back to article MPs slam's 'unacceptable' hoarding of custody images

The UK government's approach to deleting custody images of innocent people – in that it only scraps them on request – is unacceptable and possibly illegal, MPs have said. In a report published today, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee slammed the Home Office's attitude to its custody image database, and the …

  1. DailyLlama


    GDPR prosecution, anyone?

    1. }{amis}{
      Thumb Down

      Re: Um

      Sadly I am willing to bet that they will be able to slither out of that on the basis of governmental / security exceptions.

      I am totally sick and tired of the home offices approach to data of "Innocent just means we haven't caught you yet"

      If the photograph db is not up to the task the whole lot needs to go.

      It is not legal to break the law to enforce the law, I wonder if the poor use of this system could be used to prove conviction's involving it unsafe?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um

      Why the surprise Techies?

      We all knew where the clueless duo - Theresa May and #hashtag Amber Rudd stood on this issue.

      Use technology for any skewed/sinister means they can, if it enhances their own position. They are both 'technically immoral' in my eyes, with no understanding of the nuances required, regards the use of technology.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Um

      Great, fine the government 4% of taxpayers money, give it ICO who pass it to where?

      Almost like a VAT Carousel scam to get bonuses for ICO wonks

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Um

        The fact is, they don't even publish how to make the request..

        Many years ago, just after I finished Uni (about 2006), I got a knock on my door by a very nice Detective Constable, saying I was suspected of being involved in an incident 5 years prior in my home town (which was about 400 miles away).

        It was a petty offence and complete nonsense, but they took me to the police station, photographed me, took finger prints, swabbed DNA, questioned me for 60 minutes.. then booted me out of door.

        I knew it was all BS, but it was the worst months of my life, I'd just started my career, it destroyed my confidence and I got put on sleep-tablets.. I eventually got a letter, saying I was cleared and no further action would be taken..

        But to this very day, I've still been unable to find details on how to get my details, photos and DNA deleted.. I've check the constabulary and home office website, and either they intentionally make it difficult to find, or they simply don't publish how to do it.

        1. Wolfclaw

          Re: Um

          I bet a Tory minister or Tory financial backer has found the means to get their data deleted !

          1. evilhippo

            Re: Um

            Just Tory? You seriously think the other parties are any different? The Stupid Party & the Evil Party always look after themselves first

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um

          DNA and fingerprints is automatic, you have to apply for the police record and photo.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Um

            @AC - DNA and fingerprints is automatic

            Wow, you are a god send.. that will be in the post in the next day or two.. Have an upvote and a beer!

  2. King Jack
    Thumb Down

    One law for them, another for you.

    And people wonder why people hate the police. They get to do criminal acts but who prosecutes them?

    If this was a private company that failed to comply with the law, heads would roll. If plod does it any excues is reason enough.

  3. Blockchain commentard

    Too costly to implement? SQL: "DELETE from IMAGES where STATUS=Innocent;"

    Doh !!!

    1. Valerion

      DELETE from IMAGES where STATUS=Innocent;

      What is this non-normalised lunacy?

      And where are the quotes around the text?

      Is this a Capita example?

    2. DNTP

      Well obviously a simple SQL statement like this won't fix the problem, because no one is STATUS=Innocent.

      The only allowable values, in terms of the police state, are Guilty, NotGuiltySoFar, and InadequatelyProsecuted. Everyone is guilty of something, and for most people, the cops either just haven't found it yet or simply don''t feel that it's worth the time to do the paperwork.

      1. K

        Nailed it... Think you've summed in up in the most perfect fashion.

        Even if your innocent, you'll never get a phone call or email saying they were mistaken, or apologising. The most you will ever get, if your lucky, after X months of them dithering, is a letter stating "They will not be pressing charges at the present time, but circumstances may change if new evidence comes to light"

    3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Basic problem is that the custody database can't talk to the court/prosecutions database, so STATUS is always NULL.

      How about DELETE FROM custodydb WHERE arrestdate < DATE_ADD(NOW(), INTERVAL -28 DAY)

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "Basic problem is that the custody database can't talk to the court/prosecutions database, so STATUS is always NULL."

