Clause 81 - Restriction on use and destruction of fingerprints and samples

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:45 pm, 8th March 2001

We shall support the amendments if they are pressed to a Division, but we shall oppose clause 81 for reasons that can be anticipated.

There is all the difference in the world between information held by the police that is obtained lawfully in the pursuit of people suspected of having committed offences who are then convicted, or information, evidence or material that is voluntary given to the police by members of the public; and using material, evidence or information that was given to the police involuntarily by someone who was being investigated and was thus subject to the authority of the police but who was subsequently released without a conviction.

Someone who goes through the hands of the police and comes out at the other end of the criminal justice process as not guilty of the offence about which they were being investigated or with which they had been charged is, in law, entirely guiltless, as are those who have never been through that process. Society believes in several things that we in Parliament should hold dear. The first premise is that people's liberty should be respected and invasions of liberty should be carried out as infrequently as possible. Maximising the liberty of the citizen against the state, whether or not the state is acting in the good interests of society, is a principle that should be compromised only with good reason and if the general consensus is that it should be done.

The second premise, which is held by all the nations of the United Kingdom, is that people are innocent until proved guilty. Those who go through the hands of the authorities and are found not guilty must be presumed innocent. We in England do not have the middle-way alternative verdict available in Scots law of not proven, but even in Scots law that verdict should not imply guilt. I believe that the same principle should apply to those found not guilty in Scots law as applies elsewhere in the UK. They should be entitled to the same rights as those who have never been through the hands of the police.

The Government concede that people who have always been innocent and who never been in the hands of the police should not lose their right to resist having their body samples, fingerprints or DNA samples taken and held without their authority. That puts in a different category from the rest of us people who happen by the accident of life to pass through police hands on the basis of suspicion, but are found not to be guilty, and who should be presumed to be as innocent as someone who has not been investigated. That is an entirely improper and prejudicial differentiation that for the rest of their lives will give those people a status with the authorities that disadvantages them in terms of their freedom and liberty.