PMQs: Johnson and Starmer clash on loss of criminal data
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In a report by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, obtained by the Daily Mail, it is suggested that police services should drop the current rule of keeping conviction details on record until the offender turns 100. Under the new proposals, those found guilty of shoplifting or drug possession would be removed from the Police National Computer (PNC) database after six years.
Crimes that are more serious – such as assault or harassment – would be kept on record for 30 years.
Murderers and rapists would be kept on the database until they turned 120.
The proposed changes come as rules surrounding data protection have tightened in recent years.
The council said that it acknowledged that it was “unlawful to retain personal data unless it is necessary and proportionate”.
The council has reviewed the system to make sure it could be defended against a judicial review, with regard to the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Human Rights Act 1998.
However, top judges have expressed “grave concerns” about the plans, according to internal Ministry of Justice documents seen by the newspaper.
Lord Burnett of Maldon, the Lord Chief Justice, is said to have written directly to the police chiefs to set out his opposition to the plans.
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC is reportedly “firmly of the view that records should be kept for at least 100 years”.
It is believed that if records were to be scrubbed so soon after the initial conviction, it may lead to lighter sentences for reoffenders, as judges would wrongly think criminals would be first-time offenders.
In a private consultation on the proposals, Chief Constable Lee Freeman described the millions of records stored on the PNC as the “backbone” of the criminal justice system.
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The PNC was originally established in 1974, and came under the control of the ACRO criminal records office when it was founded in 2006.
On January 18, Kit Malthouse, Minister for Crime and Policing, said that there were 13 million people recorded on the database.
ACRO provides access to the database not only for police and prosecutors, but regulatory bodies, government agencies and foreign embassies in the UK, it said.
Matthew Scott, a barrister and legal blogger, said it was “unwise” to remove records at a time when there were so many people being prosecuted for historic allegations.
He added: “I have a lot of sympathy with the idea that people should be able to put their criminal past behind them, and that old and spent convictions should generally not affect their lives.
“But that’s a different issue from whether the records should be retained at all.”
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “The review panel are assessing and reflecting on the feedback received.
“There will be further meetings with the review panel, police and criminal justice partners in the coming weeks.”
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