By Anna Edwards
Police to carry out on-the-spot fingerprinting in the street even for minor traffic offences
Police are now armed with a device that can scan fingerprints so they can correctly identify suspects who lie about their details.
In what sounds like something out of George Orwell’s dystopia 1984, suspects can now be finger printed in the street thanks to the new hand-held police gadget.
The mobile identification service scans a print, then checks it by trawling through a national database for the details.
The device is about the size of a mobile phone and allows police to read the fingerprint of an index finger.
It can search 8.5million prints on the database in two minutes.
Operational officers justify the device with their argument that many people stopped for moving traffic offences offer false details initially – so the new device will help police detect who is telling the truth about their identity.
The database holds prints from people who have been convicted or who are involved in police investigations.
The device has been in use in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire for the last four weeks but it has now been officially launched across the country.
Detective Inspector Gary Etherington of Cambridgeshire said: ‘Identification is crucial to police investigations and ensures offenders do not evade justice.
‘Giving officers the ability to do this on-the-spot, usually within a few seconds, could save a huge amount of time which would be wasted taking people to a police station to confirm identities.
But critics say the device is unnecessary and ‘effectively and extension of police powers’.
Guy Herbert, general secretary of NO2ID, a group which campaigns against national databases, said: ‘There are two things wrong with this.
‘One is that we even have a database in the first place, where police can check valuable things about you.
‘Two is that you have to voluntarily give your prints, but people will feel pressure to give them, even though there is no legal basis for it.
‘It will make people feel like criminals.’