Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 1st March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:37 pm, 1st March 2011

Indeed, the police will be able to apply for the DNA of some people who are arrested but not charged to be retained. I would expect that application to be made in certain circumstances, such as when the victim has been vulnerable, which may mean there is very good evidence that the individual concerned has committed a crime but the victim is not able or not willing to come forward and see that case through.

I also say this to the right hon. Lady: the last Government wanted the DNA of all innocent people to be retained on the database indefinitely. We do not think that is a proportionate response, and what we are introducing today is a proportionate response. We would expect the DNA of the majority of the 1 million innocent people on the database would now to be removed from it.

An adult who is charged with, but not convicted of, a serious offence will have their fingerprints and DNA profile retained for three years, with the option of a single extension for two years with the approval of a district judge in the magistrates court, and an adult who is arrested for a minor offence but not convicted will have their fingerprints and DNA profile destroyed as soon as possible once a decision has been taken not to charge them or once they have been found not guilty by the courts. Different arrangements will apply for under-18s who are convicted of a first minor offence, and there will be special provisions for DNA and fingerprints to be retained for national security purposes. If the police believe there are sufficient public protection grounds to justify the retention of material following an arrest for a qualifying offence that does not lead to a charge, the Bill allows them to apply to the new commissioner for the retention and use of biometric material, who will decide whether retention of the DNA profile and fingerprints of the arrested person is justified.

We must protect the most vulnerable in society, so when the victim of the alleged offence is under 18, vulnerable or in a close personal relationship with the arrested person the expectation is that the police will apply to the commissioner for retention. I believe that these rules give the police the tools they need without putting the DNA of a large number of innocent people on the database. In all cases, the DNA profile and fingerprints of any person arrested for a recordable offence will be subjected to a speculative search against the national databases. That means that those who have committed crimes in the past and have left their DNA or fingerprints at the scene will not escape justice.

The Bill also fulfils our coalition agreement commitment to outlaw the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission. I must say that I found it amazing that any school ever thought it appropriate to fingerprint schoolchildren without their parents’ permission. The Bill will contain a double lock, whereby a school or college must obtain the consent of the parents and the child before processing their biometric data. If either opts out, the school or college must ensure that reasonable arrangements are in place to enable the child to access the full range of school services.

I shall deal now with surveillance. As with DNA, it is clear that CCTV can act as a deterrent to criminals, can help to convict the guilty and is warmly welcomed by many communities. This Government wholeheartedly support the use of CCTV and DNA to fight crime.