Commissioner's Quarterly Newsletter No 2: September 2021
Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Secures Membership of Biometrics Institute
On 26 August 2021, I was delighted to receive confirmation of acceptance of membership of the Biometrics Institute.
The mission of the Institute is to promote the responsible and ethical use of Biometrics and related technologies that respect the Institute’s ethical guidance as an independent and impartial international forum for biometric users and other interested parties. This means that the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner is now part of a global community of 220 other member organisations, spanning 30 countries, who support the responsible and ethical use of biometrics.
The benefits of membership include access to a repository of international research and learning on a range of debates concerning the ethical use of biometrics in all sectors. I will also be participating in the Biometrics Institute Congress 2021, which this year comprises of a series of online symposiums between 6 – 26 October.
I have also submitted a draft paper to the international congress entitled: ‘From World’s End – To World Leading’. The paper represents a personal reflection of how biometrics and forensics have developed from the pre digital age in 1977 Scotland at the time of the ‘World’s End Murders’ through to the creation by Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament of a single national police service (Police Scotland), a single national forensic services provider (SPA Forensic Services), significant investment in world-leading DNA interpretation technologies, the unravelling of ‘DNA time capsules’ in cold case reviews, and the establishment of layers of scrutiny including the appointment of an independent Scottish Biometrics Commissioner answerable to the Parliament and people of Scotland. I am hopeful that the full paper will be published next month.
Scottish Biometrics Commissioner – 1st Meeting of Advisory Group
Under the provisions of Section 33 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act, I am required to establish and maintain an Advisory Group. The purpose of the professional advisory group is to give advice to the Commissioner about matters relating to the Commissioner’s functions. The members of the group are determined by the Commissioner subject to the approval of the Parliamentary Corporation.
The first meeting of the Advisory Group took place on Monday 19 July 2021. The inaugural meeting agenda included an update to members on set-up activity, and discussions on the terms of reference for the Group. A few papers were circulated including early working drafts of a Strategic Plan, Code of Practice, and National Assessment Framework as a precursor to formal consultation activity.
The Group were also made aware of ongoing discussion between Scottish and UK Government to reach agreement on the terms of a draft regulation to extend the remit of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner to include data obtained by other UK-Wide policing bodies who collect biometric data from persons arrested in Scotland, including cross-border jurisdiction for the Scottish Commissioner in circumstances where biometric data sourced from biological materials in Scotland is sent to forensic laboratories in other parts of the UK for profiling.
Membership of the Advisory Group includes:
- The Children and Young People’s Commissioner – Bruce Adamson
- Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – Mhairi Morrison
- PIRC Director of Investigations – Phil Chapman
- Head of Data Governance, Police Scotland – Calum Dundas
- HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland – Gill Imery
- Dr Genevieve Lennon – Chancellor’s Fellow – Strathclyde University
- Head of ICO Regions – Dr Ken MacDonald – Information Commissioner’s Office
- Mental Welfare Commission – Suzanne McGuiness
- Police Scotland – Detective Chief Superintendent – Laura McLuckie
- Professor John McNeill – Independent member
- SPA Forensic Services Director – Tom Nelson
- Scottish Human Rights Commission – Diego Quiroz
- Professor Derek Penman – Independent member
- Biometrics & Surveillance Camera Commissioner (Home Office) – Professor Fraser Sampson
The second meeting of the Advisory Group is scheduled for 25 November 2021. As soon as my website is established, I will publish minutes of these meetings and a short biography of each member. I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to all members of the Advisory Group for kindly assisting to help me establish and correctly position the functions of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner within the existing policing and criminal justice landscape in Scotland, the UK, and beyond.
I should make special mention of Tom Nelson who is soon to retire as SPA Director of Forensic Services. Tom is an outstanding scientist, outstanding leader, and long-serving public servant who in my opinion has positioned Scotland on the world stage of forensics, biometrics, and policing. I wish him a long and happy retirement.
Timescales to complete set-up activity
In the 3-month period since the last newsletter in June the nature and extent of setting up a new Parliamentary Commission from scratch has preoccupied most of my time with associated transactional activity. Over the period progress has been made on securing an office location which I am hopeful will be ready for occupation by late October. By late November or early December, I hope to have my office fully established with 3 new staff onboard, and a public facing website up and running. Once again, I wish to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Janice Crerar and the Parliament Corporation for their assistance in helping me to navigate a path through these necessary complexities.
Meetings over last quarter
In addition to the above, I have had several meetings and exchanges with the policing and criminal justice community in Scotland. Over the period, this included the regular Justice Inspectorates Forum chaired by HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, my own Audit Advisory Board, SPA Forensic Services Committee, my professional Advisory Group, Scottish Government officials, Police Scotland, the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA and with PIRC. I have also had several meetings around recruitment and procurement in connection with securing a contract for website design and maintenance.
I have also attended a meeting of the UK FINDS Strategy Board, and the Home Office Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group (BFEG).
Over the period, I have also participated in a number of on-line events and symposiums including the excellent ‘SPA Forensics Insights’ Day and an equally excellent event on artificial intelligence hosted by the Ada Lovelace Institute. I have also met both virtually and in person with Professor Fraser Sampson, the Home Office Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner. I will have similar meetings with stakeholders over the next quarter. This will include formal consultation on my draft 4-year Strategic Plan which must be laid before the Scottish Parliament by 01 December 2021.
Audit of Prüm DNA and Fingerprint exchanges between UK/EU – November 2021
In November 2021, I will be assisting with a joint audit of the UK Prüm DNA and Fingerprint exchanges with the European Union following the withdrawal agreement. The audit will involve joint working with the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (OBSCC), the Information Commissioner (ICO), and the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) to provide independent assessment of matters relating to the effectiveness and efficiency of biometric exchanges with EU Member States post Brexit.
The audit activity will take place at Metropolitan Police and National Crime Agency sites through which the UK/EU exchange arrangements are facilitated. This is as a precursor to the EU ex-ante evaluation of the Prüm arrangements post Brexit which is expected to be completed by the Spring of 2022.