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Serious and Organised Crime: Prüm Convention

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 8th December 2015.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:47 pm, 8th December 2015

My right hon. Friend has challenged me on similar issues in relation to justice and home affairs measures in the past. The fact is that because Prüm already exists within the European Union, attempts to exchange these data in other ways would require not only an intergovernmental agreement, but the building of separate systems. That would take far longer, and we would not have access to the data for a significant period. Other member states would point out that a mechanism is already available, and that if we wish to exchange data in such a way we should join that mechanism.

Let me explain a little more about the sort of data exchanged and the processes. For DNA, a crime scene profile is sent from one country to all the other countries simultaneously, and it is automatically searched against the profiles held in those countries’ databases. If there is a match, the requesting country receives a hit report back. At that stage no information is exchanged that would allow a person to be identified—none.

Prior to any personal details being released, all hits must be verified scientifically. In broad terms that is the same system as for fingerprints. Hits are reported within 15 minutes for DNA, and within 24 hours for fingerprints. With Interpol the same manual process means that the average time to report a hit is more than four months. For vehicle registration data, a country that is investigating a crime in which a foreign-registered car is believed to have been involved can request details of that vehicle. Those details are provided in 10 seconds. I think that bears repeating: our police would be able to get details of foreign-registered vehicles in 10 seconds, rather than the months it can take at the moment.

As I said to this House in July last year, Prüm is about the

“easy, efficient and effective comparison of data when appropriate”.—[Hansard, 10 July 2014; Vol. 584, c. 492.]

Right hon. and hon. Members will no doubt recall that Prüm was part of the 100 or so measures that we opted out of last year when we exercised an opt-out that the

Labour party negotiated but had no intention of using—that was the greatest repatriation of powers in this country’s history.