGregor QC says that that more than half of people on British counter-terrorism databases are innocent. The commissioner found that 53 per cent of the 9,600 individuals in the UK`s counter-terrorism databases have never been convicted of a crime.