Yearly Archives: 2009


Damian Green writes in the Guardian Comment is Free web site: Until the policy was declared illegal by the European court of human rights, the government planned to keep the DNA of the innocent forever, making us all suspects for life. Ministers, having dragged their feet for months, have now offered a system where they will only keep the DNA for six years. This is still unacceptable, because it is unnecessary in crime-fighting terms. A system similar to the one in Scotland, in which the DNA of those arrested but not charged for the most serious crimes can only be kept for three years would work well and gain public acceptance. We need to adopt something much more like the Scottish model in the rest of the UK. It is that issue of public acceptance that worries me most. Once the DPP had declared I had no case to answer, […]

DNA retention hampers policing


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Jennie Bristow reviews “Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom” in the Spiked Review of Books: One of the most pernicious prejudices of our time is that adults, given half a chance, will abuse the children in their care. This is the prejudice that lies behind the UK government’s out-of-control, increasingly unpopular mass vetting scheme, in which adults who want to spend time with, or take responsibility for, children other than their own must first be issued with a licence showing that they have no record of child abuse. It is also the prejudice that lies behind the ‘professional truism or working hypothesis or mantra that “children never lie about abuse”’: the subject of Pat Sikes and Heather Piper’s bold and disturbing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct in schools. Of course, some adults do abuse children. Sikes and Piper, along with myself and other critics of the current ‘stranger […]

It’s not true that children never lie


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Sarah Bridge writes in the Mail on Sunday: The Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) was hailed as the answer to Britain’s epidemic of underage drinking and fake ID cards. But Robert Humphreys, the chairman of PASS and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: ‘There is a real problem here. Many larger club, pub and bar chains have embraced the scheme and welcome PASS hologram cards as proof of age. ‘However, too many bars and clubs are allowing their door staff to turn away responsible young adults with genuine cards, losing them sorely needed custom.’ Genuine cards have a forge-proof hologram and the scheme, launched in 2003, is backed by many organisations including the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Trading Standards Institute, the British Beer and Pub Association and National Pubwatch. National card schemes carrying the PASS logo include Validate UK, Citizen-Card and YoungScot. […]

Bars losing millions in chaos on ID cards



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Katherine Faulkener and Rhiannon Edwards write in the Manchester Evening News: Some 1,736 people in Greater Manchester have bought the £30 cards after the Home Office promised they could be used to travel in Europe. But customer service staff at nine major travel companies – including British Airways, Eurostar and BMI baby – told M.E.N reporters posing as customers that the cards could NOT be used instead of passports. Eight of the nine companies later issued statements saying staff had given the wrong advice – and that the cards COULD be used after all. But Eurostar remained unsure. A spokesman said: “We are unable to confirm whether the ID cards are valid on Eurostar at this time.” Meanwhile two major German airlines said they would not accept the cards until they had been officially recognised by the German federal authorities. In a separate article, they report: Meanwhile student Cyrus Nayeri, […]

ID card chaos as travel firms blunder


John Leyden writes in The Register: An early adopter of the UK’s controversial ID card was refused passage when he tried to board a ferry to Rotterdam. Norman Eastwood, from Salford, and his wife Jeanette had booked a passage from Hull with P&O Ferries on Saturday. The ID card, which has been offered on a voluntary basis to the public in Greater Manchester as part of a limited trial since last month, is meant to allow travel across Europe as an alternative to a passport. However P&O staff at check-in had never seen the card before and didn’t know it was a valid travel document. The unfortunate Eastwood was told he would need his passport - which he had left at home - to travel. “We had no idea the ID card was being trialled,” a P&O spokesman explained. “Mr Eastwood turned up with a form of ID we didn’t […]

Ferry giant refuses ID card


Henry Chu writes in the Los Angeles Times: For skeptics, the ID cards represent one more intrusion on their privacy, yet another government attempt to keep tabs on a citizenry that’s already among the most monitored on Earth, thanks to the countless cameras mounted in public places. As repositories of biometric data and potentially other kinds of personal information, national ID cards push Britain closer to being a “database state,” critics say. It might seem like just a big bother now, but it could easily turn into Big Brother later. Fierce opposition has already forced the ruling Labor Party to water down the ID plan since it was conceived several years ago. Once envisaged as mandatory, the cards are now being issued on a strictly voluntary basis for British citizens. They’re also being marketed as a convenient tool for consumers and travelers rather than as the powerful weapon against illegal […]

British ID card program meets resistance



Brendan Carlin writes in the Mail on Sunday: The Goverment’s identity-card scheme has been branded ‘a farce’ last night after it was revealed it will be expanded this week - despite Alistair Darling casting doubt over the future of the project. Home Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to announce within the next few days that 16 to 24-year-olds in London will be able to apply for £30 voluntary ID cards. But the move comes just days after the Chancellor appeared to suggest that he would cut the funding for ID cards. It also follows a shambolic launch of voluntary ID cards in Liverpool last week when Home Office Minister Meg Hillier turned up to promote them, but left hers at home.

