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Scotland reviews forensic data rules

Examines laws on destruction of DNA and fingerprint records

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A review will examine procedures for retaining the forensic data of those accused of sexual or violent offences in Scotland.

Professor James Fraser, head of Strathclyde University's Centre for Forensic Science, will examine the way police use forensic science to fight crime.

Under Scotland's current system police must destroy the fingerprint and DNA records of all suspects who are not convicted, except where a suspect is arrested or detained and criminal proceedings were raised against them for a sexual or violent offence.

New laws implemented in January mean that, in such cases, the police can delay the destruction of DNA records for three years, or potentially longer with the agreement of a sheriff. This law does not, however, apply to fingerprint records.

The review, announced by the Scottish Government on 24 September, will examine the effectiveness of the laws governing the acquisition, use, and destruction of forensic data by police.

Specifically, this will cover individuals who are prosecuted for a sexual or violent offence, but not convicted, and individuals dealt with by a children's hearing, who admit to, or are found to have committed, a sexual or violent offence.

For those dealt with through a children's hearing, DNA and fingerprint records must currently be destroyed as soon as a decision is made not to press ahead with criminal proceedings - regardless of any offence they admit to, or are found to have committed.

The review will also consider when delays in the destruction of DNA and fingerprint data is appropriate, in order to enhance crime prevention.

"Our government has already made clear that we do not support the blanket retention of all forensic information taken from innocent people," said justice secretary Kenny MacAskill. "We are not persuaded, for example, that it would generally be right for the police to keep fingerprints and DNA samples from everyone who is detained but not eventually convicted, or even prosecuted.

"The new review will focus on individuals who are prosecuted for violent and sexual offences, checking whether the procedures introduced in January are effective, and examining also why it should be lawful to allow DNA records to be retained but to require fingerprint records to be destroyed."

Frazer will report to the Scottish Government within six months.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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