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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another slippery slope

What are we to make of this article in the Daily Telegraph that suggests that the Home Secretary is To give customs officials and immigration officers the power to take mouth swabs or hair samples without a passengers consent?

They say that under the planned changes, the requirement to transfer a detainee to a police station to take fingerprints and DNA samples would be dropped. Instead, authorisation would be given for the sample to be taken at the port or airport.

Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, believes it is a slippery slope. She told the paper: “Schedule 7 allows for people to be detained for nine hours and for their DNA to be taken without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

. "Despite claims from the Home Office that it plans to reduce powers of DNA sampling, on closer inspection what’s proposed would create new powers to take DNA at ports. "Making a blunt and discriminatory power even easier to use will do little to alleviate the resentment in communities most affected.”

The paper adds that Ministers are also considering scrapping the power for officers to collect “intimate” DNA samples, of blood or urine, arguing that there is no evidence that such material is more useful in preventing terrorism than mouth swabs.

Strip searches could also be limited so that only genuine suspects would be ordered to comply. The time that an individual can be detained for could be reduced from the current nine hours to six hours or lower, under the reforms.

The problem is of course that these measures disproportionately affect minority communities. The Telegraph records that figures show almost 70,000 people were questioned by officers at British ports and airports between April 2011 and March 2012, with nearly 600 providing DNA samples or fingerprints.

Some 45 per cent of the 681 passengers who were detained during the period were of Asian or Asian British origin, while 8 per cent were White. This is a problem that is not easily solvable. The implications for civil liberties are immense.
drenghl 17I'm with you on this one - there seems to be a diminishing need for 'reasonable suspicion' with many of the powers being granted.
Just a few weeks ago, I was stopped and detained at a Terminal 3 departure gate on a BA flight to Eastern Europe by Border officers only to be questioned as to how much money I was taking out of the country! We need more restraint and officials should be required to provide grounds to suspect an offence before pouncing.
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