Thursday, February 04, 2010

Biometric data

On December 5, 2008, I was asked to take up the case of a British citizen Mr A who was detained by the police at Heathrow and required to give a sample of his DNA and to have his fingerprints taken. Just before that the European Court of Human Rights had ruled, in the case of S and Marper, that the indefinite retention by the authorities of biometric samples taken under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act from persons with no criminal record is unlawful. Mr A's samples were taken under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 but the principle is the same.

I wrote immediately to the Home Secretary, Jaqui Lait MP at the time, and had an answer from a junior Minister five weeks later, referring to the procedure for getting the samples destroyed. To cut a long story short, it took me 14 months and a great deal of correspondence, not to mention telephone calls, to get an official letter saying that Mr A's samples had been destroyed, though Mr A has a clean record. I do wonder how many innocent people's samples remain on the database because they didn't have the know-how or persistence to get them removed. I'm putting down a Parliamentary Question to see if there are any statistics on the subject, as follows:

How many persons have had their biometric data taken by the Counter-Terrorism Command under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000; of these, how many have asked for their samples to be destroyed by applying to the Chief Police Officer of the force which took the DNA and fingerprints, under the Exceptional Case Procedure; how many of these applications have been successful, and what was the average length of time between the first request to have the samples destroyed, and notification to the applicant or his representative that the samples had been destroyed.

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