Labour ‘farce’ as ID cards scheme descends into muddle


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Tom Whitehead writes in the Daily Telegraph: A flagship £1.2 billion programme to collect data from every passenger travelling in and out of Britain was in disarray last night after a Government climb-down. The so-called e-Borders scheme was supposed to make it compulsory to collect information from everyone in advance of their travel so they could be checked against watchlists and enable the authorities to count everyone in and out of the country. But passengers will not be forced to hand over the information amid concerns it could have breached EU rules over free movement. Carriers will also not be ordered to refuse boarding of anyone who declines to pass on their details. Instead, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will have to check anyone who has not provided the data once they arrive in the country. And officials will not be able to refuse entry to any EU citizen, or […]

Borders programme in disarray


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Timothy Garton Ash writes in The Guardian about the Independent Safeguarding Authority and its database of those barred from working with children and “vulnerable adults”: The ISA reassures us on its website that anyone who may be barred will be told in advance and, “we will share with them all the information on which we rely”. But I spotted a sentence in the original inquiry recommendation which said, “the police, as now, would be able to identify intelligence which on no account should be disclosed to the applicant”. When I asked the ISA press spokesman about this, he conceded that chief police officers “would have discretion”. So actually the website lied: people wouldn’t necessarily be given all the information? Er, yes. And you wouldn’t know what you wouldn’t know? Er … could I send him an email. In response to my email asking what information would be withheld under what […]

This parody of the nanny state helps neither children nor ...



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Chris Williams writes in The Register: Already shouldering the unfortunate burden of cheerleading for the ID cards scheme, one might expect the universe might cut Home Office minister Meg Hillier some slack. Alas, at an event in Liverpool to promote said white elephant yesterday, she forgot her ID card. Hillier blamed her forgetfulness on the demands of looking after her baby. The blunder has nevertheless attracted plenty of scouse schadenfreude. Liverpool councillors last week voted to officially oppose the rollout of ID cards to the city, and the minister was there to rubbish their criticisms that the scheme will not prevent crime, terrorism or illegal immigration. The Council will not recognise the ID card for official purposes.

ID card minister forgets ID card


According to the BBC: The Conservatives have accused the government of “mis-selling” ID cards after Alistair Darling appeared to suggest they would be scrapped. The Treasury insists the chancellor was simply restating the government’s position when he said there was no need to go further than biometric passports. But the Tories have written to Gordon Brown demanding clarification. The story quotes Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling: “This is nothing short of a deception of the people of the North West. “We now know that the chancellor of the exchequer is planning to scrap ID cards. Yet the Home Office is still encouraging people to sign up for a card. It’s blatant mis-selling.”

Government is ‘mis-selling’ ID cards - Tories


Chris Williams writes in The Register: Personal data belonging to nearly 40 million UK motorists is likely to be abused by foreign officials under new automatic access powers, according to a restricted official report. Drivers’ details such as name, address, motoring convictions and some medical information will be available to more than two dozen European countries around the clock under the Prüm Convention. Ministers have emphasised the data-sharing powers are “fundamental to our ability to tackle serious crime, terrorism and illegal immigration”, but a report commissioned by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) admits access to the DVLA will be uncontrolled. “The UK is aware that this is open to abuse, and that some EU member states are likely to use the Prüm capability for inquiries beyond the defined scope of cross-border crime and counter-terrorism,” it says.

DVLA data powers likely to be abused by foreign officials



Martin Beckford writes in The Telegraph: Ministers are under pressure to carry out a complete rethink of the controversial vetting scheme for people working with children and vulnerable groups, despite a last-minute climbdown. Following a review of the scope of the world’s biggest anti-paedophile database, some of its most vocal critics - including famous authors who give readings at schools - will no longer have to have their backgrounds checked. But an estimated nine million people, including parents who sign up to school driving rotas for weekly sports events, must still register. Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy who became the most high-profile critic of the safeguarding regime, told the BBC that he welcomed the proposed changes to the “absurd” plans. But he said the idea remained “fundamentally unhealthy” and went on: “The whole thing seems to be based on the feeling that you can’t trust […]

Ed Balls under pressure to rethink entire vetting scheme


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Mary Riddell and James Kirkup write in the Daily Telegraph: Alistair Darling has cast doubt on the need for ID cards for every Briton. The Chancellor suggested that biometric passports, which carry the same information as ID cards, would be sufficient. In an interview in The Daily Telegraph today, he said there was “probably no need” to “go further” than the new passports, paving the way for ID cards to be scrapped. Although he claimed later that he wasn’t going beyond existing plans, his intervention could spell the death knell for the project.

Alistair Darling signals death of ID cards


Irena Barker writes in the Times Educational Suplement: All England and Wales’ major headteachers’ leaders - private and state, primary and secondary -have joined forces to demand a complete rethink of new laws designed to protect children from paedophiles, calling them “disproportionate to risk”. The seven associations representing the country’s 27,500 heads have today written to the Government warning that the new Vetting and Barring scheme could spell the end of many extra-curricular activities and trips and leave heads drowning in paperwork. The letter warns that schools will be forced to reduce the attendance of competitive sporting events, cut back on sending pupils on work or volunteer placements or welcoming exchange students or visiting speakers. The scheme will also entail a vast increase in paperwork for headteachers, and make it harder to take on emergency staff such as dinner ladies or plumbers.

Heads’ leaders demand vetting scheme rethink