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My Lords, Clause 18, which has just been agreed, and Schedule 2 amend existing powers to retain fingerprints and DNA samples for counterterrorism purposes, and the JCHR has proposed a number of amendments.
As regards Amendment 47, currently under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act a person who is arrested but not charged or convicted of a terrorist offence may have his data retained for three years for security purposes with the consent of the Biometrics Commissioner. The Bill removes the requirement for that consent. In the view of the JCHR, the oversight of the commissioner is a matter that gives confidence to the public that the powers are used only where “necessary and proportionate”, and we are not aware that this oversight impedes the ability of the police to undertake counterterrorism work.
The Government responded to our first report, stating that they did not agree that,
“it would be appropriate or responsible to reduce the powers available to the police”,
but we did not propose the removal of those powers. We recognise the logic in harmonising the retention periods for biometric data so that cases are treated in the same way, whether an individual is arrested under PACE or under the Terrorism Act, but we were concerned about removing the requirement for the consent of the Biometrics Commissioner, and I have not seen a response from the Government to that point.
Therefore, the obvious question is: what is the justification for the biometric data of a person unlawfully or mistakenly arrested being exceptionally stored rather than destroyed? If the aim is to align the procedures, why not add to the protection by the commissioner having oversight of both categories of DNA retention under both powers? The JCHR made the comment, and did not make it lightly, that it was concerned about a race to the bottom of human rights protections. I beg to move.