Taking Fingerprints and Other Samples

In what circumstances are the police allowed to take my fingerprints and other samples?  

The police sometimes need to take samples and fingerprints as part of the investigation process. There are certain circumstances when the police need to have consent in order to take the fingerprints and some samples, however in other circumstances such consent is not necessary. All those circumstances are considered below.

PACE

As in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), the police are allowed to take the fingerprints if the suspect is detained for a recordable offence. The police do not need to have the consent for the taking of the fingerprints. The taking of footwear impression is also allowed under this Act. It is also allowed to do some other searches including searches by way of X-ray and ultrasound scans for persons in detention although the police must have a reasonable suspicion that the detained may have swallowed a Class A drug and this person had an intention to commit an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Only qualified persons can carry out those types of searches and they must do this with the use of suitable equipment at an appropriate place. If the suspect refuses to give consent for such searches to be carried out, the court may draw adverse inferences against the suspect in relation to this matter. The police are allowed to keep the fingerprints and the samples for the purposes of speculative searches and investigation of any crime.

Intimate samples

Intimate samples include blood, urine, pubic hair, tissue fluid, and dental impression, swabs taken from the person’s genitals or from any part of them, from a body orifice except for the mouth. Carrying out of intimate searches is also governed by the statute, namely Police and Criminal Evidence Act. The statute imposes conditions which must be fulfilled before such samples are legally taken, these include that the suspect must consent to the taking of an intimate sample. The taking of such samples must be authorised by the officer with the rank of Inspector and such authority as well as the consent of the suspect must be in writing. The Inspector must be satisfied and must believe that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect may have committed a particular offence and it is essential to take the sample in order to confirm the same. It is the Inspector’s responsibility to inform the suspect that in case of a refusal to give consent to take the sample; such an action can lead to adverse inferences being made against the suspect.

Non-intimate samples

Non-intimate samples include the samples of hair other than pubic hair, samples from nail or from under the nail, a swab from the suspect’s part of the body other than the one which is intimate. Non-intimate samples include saliva, skin impression etc. A non-intimate sample can be taken even without the consent of the suspect but the suspect must be detained for a recordable offence. The suspect does not need to be charged with any offence or cautioned. In some circumstances the use of reasonable force is allowed too. Samples and fingerprints can be kept by the police for the purposes of future investigations.

Search of the suspect

Once the suspect is detained the police are allowed to make a further search and seize his possessions. Following the arrest a further search power may arise. The custody officer may seize and retain any items which may represent the danger for the detained and others, which may damage the property or interfere with the evidence. Intimate searches can only be authorised by an Inspector, the authorisation from a custody officer is not enough. The inspector must have reasonable grounds that the suspect is trying to conceal something on his body. The consent from the suspect is not required, if the suspect is concealing something which could endanger his health or cause an injury. Such a search may be carried out by the police officer or a doctor, who should be of the same gender as the suspect. Before such a search is carried out the suspect must be sure that the search is absolutely necessary and cannot be avoided as there may be some items which the suspect is trying to conceal and there is no other way how to reveal this. The written consent is required if the search is for an A class drug. Again, adverse inferences may be drawn if the suspect refuses to give such consent. If the search is non-intimate and authorisation for it was granted, the consent from the detained is not required; all that is required is that all the information must be recorded in the custody record. On the other hand, there is a better protection given to the suspect if the search is an intimate one as an intimate search for a Class A drug requires consent from the suspect and such search must also be carried out at appropriate medical premises. 

Legal Advice

Everyone is entitled to legal advice and assistance. Some cases are normally referred to CDS Direct which is a call centre where the detained will be able to get legal advice. If the detained wants to speak to a solicitor the police officer must call the centre and the centre will get in touch with the solicitors firm which the suspect asked for or if there were no specifications in relation to a solicitor then the police officer will call a duty solicitor. A solicitor’s fees are normally fixed fees per a case if the case is more complex they charge on an hourly rate.