We have waited in vain for other blogs or the media to pick up on the implications of Home Secretary John Reid's Parliamentary Written Answer to his Liberal Democrat front bench opponent Nicholas Clegg, regarding the current status of the Project Lantern mobile fingerprints (allegedly only for identification purposes) trials being conducted by the Police and some other Government agencies.
Written answers Wednesday, 28 March 2007
Fingerprints: Pilot Schemes
Nicholas Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the results of the pilot project codenamed Lantern on the use of mobile fingerprint scanners.
John Reid John Reid (Home Secretary)
The Lantern pilot is still in its early stages and the initial results and feedback received to date indicate that Lantern is delivering the expected business benefits and that officers are finding it easy to operate and a useful tool that they would not want to be withdrawn. Currently results are being returned to the device in less than two minutes with an accuracy rate of approximately 97 per cent. and a hit rate of 40 per cent. (i.e. 40 per cent. of people checked are recorded on IDENT1). This high hit rate reflects the environment in which the devices are being used—proactive, intelligence led policing.
Results indicate that Lantern is showing time savings beyond expectations and hence allowing officers to spend more time on the streets and providing a visible deterrent. Establishing a person's identity at the roadside avoids the need to arrest a person and take them to a custody suite to do this—a process which typically takes about three hours. Early results show that in encounters where officers have reported a time saving using Lantern, the average time saved has been about 90 minutes.
All well and good. However, where was the public debate and consultation on the implications of this bit of "function creep" in Project Lantern ?
There have also been a number of cases where Lantern has provided early identification of deceased persons carrying no ID and hence saved a considerable amount of police and coroners time and also enabled next of kin to be informed sooner. Cases have included fatal road traffic collisions, sudden deaths and suicide victims on railway lines.
There is nothing in the legislation (Serious Organised Crime and Police ACt 2005 Section 117 Fingerprints which amends Section 61 (fingerprinting) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act ) which allows a Police Constable to do these roadside fingerprint checks using the Project Lantern equipment, which mentions fingerprinting innocent dead people, for any purpose at all, or even allowing a Coroner to do so.
What saving in time is there going to be at all, since, presumably, the dead body is going to be dealt with in the usual way, and there will still have to be a journey back to a morgue and a formal identification process, which may involve full sets of fingerprints etc. regardless .
What is the rush to provide such identifications ? Surely grieving family members are not going to be dealt with sympathetically or be expected to provide formal identifications of the deceased at the roadside ?
Does nobody else find that the default assumption, even before the National Identity Register has been set up , that someone who is innocent but has died suddenly, may have a criminal record on the Police National Computer, or be otherwise known to a Police intelligence database, which is what the Project Lantern scheme accesses, is creepy and repressive ?
We have previously asked the question, which the Home Office, in their arrogance, has still not bothered to answer, about the procedures for the collection of biometric data from innocent dead people for the wretched National Identity Register scheme, with all that implies for a grieving family and for various religious faiths.
Will permission for a burial or cremation be refused or delayed, over say, a weekend or a public holiday, because some bureaucrat or government subcontractor jobsworth has not got around to taking fingerprints or iris scans from the deceased, to change the status of the person on the National Identity Register (not to remove them from it, however) ? Or will the estate of a dead person be taxed or fined if the jobsworths have not done so before burial or cremation ?