A PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE is gearing up to probe the Home Office over an 'intolerable' police database containing the mugshots of 20 million Brits.
This database, which stores images of one-third of the UK population including many of people not convicted of any crime, was ruled unlawful by the High Court six years ago.
The court warned of the "risk of stigmatisation of those entitled to the presumption of innocence", adding that the database would be particularly harmful in the cases of children.
Despite this, the government has "urged" police forces to carry on retaining the facial images, promising new laws would follow. Police say officers use the technology to identify suspects, offenders and witnesses and to help with searching for unidentified suspects, such as those spotted on CCTV.
At the time time, a "biometrics strategy" has been delayed for five years, which likely means that the number of retained images is set to skyrocket.
Given the government's failure to act on the controversial database, a parliamentary committee is preparing to launch a probe into the Home Office.
Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, also chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, told The Independent that his committee is ready to step in and investigate the "intolerable" situation.
"The police can store these facial images without any proper consideration of them, which raises fundamental and significant civil liberty issues about what they are retaining about us," he said.
"It includes people who have not been charged with any crime or people who have been exonerated."
Lamb also voiced concerns about the disproportionate targeting of ethnic minorities, telling the newspaper: "There are also concerns about bias - and also about the accuracy of identification.
"This is not to say the technology doesn't have its place or potential value, but it needs to be operated within a clear legal and regulatory framework."
Lamb said he will push for Baroness Williams, the Home Office minister responsible for biometrics, to be brought before his committee when it discusses the controversy on Tuesday. If she fails to provide answers, a full investigation of the situation will follow.
The Home Office, naturally, hasn't offered up comment on the report. µ
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