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Northern Ireland consults on biometrics retention


Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long has launched a public consultation on proposals to further amend the law on the retention of DNA and fingerprints.

All of the proposals will involve changes to the yet un-commenced biometric provisions set out in Schedule 2 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 (CJA). The act has not yet been commenced as, under the current provisions, a large volume of DNA and fingerprints related to non-convicted persons would fall for deletion from police databases.

The Department of Justice said that, to mitigate against any risk that deleting the material could undermine the investigation of unsolved deaths from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a form of statutory provision will be required to provide a lawful basis for it to be retained and used in legacy investigations.

The proposals are:

  • to replace the indefinite retention of biometric data of convicted persons within CJA with maximum retention periods based on age and the seriousness of the offence;
  • a regulation making power that will enable the department to set out in subordinate legislation a review mechanism that will require police to carry out a periodic review of the continued need for biometric data to be retained under these maximum retention periods;
  • a change to the legislation that will enable DNA and fingerprints taken in Northern Ireland to be retained on the basis of a conviction for a recordable offence committed in a country or territory outside the United Kingdom;
  • provision that will enable DNA and fingerprints taken in connection with an offence that has been ‘left on books’ by a court to be retained for a period of 12 months;
  • to widen the scope of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for the Retention of Biometric Material.

The consultation will run from 3 July to 28 August.

Long (pictured) said: “DNA and fingerprints play a valuable role in the detection and investigation of crime. These new proposals amend and supplement existing legislation which, when commenced, will provide the future statutory framework for the retention of biometric data in Northern Ireland.

“This is an important area of public policy and I would encourage all who have an interest to respond to this consultation.”

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