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 do not accept that. The screens will be conducted under clear guidance that will make it quite clear that consent is at the core.

The Police Federation stance on this issue worries me, unlike some of the other matters that we have discussed, on which the federation and I have good, cordial relations. I shall be blunt about it; the federation is not co-operating with the Government's efforts to include police DNA in the DNA data check. The police themselves may leave DNA samples when they visit scenes of crimes, and it is obviously important to eliminate those from any inquiry.

The Police Federation is saying that the inclusion of police DNA poses a threat to civil liberties, and it has been suggested that the police will not participate. That is the subject of an argument between the Government and the federation. It is not an acceptable position for the federation to adopt, unlike some of the other subjects on which the federation has written to Committee members. It is entirely unacceptable for the police trade union to take such a position on DNA sampling. I do not accept the validity of the federation's position, as its leadership knows. That point should be taken into account by the Committee when considering evidence from the federation.

In the circumstances that I have described, if an individual does not consent to the retention of the fingerprints or samples, they must be destroyed—I can describe to the processes that will properly destroy the samples—and the information derived from those samples cannot be used in the investigation of other offences. I believe that that provides sufficient protection. The scenario summoned up by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath of a mass failure to participate in those processes is unlikely to arise.

On acquittals, it is important to emphasise strongly that fingerprints and samples retained from those acquitted can be used only for the purposes of prevention of crime, and so on—not for any other purposes. Therefore, a person who has never been involved in crime has nothing to fear. I do not believe—this takes me back to where I started—that there will be a removal of liberty. People's freedom and liberty will not in any sense be disadvantaged unless they subsequently commit a crime. There will be objective, factual data that can disprove as well as prove involvement.