Scottish Lib Dems demand action on retention of police photos of innocent people

If it weren’t for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the SNP Government would have nobody asking them awkward questions on civil liberties and forcing them to change policy.

And so it continues in 2017. In today’s Scotland on Sunday, Liam McArthur, our Justice Spokesperson continues the work by the much-missed Alison McInnes in demanding action on the Police retaining photos of people they arrest but who are never charged. From The Scotsman:

In the report published in January last year, HMICS warned that there was no statutory framework or legislation in Scotland regulating how the police use or retain photographic images.

While fingerprint and DNA samples are destroyed if criminal proceedings are dropped, mugshots are kept on the police’s “custody software” under a practice which predates the formation of Police Scotland.

Most images are kept for at least six years, but those accused of more serious offences have their mugshot retained for up to 12 years.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “A year ago the HMICS report vindicated the Liberal Democrat investigation and campaign calling for controls governing how the police handle our most personal information, including the use of facial recognition technology.

It is therefore frustrating that we are no closer to knowing which of its independent expert recommendations will be implemented and when.

The Scottish Government must immediately set out when we can expect the new safeguards, including a code of practice and independent commissioner, to be in place. The Scottish Liberal Democrats won’t allow ministers to cherry pick or kick such important protections into the long grass.

This comes as another of Alison McInnes\ big issues comes closer to being sorted. She tenaciously tackled the Government and Police over their indiscriminate use of stop and search powers. Finally, this week, a new code was published which stops the practice of so-called consensual stop and search which led to hundreds of children being searched for no good reason.

Liam said:

Thanks to the code won by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, for the first time ever, the stop and search procedure, police’s responsibilities and peoples’ rights will be clearly defined in law. So-called consensual searches will be abolished in May.

Following the revelation that the number of intrusive and unjustified searches being conducted by Police Scotland has fallen by 99% since we first drew attention to this gross overreach, Scotland will at last have a code in place preventing the return of industrial scale stop and search.

MSPs will now look at the fine detail of the code to ensure the right protections are in place, the right information will be recorded and no more abuses can occur.

This is welcome news for the officers who were under pressure to conduct searches they didn’t believe in and for everyone who agrees with Liberal Democrats that any police search must be justified and proportionate.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Why should the police holding an image of something that is out there in the public domain – that is, my physical likeness – cause me any detriment or be an infringement of my civil liberties?

    It’s a serious question, because as usual we are presented with this as a given – there is no explanation why. I’m open to be convinced.

    The same point could be made about fingerprints and DNA come to that.

  • Agree with Stuart.

  • So, if you were arrested for something you didn’t do and subsequently not charged, you would be quite happy for the Police to keep the photo they took of you and when they are taking pictures of any demonstrations you may happen to be on, or anything else you may be doing, you would be quite happy for them to be able to identify you?

    If you are going about your lawful business, the Police should have no right to do that.

  • @Caron
    If I were taking part in a demonstration with, say, a thousand people, I’d fully expect at least half of them to end up possessing a photo with me on it. It’s 2017 and most people carry a hi-res camera in their pocket these days.

    But really I was only asking the question: why should it bother me, for the police or anybody else to have such a picture? Most people happily put pictures of themselves on-line these days. In fact, even with my pretty low on-line profile, if someone gives my name to the police they’ll be able to find good quality pictures of me within seconds, whether they own any or not.

    Don’t get me wrong, my privacy is important to me and I would be outraged if, for instance, the police were keeping some kind of dossier on my private life or financial information. But my physical image is in the public domain as far as I’m concerned, so why should I care?

  • Caron, I’m afraid I can’t get overheated about thgat which you complain – particularly in very serious cases.

    Cases like the Worlds End Murder in Edinburgh and the Robert Black case (which affected the Borders) took many years to solve. I can think cases where what you suggest could be counter-productive by reducing the police record system which could undermine any future prosecution. There is also the Savile case where he was interviewed on several occasions by the police without being charged but we now know his activities went on for many years.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jan '17 - 11:39pm

    The comments by Caron are , on this and other issues regarding innocent until proven guilty, are nearer my own. It is when charged , proven guilty and sentenced for violent awful crimes, that I am of a view to the right of right , left of left , but certainly not wishy washy centrist !

    I do like the way Stuart has said he is happy to have not merely a debate , one in which he may be persuaded.

    I like the way David Raw has given detail to the stance he expresses, or holds with conviction.

    I do think our party needs to be less knee jerk on nearly everything. Many on here are much too much. We can all be. But that itself is not Liberal or Democratic. Newton and his , every action has an equal and opposite reaction , is not Liberalism, or a form of any sort of Democracy that is sensible.

    I do believe we should stop banding about insults. Sorry , but I am very sad Lord Carlile, Baroness Nicholson, and way back , Lord Alton, are not in our orbit. We cannot keep pushing one view or type of view. Parties must accommodate a range of views , with shared values.

    My views on this do not make me more or less close to others. We are close because we choose to be. The only marriages that work , need effort.

    We should find a way to see the merit in both my and Caron’s view on , say data , and Stuart and David.

  • Robert Stallard 16th Jan '17 - 12:02am

    Oh, get real. The police keep intelligence on everyone they encounter, whether as a complainant, witness, offender or anyone who happens to be mentioned in just about any capacity. If anything comes in that adds to that individual’s record, from a driving licence number, passport number, vehicle they have access to, speeding ticket they’ve received, tattoo, telephone number, email address, hairstyle, weight, organisation they belong to, or an associate they are linked to, it’s all added to the systems. It’s just what has always happened and always will. There’s nothing unusual about it and I imagine every police force and intelligence agency everywhere in the world does it. It’s basic policing!

  • John Mitchell 18th Jan '17 - 9:39pm

    @ Robert Stallard

    That sure sounds like a police state that you’re describing there. Government or the police should have access to your information no questions asked! I very much disagree with this viewpoint and do not share the optimism that you do in that this information is never mishandled. It has been time and time again and what’s more what right do authorities have to access or retain information without due process or grounds?

    I’m pleased to see that the Scottish Liberal Democrats are standing up for civil liberties as they have and continue to do so.

  • Robert Stallard 19th Jan '17 - 8:21pm

    @John Mitchell

    It is not a “viewpoint” for you to agree or disagree with, rather information for everyone on here as to what happens in reality. By all means, disagree with what happens, but please don’t shoot the messenger or assume you know what my views are about it!

    I just thought (perhaps wrongly) that these facts (which are no secret, but which many people seem unaware of) might interest those who were concerned about the retention of photographs.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Nnconformistradical
    "In the current economic situation we should be more concerned about those who are really struggling" Seconded...
  • cim
    £50k/year is not the "squeezed middle", even if the tax threshold hasn't quite kept pace with inflation recently. According to the March figures from HMRC, onl...
  • Brad Barrows
    @expats Good point. And it is worth adding that while what the Chinese government did would have not broken the agreement if they had they waited until 2047 to...
  • Brad Barrows
    Unfortunately, this is another Liberal Democrat Press Release that could have been produced by the right wing of the Conservative Party. It may be smart politic...
  • Roland
    Without more details, it is hard to determine whether this is a good thing, or a bad thing. On the one hand it seems that people caught by the effective free...