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March 23, 2018

Police to follow new code of practice for using biometric data

Advisory group suggests reviewing the legal rules on data retention in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

By CBR Staff Writer

Police Scotland is set to follow a new code of practice in using DNA, fingerprints and images, which will be drafted based on the recommendations of an independent advisory group on biometric data.

The advisory group, which was established last year by Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, is chaired by solicitor advocate John Scott QC.

It studied the acquisition, retention, use and disposal of data like DNA, fingerprints, facial and other photographic images. Apart from that, the group also came up with suggestions on the improvements to be made to the code of practice governing their use.

The advisory group has suggested reviewing the legal rules on data retention in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. It wants the review to look into questions of proportionality and necessity.

Matheson said: “While the 2016 independent report of the HM Inspector found that Police Scotland was making proportionate and necessary use of biometric data and technologies, it identified a need for improved oversight of these arrangements.”

The advisory group has recommended a national debate to be promoted to improve the understanding of and confidence among the public in the use of biometric data.

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Police Scotland assistant chief constable Gillian MacDonald said: “Biometric data, particularly DNA, fingerprints and photographs, is a critical tool in the investigation and prevention of crime. We recognise the importance of ensuring that the public has trust and confidence in the procedures which govern its use.”

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Another recommendation from the group is establishing an independent Scottish Biometrics Commissioner to monitor compliance of the biometric data usage with the code of practice.

Matheson said: “The Scottish Government accepts the Group’s report and the thrust of its recommendations. While the creation of a new Biometrics Commissioner to monitor compliance with a new code will require careful consideration and discussions with the parliamentary authorities, it is one that we accept in principle.”

On the other hand, MacDonald said that that Police Scotland will support all the recommendations made by the biometrics independent advisory group.

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