Hark! What's that I hear?

It's a new draconian law being sneaked past my countrymen!

Police forces across England and Wales will shortly be carrying electronic fingerprinting devices, according to Auntie, and will be able to take fingerprints on the spot and check them against a national database.

Although, the report notes, fingerprints can only be taken in this manner if the person accosted agrees to it.

Oh, here's a rider from me: "..for now".

How long is it going to take before some group or other starts campaigning on the grounds that officers having the equipment is pointless if they have to ask permission to use it? Then we'll see a change in the law that allows officers to take fingerprints with or without permission, if the suspect is believed to be involved in a crime.

Cue "fits the description*".

And then how long before police are allowed to just fingerprint anyone they want?

I know that the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" mob are all over this, but I'm reluctant to trust the goverment with fingerprints since we had that hugely under-reported scandal a few years back where almost all constabularies across England were completely ignoring the guidelines about disposing of elimination fingerprints and were, in fact, keeping what amounted to the basis of a national fingerprint database.

Yep, if your home was burgled, your car was stolen, your place of work robbed, and you did your civic duty and gave your fingerprints "for elimination purposes", the chances are that your fingerprints are still - unlawfully - on file somewhere.

And, just a question, but how is local bobby-on-the-beat going to react if he flourishes his fingerprint taking machine at me and I say no? Is he going to be of the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" persuasion and conclude "saying no equals something to hide"?

*"Fits the description" is an old police tactic that allows any copper to detain anybody at any time. You, they say, "fit the description" of a person identified as committing a crime in the vicinity (which can, in reality, mean anywhere within a hundred miles or more). Given that most witnesses tend towards the shaky and memory is easy to fool, I can almost guarantee that you - yes, you - "fit the description" of at least one criminal who was identified somewhere near you some time in the recent past. I, personally, fit the description of any criminal described as "a white guy of average height, heavy build, with brown hair and a close cropped beard."

See if you can spot how many crimes my description commits around the world.

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