House of Lords minor amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Bill – removing your innocent DNA from Government databases

Spy Blog | The House of Lords has voted to accept a minor Opposition Amendment regarding the removal of innocent people’s DNA profiles, human tissue samples and fingerprints from centralised Government database, during the first part of the Report stage of the controversial Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008

See the debate and the vote: Tuesday, 4 November 2008 Counter-Terrorism Bil

The wording of the amendment:

“National guidelines on fingerprint and sample database(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations publish national guidelines for governmental agencies establishing–

(a) a procedure by which a person can request a statement of what information relating to fingerprints and samples is held on them or on a dependent;

(b) a procedure by which a person can request that such information held on them or a dependent is destroyed

(c) the circumstances in which a request under paragraph (b) may be refused.

(2) If a request made under paragraph (1)(b) is refused under paragraph (1)(c), the relevant agency shall write to the person setting out why such information will not be destroyed and when such circumstances as prevent it being destroyed may no longer apply.

(3) In drawing up guidelines under subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall consult such bodies as he thinks appropriate.

(4) Regulations under subsection (1) shall not be made until a draft copy is laid before, and approved by resolution of, both Houses of Parliament.”

 

Given that there are no penalties for any bureaucrats or politicians who refuse to comply, or who deliberately delay this process, it is unlikely that any such new regulations will make any practical difference.

The Government could simply copy the existing ACPO Guidelines, which make it as hard as possible for innocent people to have their DNA profiles and samples and fingerprints, removed.

The only positive aspect of this wording “national guidelines for governmental agencies ” is general enough so that it is not restricted to just the sneaky Counter-Terrorism DNA Database, run by the Metropolitan Police Service, which is what is under “clarification” in this part of the Bill, but it applies to all Government and Police DNA and fingerprint databases, including the controversial National DNA Databases.

It is interesting that Baroness Hanham (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Conservative) mentioned searching the internet for a a particular document:

4 Nov 2008 : Column 133

The Minister was kind enough to identify where the current guidelines on the retention of DNA are set out, but their title, “Retention guidelines for nominal records on the police national computer”, has clearly not been chosen with transparency in mind. However titled, they certainly did not pop up in a sample search of the internet; rather, they appeared on the website of the Association of Chief Police Officers and are, apparently, only for the guidance of the police. Members of the public would find it extraordinarily hard to make any headway through this maze.

 

It is indeed scandalous that even our modest Spy Blog discussion about this document, (see ACPO “Retention Guidelines for Nominal Records on the Police National Computer, incorporating the Step Down Model” – no data deletion until you are 100 years old ! About 6000 different criminal offences.) rates higher on the Google search engine query results page, than anything about this published by the Home Office, or the major political parties or the mainstream media.

Very disappointingly, Baroness Mannigham-Buller, the former Director General of MI5 the Security Service, voted with the Labour Government against even this very modest attempt to ensure some fairness and transparency for innocent people, caught up by such national DNA and fingerprint databases.

It will be interesting to see if the Labour Government tries to overturn this Amendment when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.