HM Insights

What a new Scottish Biometrics Commissioner could mean for businesses supplying the justice sector

Scotland is set to have its first ever Biometrics Commissioner, as a direct response to the recognition from government that biometric data can be collected by the police often without individual consent, and needs particular regulatory attention.

On 31 May 2019 a new Bill was published relating to the establishment of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner. The Bill intends to address the area of police use of biometric data such as DNA in Scotland and as well as the new office also addresses the creation of a code of practice for the field.

Those businesses providing forensic laboratory or other related services into the justice sector could be affected by this move.

The establishment of the office is intended to allow continued oversight over the developing use of biometrics in justice, and will keep under review the acquisition, retention, use and disposal of all biometric data by the Scottish police. Independence of the office is deliberate, chosen in order to inspire the greatest public confidence.

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Code of practice

A code of practice will also be established, which will be pf particular relevance to providers of forensic services to support operational policing in Scotland.

A central tenet of both the office and the code will be supporting and promoting the adoption of lawful, effective and ethical practices in relation to the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and police purposes, and in this respect practice, processes and standards adopted by the police will be kept under review. Adherence to the code of practice will be promoted.

The code will incorporate ethical and human rights based considerations. Development of law, policy and practice will be reviewed, and accounted for, on an ongoing basis. Protection of children and vulnerable people will also gain prominence. Research, education and engagement are also recognised as important.

The Commissioner will be independent and answerable to parliament rather than the Scottish Ministers. The Commissioner will monitor whether the police are taking account of the code and will be able to publish recommendations if it is considered improvements are required in the ways a relevant body or entity deals with biometric data.

The Commissioner will also be able to require that body or entity to respond, with those responses being laid before parliament. As such, the newly established office could be of significant relevance to the sector.

Get in touch

For any questions you may have on the proposals, or upon the life sciences sector generally, contact Jamie Watt, Partner.