Call for evidence on the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill

A PDF version of this call for evidnece is avalable here:


The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has today, Monday 1 July 2019, launched a call for written evidence as part of its Stage 1 consideration of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill. The Committee invites all interested individuals and organisations to submit views on the provisions of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill as part of its consideration of the general principles of the Bill. The closing date for submissions is Friday 30 August 2019.

This Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament, by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP, on Thursday 30 May 2019. A copy of the Bill, and its accompanying documents, are available on the Scottish Parliament’s website. Before you make a submission, please read the Bill and its documents here:

Criminal justice system in Scotland
As Scotland’s national police force, Police Scotland has responsibility for investigating crime and gathering evidence to be used in the prosecution of suspects as part of the criminal justice system. The Chief Constable of Police Scotland is responsible to the independent Scottish Police Authority (SPA) for the performance of Police Scotland’s functions. Separately, the SPA is also responsible for the management and delivery of Forensic Services in Scotland. This is to ensure the forensic systems, which analyse various forms of biometric evidence gathered by the police, is separate and independent from the police service.

Purpose of the Bill
The purpose of this Bill is to address a range of ethical and human rights issues in Scotland in terms of the approach to the collection, use, retention and disposal of biometric data in the context of policing and criminal justice. The Bill aims to ensure this is done in a lawful, effective and ethical manner.
The Bill seeks to achieve this by establishing the new post of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner. The primary role of the Commissioner will be to draw up and promote the use of a Code of Practice for the collection, use, retention and disposal of biometric data in the policing and criminal justice system in Scotland. The Bill also-

  • defines ‘biometric data’ for the purposes of the Commissioner’s work;
  • empowers the Commissioner to undertake other functions, such as keeping the law in this area of criminal justice and biometrics under review;
  • empowers the Commissioner to work collaboratively with other stakeholders and engage in research in the developing field of biometrics, and
  • to report to the Scottish Parliament on the performance of the Commissioner’s functions and on compliance with the Code of Practice by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority.

What are biometrics?
Biometrics are a broad and quickly evolving area. The Bill establishes a broad definition for biometrics so as to capture data which is, for example, collected at police stations, analysed at laboratories, and which is recorded on databases for the purposes of detecting and preventing crime.

The Bill defines biometric data as information about an individual’s physical, biological, physiological or behavioural characteristics which is capable of being used, on its own or when combined with other information, to establish the identity of an individual.
The criminal justice system in Scotland has used some forms of biometric data in the detection and prosecution of crime for many years, such as fingerprints, DNA and custody photographs. This form of data is often referred to as first-generation biometrics.

However, with rapid advances in science and technology over the last 25 years, new forms of biometrics are now available. This include data such as facial recognition software, remote iris recognition and behavioural biometrics such as voice pattern analysis. These are often referred to as second-generation biometrics.

In its 10-year strategy, Policing 2026, Police Scotland indicates its intention to invest it its forensic capabilities. This includes the introduction of the use of facial recognition and the use of handheld devices that can be linked to intelligence databases, such as the National Biometric Database.

Committee’s call for evidence
The Committee would like to hear from any individuals or groups with an interest in this Bill. If you wish to submit evidence to the Committee please feel free to address any, or all, of the policy issues contained in the Bill and its accompanying documents.

It would be helpful if any written submissions could address the following areas:

  1. What are your views on the establishment of a Scottish Biometrics Commissioner as a new body to scrutinise the police?
  2. What are your views on the proposed role, responsibilities and enforcement powers of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner?
  3. What are your views on the provisions in the Bill for the drawing up of a Code of Practice by the Commissioner, and how compliance with the Code is monitored and reported on?
  4. What are your views on the appointment process for the Commissioner and the funding being provided to enable them to carry out their role?
  5. Do you have any other comments regarding the Bill?

Before making a submission please see-

Scottish Parliament’s policy on treatment of written evidence by committees
Committee Office Privacy Notice: Submitting your views to committee
Committee Office Privacy Notice: Submitting your views to committee [Young People]

If you wish your evidence to be treated as confidential, or for your evidence to be published anonymously, please contact the Clerk to the Committee to discuss, before you submit your evidence.

How to submit your evidence
Responses should be sent, wherever possible, electronically and in MS Word format to the following email address: [email protected]

Responses can also be sent by post to:
Clerk to the Justice Committee
Committee Office
Room T2.60
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP

The closing date for receipt of submissions is 6.00 pm on Friday 30 August 2019.

For Committee information, contact:
Seán Wixted: 0131 348 5223
[email protected]

For media information, contact:
Greg Black: 0131 348 6266
[email protected]

Keeping in touch
For further information on the Committee you can—

• Contact the Justice Committee by emailing [email protected]  
• You can contact the Committee clerks on 0131 348 5223 or 0131 348 6241.
• You can follow the Justice Committee on Twitter: @SP_Justice
• We welcome calls using the Text Relay service or in BSL through
• You can find us on Facebook:  
• If you have any general questions you also can also text us on 07786 209 888
• You can ask questions online through live chat:

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