Suspects should seek legal advice before handing over their fingerprints to police, a civil rights organisation has suggested, after the government announced that officers will be able to identify people in less than a minute on their smartphones.
Over the weekend the Home Office announced than an app on an officer's phone, combined with a handheld scanner, will enable police to check fingerprints against criminal and immigration records by connecting to two live databases (IDENT1 and IABS) via a 'biometric services gateway'.
West Yorkshire Police, which worked with the Home Office to trial the system, will roll out 250 scanners to officers over the next few weeks. The system will be extended to 20 other police forces by the end of the year.
Nick Hurd, minister for policing and the fire service, said: 'By cutting out unnecessary trips to and from the police station, mobile technology is really helping to save valuable time and allowing officers to do what they do best - cutting crime and keeping us safe.'
However, solicitor Emma Norton, head of legal casework at Liberty, says there has been 'no discussion of consent. Or of the importance of legal advice before people should be asked to hand over this kind of information about themselves. Or what may happen if someone declines a request. Or of what will be done with it - including the fact that it will be shared with the Home Office to target undocumented migrants. What about vulnerable people? What about children and young people? What about people being targeted for illegitimate reasons, like the colour of their skin?'
Fears that suspects will be targeted because of their race were backed by today's publication of the government's race disparity audit, which shows that people from ethnic minority groups were three times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people in 2015/16. For every 1,000 black people, there were 31 stop and searches; for every 1,000 white people, there were five searches.