A proposal to amend the law on the retention of biometric data in Northern Ireland has been tabled by Justice Minister Naomi Long that aims to make changes to the biometric provisions that were set out in Schedule 2 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 (CJA).
Minister Long has called for a public consultation on the matter that would pertain to things like changing the current practice in which biometric data such as DNA and fingerprints of convicted individuals is retained indefinitely, to a system that has maximum retention periods based on the perpetrators’ age and the severity of the offence committed.
The proposal also calls for a new regulation that would allow the department to draft further legislation requiring police officers to conduct reviews of the above terms for the retention of biometric data, as well as a change to the legislation allowing for biometric data captured in Northern Ireland to be kept for the purpose of convicting someone for an offence committed outside of the U.K.
“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,” said Long. “This is an important area of public policy and I would encourage all who have an interest to respond to this consultation.”
Under the existing provision of the CJA, a sizable amount of biometric data that belongs to non-convicted persons would be eligible for deletion, however the Department of Justice fears this could in some cases pose a threat to investigations into unsolved deaths from the Northern Ireland conflict (also known as the ‘Troubles’) that spanned from the 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
The new proposal looks to address those concerns with a provision that allows biometric data connected to an offence that has been ‘left on the books’ by a court to be retained for 12 months, as well as allowing for an increase in the scope of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for the Retention of Biometric Materials’ purview.
July 6, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis