If you are one of 100,000 people who are at any one time charged with an offence and are pleading not guilty you might be rather surprised by a deal that has taken place between the UK and the EU.
While the UK is officially playing hard ball in the official negotiations with the EU Commission it appears to have capitulated to demands to share DNA and fingerprints with 31 European countries not only of criminals but anybody who is charged with an offence in the UK.
What is more all this has been done behind Parliament’s back. The House of Commons was only informed when the deal was completed and not consulted about it. I wrote about this in Byline Times last month.
Reverses Parliament’s view
What is particularly egregious is that five years ago David Cameron’s Conservative government specifically refused to sign up to the same deal because it argued that people were innocent until proved guilty and should not be bracketed with known criminals. And Parliament was not only consulted, it even debated the matter.
None of this would be known now if it was not for the European Scrutiny Committee, chaired by veteran Tory Brexiteer,Bill Cash, had not revealed the row in a recent report .
To do this ministers have used a mechanism known as the Prum Convention, named after a small German town, to change the sharing of information and plan after Brexit to make further changes using “diplomatic notes” so Parliament will again not be consulted. The Convention allows “third party countries to join and covers Iceland, Norway, Liechenstein and Switzerland as well as the 27 EU countries.
James Brokenshire, the security minister, has defended the changes as necessary as “important public safety benefits”. He added “the Government’s policy to date of not sharing the DNA profiles of criminal suspects “puts us out of step with EU Member States”.
He also said one other reason was the National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service have identified “risks and missed opportunities associated with not sharing suspects’ data” and support the inclusion of criminal suspects in the Prüm data sharing mechanism.”
However Mr Cash is not impressed and has written to him.
He said: “A change in the Government’s policy on access to the DNA profiles and fingerprints of criminal suspects therefore merits particularly close scrutiny by Parliament, given that it alters the very basis on which Parliament agreed to UK participation in Prüm data exchanges in December 2015.”
He challenged the minister’s written statement to Parliament asking him” to confirm that the notification given to the EU institutions on 15 June 2020 concerning the exchange of suspects’ data covers DNA and fingerprints and, if so, why this was not made explicit in your Written Statement to Parliament of the same date.”
Interestingly the Scottish government has not yet agreed to the change as policing and criminal justice are devolved matter. It has had the support of the Northern Ireland Executive.
The whole saga seems to be yet another example of double standards by the government. They make tough noises about Brexit then give away something that both a former Conservative government and Parliament refused to countenance.
They also like many other issues by-pass the UK Parliament and do deals under wraps and seem to have devised a system that will ensure that Parliament will have no say in any further changes. Another move towards an elective dictatorship rather than Parliament ” taking back control.”