European police get access to your DNA

Image of a DNA knoll

Police across the European Union are to be given free access to the DNA of four million Britons, a million of whom are innocent, it has emerged. Every member state will also be granted access to millions of fingerprints, as well as vehicle and driver registrations.

A two-year agreement on cross-border co- operation between seven EU countries now becomes law involving all 27 nations. The Tories said the so-called 'Prum Convention' was a 'sell-out', as many of the controversial proposals were salvaged from the wreckage of the EU constitution.

They added that the deal - signed by Home Office Minister Joan Ryan in Luxembourg - also paves the way for police from different EU states to set-up joint patrols. London MEP Syed Kamall said:

&We are sleepwalking into a Big Brother Europe while our government stands idly by.&

Britain receives by far the worst deal of the member states. More than 4.2million people are contained on our database, or 7 per cent of the population. It includes a million innocent people, who were arrested but never charged and 100,000 children.

The database is 50 times the size of its French equivalent. In Austria, less than 1 per cent of the population is included. Coverage in Germany is half of that. The EU average is to have around half a per cent of the population's DNA stored.

Searches for DNA profiles will be carried out on a 'hit, no hit basis' by the 27 member states - which include Romania and Bulgaria. Police officers will get a simple 'yes, there is a match or no, there is not' answer. If there is a match, there will be a fast-track request system to get all the details. Driver databases will be accessed online.

Tory European Parliament spokesman Philip Bradbourn said that much of what had been agreed was originally part of the EU constitution. He added:

&Mr Blair has started the constitution sell-out today. Now everyone's personal details can be sent to police throughout Europe because Britain did not wield the veto.

&This Prum treaty fundamentally goes against the rules of data protection and civil liberties that we have come to expect in Europe.&

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis added:

&This is a serious development which we strongly object to. It is typical of incompetent Home Office Ministers to give away powers like this without thinking through the consequences.&

The Luxembourg meeting also rubber-stamped a deal to set-up a common database for visa applicants' pictures and fingerprints. From mid 2009, it will store digitalized photos and fingerprints of up to 70 million people applying for visas across the EU. One country would be able to know if someone had already been granted or denied a visa in another, and whether the person had overstayed their time in the EU. The data will be stored for five years and police will be able to consult the database on a case -by-case basis.

The Prum Convention was originally signed in Prum, Germany, between Belgium. Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria. Britain had an informal agreement to share DNA, and did so in around 5,000 cases with the Dutch last year, but no firm agreement was in place.

Home Office Minister Mrs Ryan said:

&Criminals do not respect borders. It is therefore vitally important that our law enforcement authorities have the tools available to obtain information held by other EU countries as quickly as possible to help with the investigation and prevention of crime.&

A Home Office spokesman insisted the deal would not give police from other EU countries unfettered access to national DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration files and that co-operation would still depend on mutual agreement. The Government had also ensured that provisions on cross-border pursuit had been dropped, she said.

Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini described the deal as &a very important first step&, and said he planned to extend co-operation even further in future.

Taken from the Daily Mail 14th June 2007

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