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The next step in data security

UK Criminals are to have the dubious honour of having their intimate details stored in a computer system which will make value judgements on their likelihood of reoffending.

The British Home Office announced plans for the Offender Assessment System (OASys) yesterday and said that eleven pilot schemes would run across the country, including areas such as Inner London and Birmingham, in addition to 17 prisons. If successful, the scheme will go live nationwide in 2001.

OASys will store details on address, criminal record; education; employability; lifestyle and associates; alcohol and drug use; emotional stability; attitudes to crime; personal relationships and general social behaviour.

The statistics will be used to tell judges whether criminals have a low, medium or high risk of reoffending.

Civil rights groups slammed the plans, saying that if a person lived in an area with a high crime rate, there was a risk that the system would consider them more likely to offend than someone living in a low-crime area.

David McIntosh, vice president of the Law Society, said he was 'deeply concerned' that the proposal would result in people being punished for what they might do in the future. The scheme could also fall foul of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. ®

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