21 July 2006

UK database to protect children

by LUCY ADAMS, Home Affairs Correspondent, the Herald, July 21 2006

Sensitive criminal record information and pre-conviction data is to be pooled in a UK-wide database for the first time to try to improve child protection provisions.

The Scottish intelligence database has traditionally been kept by and for Scottish forces. But from September, it will be linked to the new national system in England and Wales, allowing officers to access information on any individual across Britain.

Critics say the move, which follows the inquiry chaired by Sir Michael Bichard into the deaths of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham in 2002, raises questions about civil rights and data protection.

Policing is devolved, as is the legal system and forces in England and Wales work under different rules. They can, for example, hold pre-conviction DNA samples indefinitely. In Scotland such records have to be destroyed, although under the police bill set to become law those concerning certain people such as suspected sex offenders may be held for up to three years. In the past Scottish officers would have to contact colleagues south of the border to ask for intelligence held on an individual.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland(Acpos) believes pooling data will improve child protection and public safety.

Tom Halpin, deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police and the Acpos spokesman on child protection and sex offenders, said: "We have to recognise Scotland is a separate country but as part of the UK we need to protect all our citizens. It will be costly but it is a system we need."

Mr Halpin added that the police would need to set up strict protocols to regulate access to the information and to decide which information is relevant rather than swamping the system.

The Bichard inquiry was highly critical of the lack of a national database in England and Wales and called for far greater information sharing and IT links. At the time, Scotland was held up as an example of how police forces co-operate.

The new England and Wales database called Impact is currently being rolled out and will include an index on nominals.

However, opposition politicians fear the move could interfere with civil rights.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP deputy justice spokesman, said: "With the abuse of DNA in the English database there is no guarantee that Scottish data will be protected. We have also seen the difficulties with ID Card technology due to soaring costs and challenges in making it work which suggests that integrating data cross border will be far from easy.

"The SNP would want absolute commitments that heads would roll if there are any problems. Control of Scottish data must remain with Scotland wherever it is stored and processed."

Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "The protection of the public is paramount but we have to recognise that we have a different system under Scots law in terms of confidentiality of records and collation of DNA. This is a good thing but needs to be done sensitively with regard to the differences."

The Home Office, the lead agency on the project, said the new system will be able to access all police data including pre-conviction and post conviction information and DNA.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "We are working with the Scottish police forces to ensure the systems are compatible. The INI[nominal index] is already being rolled out to child protection units in England and Wales and that is being extended to Scotland by November 2006."

for the orginal story in the Herald see:

Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP