Brian Sims

Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Annual Report laid in Parliament

THE BIOMETRICS and Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2022-2023 was laid before Parliament on 24 January. The 55-page document sets out the findings and observations of the Commissioner in relation to his responsibilities for overseeing police use of DNA and fingerprints in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and for encouraging the proper use of public space surveillance cameras.

The report covers the period March 2022 through until March 2023 and was produced by Professor Fraser Sampson, the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner during that period who then left office on 31 October.

The report discusses a number of key matters, including National Security Determinations. There has been a tailing-off in the number of occasions when police forces applied for National Security Determinations to allow them to keep the biometrics of non-convicted individuals who are believed to present a risk to national security.

In parallel, there has been an increase in use of Section 63 powers (ie an increase in the number of times that police forces sought to use their powers to ask the Commissioner for permission to keep DNA and /or fingerprints of people who are arrested, but not convicted, of qualifying offences).

However, the report also suggests that the power is underused by many police forces, with ten of them having never used the power since it became available in 2013.

It emerges that the number of DNA samples rendered unusable because of handling errors has increased from 953 to 1,214 during this reporting period. Failure to properly seal sample bags was again a common error.

Further, the report discusses the findings of three research exercises completed in the reporting period. These covered police use of surveillance cameras, local authority use of surveillance cameras and police use of unmanned aerial vehicles/ drones.

Professor Fraser Sampson submitted his annual report to the Home Secretary shortly before he left office on 31 October 2023. As reported by Security Matters at the time, Tony Eastaugh CBE was appointed as the new Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner last December.

*The Annual Report can be read in full online by visiting GOV.UK

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