        Are images transferred between these databases when a conviction is obtained? If so, you could indeed just implement a rolling wipe as described here. If not, such a transfer is the obvious way to fix the problem.

    4. MonkeyCee


      " Too costly to implement? SQL: "DELETE from IMAGES where STATUS=Innocent;" "

      Well, when there's no "INNOCENT" field, or one for convicted, under investigation, person of interest etc it doesn't work.

      Suggesting that a DB of custody photos should have this as part of the design, and without it it's not fit for purpose is totally valid.

      That creating a new one, and only uploading legally acceptable images along with the ability to update the status, should be perfectly feasible is also valid.

      Based on previous experience, neither f these points will result in anything actually getting done. Maybe some fat contract for the usual suspects, followed by massive delays and incomplete delivery, if I'm correctly interpreting that "medium term resolution" means "after I've left office".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's not forget what #hashtag Amber Rudd said...

    #hashtag Amber Rudd said she believes "real people" are not interested in encryption.

    Instead, of course, they're all interested in having their biometric data/mugshot captured when innocent (or for minor offences) and stored indefinitely.

    Am I right, Amber? Thought so.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple Solution...

    Give them 12 months to fix it or delete everthing

  6. Adam Foxton

    Too expensive?

    I spend a fortune paying for food- maybe I should run away without paying the bill? If I shot down a few aircraft the buggers would soon learn to not fly so low over my house at unsociable hours.

    Driving through pedestrians and cyclists would greatly shorten my morning commute.

    But these things are illegal. So if I did them I'd be prosecuted. Why is no-one being prosecuted for not only breaking the law but then saying "okay, we'll keep breaking the law until we can be bothered to not break it"? That's the attitude expected not even of a one-off offender but of a career criminal, and is absolutely not appropriate for the Justice system.

    1. DNTP

      Re: these things are illegal

      Well Adam, it appears that you just admitted to having the means, motive, and opportunity to commit any number of serious crimes. You're staying in the picture database mister, we've got you dead to rights.

  7. BobChip

    Garbage in......

    OK. Let's fill it with the entire UK population, all presumed guilty in the first place, on the basis that all of us will commit some sort of offence sooner or later....... Stuffing a database full of false data only makes it harder to search for the good stuff. If you do not know whether any bit of data is true or false, can you really call it a "database" in the first place?

    Scrap the ruddy thing.

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    And one can only imagine...

    And one can only imagine the sheer amount of red tape, hoops and bureaucracy that have been put in place to make it almost impossible to have those images and data deleted upon request; and then to actually have it validated or proved to you that it actually HAS been deleted - and not just archived off.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: And one can only imagine...

      The are allowed to keep images of people who haven't been charged - if they declare them to be "a person of interest". So just decide that anyone requesting their images are removed is obviously a wrong-un and so "a person of interest" and they have a right to keep the image = simple

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And one can only imagine...

        And they keep the surveillance shots of you.

        My (old) mugshots are on record due to protesting against some South African ploticians.

        This was back in the days of Apartheid - and when Mandela was regarded as a terrorist and not an almost saintly person.

        So even though (in their public utterances) UK gov is now firmly convinced apartheid was a bad thing and the ANC were doing the right thing, and my protest actions are now in line with (public) government policty, my images will remain until I die (& probably longer).

        Doing anything the govt at the time opposes (prime Racist Maggie T was PM at the time and she was a real friend of white apartheid SA regime) means you are always regarded as subversive and your data never gets wiped, especially if they don't like your skin shade much either.

        AC obv

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And one can only imagine...

      Well, the problem is that of proving a negative.

      You can check if your DNA is retained (if it was ever held in the first place). If it's not there then it doesn't exist, even on backups.

      But if you don't believe the response then how else would you be convinced? I mean you could leave some DNA at a crime scene to see if the police pop round for a chat afterward, I suppose - but I wouldn't recommend it!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Haven’t the courts already ruled it is?

  10. Little Mouse


    " automatic deletion process – which happens for DNA..."

    Really? The DNA situation used to be just as bad until nit all that long ago. When did things change?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: DNA

      When the European Court of Human Rights ruled it was illegal.

