To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will make it her policy that biometric material is taken from and retained in respect of suspected criminals in England and Wales who have been convicted of serious offences previously in (a) Scotland, (b) Northern Ireland and (c) other EU countries; and if she will make a statement.
The Government’s policy is that biometric material should wherever possible be taken from suspected criminals and retained in the circumstances described in the question.
If a person is arrested in Scotland or Northern Ireland their biometric material will normally be taken in those jurisdictions; if they then go on to be convicted in those jurisdictions, their biometric material will be retained both on the local Scottish and Northern Irish DNA databases and on the national UK-wide DNA and fingerprint databases. However, if a person is arrested and convicted in Scotland or Northern Ireland but does not have their biometrics taken, then is later arrested in England or Wales, the law requires that the biometrics taken on the English or Welsh arrest can only be retained because of the Scottish or Northern Irish conviction if it is equivalent to a ‘qualifying’
(serious) offence in England and Wales, and only if a police inspector explicitly approved taking the biometrics following the English or Welsh arrest.
The law on retaining biometrics taken in England and Wales on the basis of a conviction in other EU countries is the same as the law on retaining such biometrics on the basis of a conviction in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Convictions for serious offences in Scotland and Northern Ireland are recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) and are thus known to the police in England and Wales. We are also informed of a number of convictions for serious offences in the EU of UK and non-UK nationals. Such convictions become known through requests made to other EU countries. Under this Government the police are making vastly more requests for the previous convictions of EU nationals arrested in the UK - 49,374 requestswere made in 2014 up to 1 December compared with 8,351 in the whole of 2010. The Government has also expanded the list of offences which are recorded on the PNC when a request has revealed convictionsoutside the UK.
The Biometrics Commissioner’s Annual Report highlighted further improvements that can be made to police visibility of convictions received in EU countries and we have already taken steps to address this. These will be described in detail in the Government's formal response.