On this page you will find our Code of Practice, Complaints procedure and details of the work carried out by the office of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner.
The Code of Practice
This Code of Practice has been prepared in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020 which provides that in furtherance of the Commissioner’s general function, the Commissioner must prepare, and may from time-to-time revise, a Code of Practice on the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland.
This Code seeks to promote good practice, transparency, and accountability in Scotland by setting out an agreed framework of standards for professional decision-making which strikes the right balance between the needs and responsibilities of policing and our criminal justice system in terms of enforcing the law and keeping citizens safe, and the fundamental obligation to guarantee the basic human rights, privacy, and freedoms of individual members of the public.
Code of Practice
The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner launched a public consultation to help shape and improve the Code of Practice on the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice from April to May 2022. We received no responses from individual members of the public to that aspect of our consultation, although we did engage further with civil society through on line discussions forums such as the RSA network in Scotland.
Public Attitudes to Police Use of Biometric Data
The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner commissioned ScotCen to conduct a public attitudes and awareness survey on the use of biometrics in the policing context. The survey informed the shape of the Code of Practice. The survey indicated fairly high levels of public confidence in how biometrics are used for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland. Public Attitudes Survey
The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner statutory consultation under Section 10 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020. The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner ran a three month closed consultation between October and December 2021. This consultation included the following public bodies and other individuals and bodies with expertise in this field:
(a) Scottish Ministers
(b) the Lord Advocate
(c) the Lord Justice General
(d) the Faculty of Advocates
(e ) the Law Society of Scotland
(f) Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland
(g) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary in Scotland
(h) Scottish Police Authority
(i) Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
(k) Scottish Human Rights Commission
(l) Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland
The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner expert consultation on the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner’s Code of Practice. A key initial step was to consult with our professional Advisory Group maintained under Section 33 of the Scottish Biometrics Act 2020, including representatives from bodies to whom our functions extend. This consultation extended to UK policing bodies who operate in Scotland. The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner consulted a number of expert bodies.
Responses will be published shortly
Under the terms of Section 11 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020, the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee approved the draft Code of Practice.
Letter of Response to the Criminal Justice Committee - June 2022
Criminal Justice Committee letter of response to the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner - June 2022
Under the terms of Section 12 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020, the Scottish Government approved the draft Code of Practice.
Correspondence from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans to the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner - August 2022
Scottish Biometrics Commissioners letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans - July 2022
Please note that as the Code of Practice took effect on 16 November 2022, we can only consider complaints arising from events after this date
The complaints procedure established by the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner under the provisions of Section 15 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020 about failures to comply with the Code of Practice on the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and policing purposes in Scotland by Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), or the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).
This procedure explains how and under what circumstances you may complain to us, how we will investigate your complaint, the juristic status of the Commissioner in relation to the investigation and determination of such matters, and the powers in relation to ensuring compliance with the Code of Practice.
Please read the following document prior to completing the complaints form - Complaints procedure
Once you have read this document and if you still want to complain please complete the following form - Complaints form
If you would prefer to print off a copy of our complaints form please download it here
National Assessment Framework
Following extensive consultation, including with the bodies to whom our functions extend, the Scottish Biometric Commissioner's National Assessment Framework for biometric data outcomes was published by the Commissioner in January 2022.
The purpose of this document is to set out details of the National Assessment Framework for biometric data outcomes in Scotland to be used by the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner when conducting the general function prescribed in law to support and promote the adoption of lawful, effective, and ethical practices in relation to the acquisition, retention, use, and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland.
The purpose of this short guide is to assist members of the public in Scotland in understanding the main types of biometric data that is acquired, used, retained, and destroyed for policing and criminal justice purposes in Scotland.
A personal reflection from the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner on how biometric technologies have transformed policing and criminal justice in Scotland.
This review will provide a wide strategic assessment and baseline study on the existing landscape of images and photographs in Scotland. This will inform decision-makers, criminal justice partners and our community, of current volumes; where they are stored; how they are used and how they support law enforcement agencies in Scotland. We hope this review will also improve the current levels of awareness, knowledge and practices related to images and photographs used for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland.
The scope of this assurance review will extend to:
- Police Scotland
- Scottish Police Authority
- Police Investigation and Review Commissioner
Joint assurance review of the acquisition of biometric data from children arrested in Scotland
Terms of Reference - Children & Young People
In this submission to the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner provides comments to the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill. This response focuses exclusively on the “Ethics of the police” part – which gives legal recognition to a code of ethics for the police.
The Commissioner has today welcomed the belated response from the Director of Justice providing an update on the status and membership of the Scottish Government Criminal Justice Board and RRT programme. Last September, the Commissioner together with the Chief Inspector’s of Constabulary, Prisons, Prosecution, and the PIRC Commissioner had called for greater transparency regarding the role and composition of the Board. The Commissioner now looks forward to a joint meeting with the Director of Justice to discuss issues such as the Digital Evidence Sharing Capability (DESC) project which, amongst other things, will facilitate the electronic exchange of biometric and forensic evidence between justice partners.
To view the original joint letter submitted to the Director of Justice click here
Scottish Ministers have now given approval for the statutory Code of Practice prepared by the Commissioner to be brought into effect without modification under Section 12 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020. We anticipate regulations being laid before the Scottish Parliament in September to bring the Code into legal effect in November 2022
Under the terms of Section 12 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020, and following approval of the draft Code of Practice by the Scottish Parliament Criminal Justice Committee, the Commissioner has now written to the Cabinet Secretary seeking the approval of Scottish Ministers for the draft Code. Once approved by Scottish Ministers, Scottish Government officials will prepare a Scottish Statutory Instrument to be laid before the Parliament before the Code can take legal effect.
Following an evidence session on 15 June 2022, the Scottish Parliament Criminal Justice Committee has written to the Commissioner indicating that they are content for the draft code of practice to be submitted to Scottish Ministers in its current form for approval under the procedure outlined in Section 12 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020.
Following an evidence session on 15 June 2022, the Scottish Parliament Criminal Justice Committee has written to the Commissioner indicating that they are content for the draft code of practice to be submitted to Scottish Ministers in its current form for approval under the procedure outlined in section 12 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Act 2020.
Scottish Government officials have today responded to the request from the Commissioner to meet with the Minister for Community Safety. Officials acknowledge that since writing, a meeting has been arranged between the Commissioner and the Cabinet Secretary, and that the Minister for Community Safety looks forward to learning of the outcome of those discussions.
Together with HM Chief Inspector of Prosecutions in Scotland, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner has today written to Scottish Government asking for clarify on the current status and priorities of the Criminal Justice Board for Scotland.
Commissioner request meeting with new Community Safety Minister to discuss opportunities to enhance public trust and confidence in the use of biometrics in the wider criminal justice ecosystem in Scotland.
The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner has responded to the Home Office’s proposals for a draft code of practice which implements Part 2, Chapter 3 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. The SBC provides a number of suggestions to improve the draft code ranging from references to Scottish law and the centrality of necessity, proportionality and effective remedy to highlighting adequate standards for vulnerable adults and children when extracting biometric data from electronic devices.
Letter to Scottish Government on Children's Care and Justice Bill
The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner has been invited by the Criminal Justice Committee to provide written evidence for a roundtable session on tackling online child abuse, grooming and exploitation. The response to the committee (below) highlights the potential use of biometrics in the investigation of online child abuse, the importance of accreditation for digital forensics’ laboratories and the need of prevention policies that go beyond policing.
As my first year in office draws to a close, I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contributions made to policing in Scotland by the outgoing HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Gill Imery QPM, who will shortly vacate office.