      Strangely the home secretary at the time then became slightly obsessed with the desire to get the UK out from under the court (or anything involving Human Rights) - so next spring you should have the DNA database back.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: DNA

        next spring you should have the DNA database back.

        Next spring will not change the UK's commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights and will thus not change our need to comply with rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights.

        Any more misinformation you'd like to ignorantly share or are you all out for today?

        1. MonkeyCee

          Re: DNA

          @Cederic whilst you or I might believe that brexit involves leaving the EU, it has been framed by certain people as a chance to leave any and all European organisations that we don't like very much. Plus a chance to change a bunch of laws that are awfully inconvenient and have the support of parliament.

          Not to worry tho, I'm sure we;ll be able to put them back later...

      2. Voidstorm

        Re: DNA

        Funny how the Nasty party wanted out from under that niggly protection of our fundamental rights, eh?

        Brexit is so wonderful! /sarcasm

    2. Woodnag

      DNA deletion

      I doubt that any DNA data has been deleted. May not show up as being associated with a specific person when a match is made, so plod has to go up the chain to de-identify.

      Investigative orgs never destroy identification data. Just hide it from view by lower lever minions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DNA deletion

        No, it's deleted - there's a process and a commissioner etc. It's because the legislation came from an ECJ case (S & Marper?)

        There's a commissioner you can check with - I think there's a number to speak to them. I imagine if you were on there you could also make a Subject Access Request.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DNA

      This changed with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

      In most cases, unless you're convicted or cautioned then your fingerprints and DNA are automatically deleted.

      1. Woodnag

        Re: DNA

        Let's presume UK police follow this retention law to the letter. There's nothing in there about prior DNA sharing with 5 Eyes, Interpol etc and managing that flow.

        Just because the trivially sized data for DNA, FP, facial isn't on a UK DB, that doesn't mean the search request can't be against a BD in USA for example, which was automatically passed the info on generation.

        Also, tracking of unconvicted individuals coded as 'terrorist suspects' surely comes under different constraints, so loophole there too.

        Parallel construction of evidence is so easy nowadays.

  11. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Polar opposite

    to the part of the home office that should be hoarding documents that prove the right of people to live in the country.

    I'll just get my passport from my coat

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Polar opposite

      Sorry overstayed. I'll have that passport. No ID? Then get off moi island.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Polar opposite

      Then why does the UK Border Force insist on photographing me every time I leave this asylum by Eurostar ?

    3. MonkeyCee

      Re: Polar opposite

      "to the part of the home office that should be hoarding documents that prove the right of people to live in the country."

      Wrong way around. The Home Office don't bother to check people coming into the country if they have the right to remain. You just have to show the right to come and visit, which is pretty much everyone.

      Then if you want to remain, you (and only you) must prove to the Home Office that you can have that right, whilst coughing up the appropriate amount of fees (~2k). The Home Office doing any of this work for you would imply that the Home Office might have some responsibility for ensuring control of our borders.

      One of the reason that the UK isn't in Schengen is the lack of immigration and border control.

      It's a bit of a bad joke that the same government that can't/won't enforce these controls is portraying itself as expecting to bring down immigration. But you know how it is, politician's have never met a scapegoat they don't like, and the EU has been a suitable excuse for years. Note how pretty much every EU regulation implemented into UK law is "gold plated" to get unpopular legislation passed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's not illegal when the police do it"

    At least, they always get away with it.

  13. Slackness

    I got arrested

    Took my DNA sample, pic and was found innocent.

    I want it removed, police was no, solicitor said you cant.

    So angry!!!

  14. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Why is it even being discussed?

    "This is despite a 2012 High Court ruling that said keeping images of presumed innocent people on file was unlawful"

    I imagine that if I ignored a High Court ruling and carried on doing what was unlawful for six years I'd be facing some pretty severe punishment. And rightly so.

  15. Gordon Pryra

    Have they not just created a database of images classifying identifying features of each image but no links to the persons identity on any computer system. This just links to physical locations of hard copies of the actual image with all the attendant names and personal details attached.

    A bit like the old rooms full of physical finger prints. Therefore not covered by GDPR changes and still allowing big brother his massive databases of guilty until proven innocent people.

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