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

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:00 pm, 8th March 2001

I was about to come to that point, which was well made.

In my relatively short time as a member of the Bar, between working on the other side of the channel and being elected to Parliament, I had much experience of cases where there were mistakes in the identification of materials, scientific inaccuracies, the path lab getting it wrong or the sample being lost or mislaid, just as medical records go adrift. Even if I was minded to agree with the philosophical point, I would need to be satisfied that I, as a citizen, had the opportunity to assess whether the system was accurate, throughout its processes. Many people do not have such opportunities, and I doubt that the independent scrutiny of the accountability and transparency of record keeping is such that everybody can have confidence in it.

We are not yet at the stage where we can say that there will not be any case in which someone will argue that there was inaccurate marking, tagging or transfer or a mismatch between information that left one place and arrived at another. Until we can be sure that there is a perfect system—if we can ever be sure—I have another reason for resistance and reluctance. It is a little like the arguments about computer databases. They are generally wonderful, but sometimes go wrong. I am not satisfied, and I have never had any reason to be persuaded, that the system whereby all the information is held will not at some stage get something wrong. Of course, we can build in checks, balances and opportunities to inspect it, but that still does not guarantee a perfect system, nor will it. As the old cliche says, what comes out depends on what one puts in. Occasionally, people may make mistakes when inputting the information, which may mean mistakes in the information that comes out.