Review of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act

We did not respond due to lack of Supporter input

The Home Office has launched a consultation on police powers which includes radical new proposals to extend the use of DNA and fingerprints. The proposed use of existing DNA and fingerprint databases for 'identification' is a significant change of use. Deadline 31 May 2007

Read more about the consultation on the GeneWatch

Consultation document

We have extracted below relevant sections from the Consultation doc to ease your load

Biometric information and identification procedures

3.31 A range of powers and procedures are available to enable the police to identify suspects for the purposes of investigating, detecting and preventing crime. These fall into two groups: first, taking, comparing and retaining fingerprints, DNA, footwear impressions and photographs; and second, identification by witnesses.


3.32 Fingerprints, samples, footwear impressions and photographs (images) of an individual are used to confirm or disprove an individual’s suspected involvement in a criminal offence and to establish identity. The current thresholds for taking and using fingerprints etc. create a number of inconsistencies. For example, fingerprints, samples and footwear impressions of a person arrested, reported, charged, summonsed or convicted for a non-recordable offence cannot be taken without consent to confirm or disprove their involvement in that offence or to create a record in a national searchable database that they have been arrested, reported, charged, summonsed or convicted. Furthermore, a person who refuses to give their true name and address or whose identity is doubted or cannot be verified cannot have these samples etc taken and checked to see if they have previously come to police notice.

3.33 The absence of the ability to take fingerprints etc in relation to all offences may be considered to undermine the value and purpose of having the ability to confirm or disprove identification and, importantly, to make checks on a searchable database aimed at detecting existing and future offending and protecting the public. There have been notable successes particularly through the use of the DNA database in bringing offenders to justice.

3.34 Is there scope to populate identification databases and remove unnecessary operational constraints on the extent to which police are able to use fingerprints etc. to prevent, detect and investigate crime?

3.35 There are benefits in simplifying the powers in terms of the potential for increased detections, removing arbitrary and bureaucratic processes and sending out a strong preventative message to offenders that, whatever level of offending they are involved in, they will be subject to identification processes that can and will be used for searching of the database in relation to other offences. An additional benefit should arise in reducing the number of people taken into police custody and the time that people spend in custody by raising the officer’s confidence at the point of contact on the street in being able to verify the suspect’s identification.

3.36 Removing the existing thresholds to achieve the potential benefits outlined above must be considered in the context of current capacity to gather identification information and accommodate these on databases. But technological developments are moving rapidly which should enable more effective and efficient methods of gathering, retaining and making use of identification material.

3.37 Importantly, there are issues around proportionality and whether there are sufficient safeguards to protect a person guilty of a so- called minor offence from being considered as part of an investigation into a more serious offence as a result of the outcome of speculative searches. There will be concerns that providing a uniform set of powers is disproportionate and an excessive approach to dealing particularly with low level offending.

3.38 We very much welcome debate on the content of this section and the proportionate development and use of criminal records and how best we meet the needs of victims and witnesses; safeguard the interests of the individual; and contribute effectively to crime reduction and crime prevention.