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

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 4:30 pm, 8th March 2001

I shall come to the second point. On the first point, the Government's view is that—and the hon. Gentleman is right that we were faced with a choice—the evidence should not be thrown away and the police should be able to make proper use of the valuable and objective evidence provided by fingerprints and DNA profiling.

I acknowledge that a logical case, even a principled case, can be made for opposing clause 81, but I do not think the same of the amendments. I understand that, faced with the choice, the hon. Gentleman would prefer to go the way of the amendments. He would take the explicit risk that people might be found not guilty of the terrible offences that they had committed because we took note of his evaluation of the civil liberties issues. He wants to go one way; we want to go the other. A legitimate argument—and a vote—is to be had, here, on the Floor of the House or in the nation on that matter. The Government are going down that course because we believe that the power of technology is important and that we should not eschew the use of that evidence.

I come now to the point made by the hon. Member for Reigate. There are occasions when individuals give fingerprints or samples voluntarily—for example, for the purposes of elimination when they participate in a DNA intelligence or mass screen. The clause will permit the retention of fingerprints or samples if an individual gives consent in writing; but consent is entirely voluntary. I emphasise that it is for the individual to give consent. For the reasons stated by the hon. Gentleman, we do not want to discourage anyone from participating in a DNA intelligence screen or from giving fingerprints or samples for other elimination purposes. Consent is at the core; one can consent or not. Those who want to may do so. However, once consent has been given, it cannot be withdrawn. I give an absolute assurance that is it no part of the Government's proposal in any respect whatsoever to put pressure on people or to create uniformity in such a way that suggests that the people participating in those screens should consent. Consent is entirely voluntary and all our practices will reinforce that.