Biometric Data

House of Lords written question – answered on 22nd February 2010.

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Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson for the Home Office

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many persons have had their biometric data taken by Counter Terrorism Command under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000; how many of those have applied to the chief police officer of the force which took the data under the exceptional case procedure for their samples to be destroyed; how many of those applications have been successful; and what was the average length of time between the first request to have the data destroyed and notification to the applicant or his representative that the data have been destroyed.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

The powers of examination contained in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 are an important tool in countering terrorism. Terrorists often need to travel across borders to plan, prepare and initiate their acts and these powers are essential in helping to identify those individuals. The powers within Schedule 7 allow officers to take biometric material in order to determine if someone is, or has been, involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

Nationally, from the introduction of the Terrorism Act up to 31 December 2009, fingerprints and DNA samples have been taken under Schedule 7 on approximately 1,200 occasions. I am advised that there have been three individuals who are known to have applied for the samples to be destroyed under the exceptional case procedure. However, as applications are made to individual forces, it is possible that some cases have not been reported centrally. Of these three individuals, two sets of samples have been destroyed and the third case is still under consideration. These cases have taken between six and 12 months to complete.

ECHR 1581, and following pubic consultation in May 2009, the Government laid the Crime and Security Bill before Parliament. It contains provisions that would establish a clear statutory framework for the retention, destruction and use of biometric material, including DNA samples, DNA profiles and fingerprints. They strike a proper balance between protecting the pubic from the threat posed by terrorism and other threats to national security and upholding individuals' rights and liberties.

Furthermore, the powers contained in Schedule 7 are kept under scrutiny by the noble Lord Carlile of Berriew, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. He has regularly reviewed and made recommendations as to the use of these powers but has consistently found the powers to be necessary and proportionate.

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