UK to join police fingerprint database network, but other member states want broader data access (1)


EU member states have recommended that the UK join the 'Prüm' network of police fingerprint databases, but they are also demanding that the country "review its policy of excluding suspects' profiles from automated dactyloscopic [fingerprint] data exchange".

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Opting in

In December 2015 the UK parliament approved joining the Prüm network, saying that it wished "to see serious crimes solved, to counter terrorism and to see foreign criminals prosecuted and deported."

However, it also agreed that "only a subset of the relevant national DNA and fingerprint databases, containing data relating to individuals convicted of recordable offences, will be made available for searching by other participating States."

A number of other EU member states claimed that the restriction was "a violation of the principle of availability of law enforcement information," according to the report of the evaluation visit to the UK.

While the UK's participation in the Prüm fingerprint network is likely to be approved, the draft overall evaluation report says the Council will "re-evaluate the continuation or termination of the automated DNA and dactyloscopic data exchange" by mid-September 2020, if the UK "has not notified the Council that it makes available suspects' DNA and dactyloscopic data files."

In June, the UK joined the DNA exchange component of the network and member states made the same request - that within 12 months of launching automated DNA data exchange, "the United Kingdom review its policy of excluding suspects' DNA data files."

Neither the draft evaluation report - nor the more detailed report of the evaluation visit to London, which Statewatch is publishing here (link below) - mention that by that date the UK may have left the EU altogether, and the Prüm network with it.

Nine million individuals

If UK participation in the Prüm network of fingerprint databases is approved by the Council of the EU, fingerprints from nine million convicted individuals will be accessible for searching by other EU member states - 98% of the total number of individuals whose fingerprints are stored in the UK Police National Computer.

This comes on top of the five million individuals whose DNA profiles are available for searching via the Prüm DNA network, the largest number of individual DNA profiles held by any EU member state.

In exchange, the UK will be granted the ability to search other EU member states' systems. However, both searches of the UK and searches by the UK will require the establishment of a technical interface with every other member state - a process that can take years to complete. For the purposes of the evaluation, UK data was tested against data held by Germany's Bundeskriminalamt.

The most recently-available charts showing which member states are able to search and exchange fingerprint, DNA and vehicle registration data with one another are from 2016, when a significant number of connections were still not in place.

UK participation in the Prüm fingerprint system still has to be formally approved by the Council. The next meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council is in December, although technically the decision could be taken by a different Council configuration.


Note from: Presidency to: Delegations, '"Prüm Decisions" - Overall evaluation report on dactyloscopic data exchange for the United Kingdom', 12512/19, 7 November 2019 (pdf)

Note from: Presidency to: Delegations, 'Prüm Decisions - dactyloscopic data exchange of the United Kingdom - Report of the evaluation visit (London, 10-11 September 2019)', 12511/19, 8 October 2019 (pdf, some personal data removed)


As Brexit looms, UK still hopes to join EU fingerprint exchange network (20 August 2019)

DNA databases keep growing (April 2016)

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