CYCJ contributes to review of the practice of biometric data acquisition by Police Scotland

Two new reports were published today by the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner, reviewing Police Scotland’s practice of biometric data collection with regards to both children (12-17 year-olds) and vulnerable adults. CYCJ’s Holly Maclean and Julia Swann supported the Commissioner, Dr Brian Plastow, in the ‘Joint Assurance review of the acquisition of biometric data from children arrested in Scotland’, which was presented to the Scottish Parliament on March 29th. The review considered the human rights of children and whether it was lawful, proportionate and necessary to obtain children’s biometric data and record it on policing databases.

Police Scotland’s approach to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults when capturing their biometric data was broadly commended by the report, but nonetheless a number of recommendations were made. Dr Plastow advocated there should be distinct policies, procedures and practices about the capture of biometric data from children which should only be taken when authorised by a senior officer balancing both the interests of the child and the gravity of the offence.

Three further recommendations common to both reports stated Police Scotland should improve the information provided to anyone who has their biometric data taken in police custody to comply with the data subjects right to be informed under UK GDPR and with the Commissioner’s statutory Code of Practice, approved by the Scottish Parliament in November 2022, and the associated complaints mechanism available to data subjects. The Commissioner also recommended Police Scotland improve its management information around biometric data to better inform strategic decision making and enhance transparency.

Notably, the Commissioner also raised that, in his view, the age of criminal responsibility (ACR) in Scotland is too low, saying “I would welcome policy initiatives to divert those under 18 years of age out of the adult system. This would provide the lever through which to avoid capturing biometric data from children, except in the most serious of crime types”.

Read the Joint Assurance Review HERE

For their Thematic Reivew, Holly Maclean and Julia Swann consulted with children and young people for their views on biometric data collection; concerns raised by young people included stigmatisation, ambiguities about rights, data storage and more. The thematic review needed to be compressed for inclusion in the wider report. Read their full review HERE

CYCJ Director, Fiona Dyer said, “We were pleased to contribute on such an important issue. Yet again it highlights another area of our justice system that children do not understand or know what their rights are. Coming into contact with justice system(s) and processes can be overwhelming for children and young people; there need to be strict guidelines and proper training in place for professionals tasked with gathering this data. Above all, the authorities need to make clear why this practice is necessary and provide child-friendly guidelines and protocols for how it will be carried out, as part of their duty of care towards children and young people. This will go some way towards achieving a rights-respecting justice system in Scotland.”

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
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141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

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