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news round-up 15.9.17

(Posted on 15/09/17)


Parole for IPP prisoner ten years over tariff:

James Ward is to be released from prison after serving eleven years for a ten-month sentence under Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP), the Parole Board has said.

The 33-year-old was sentenced after setting fire to his prison bed. Originally jailed in 2006 for ABH in a fight with his father, James has a low IQ and mental health problems and has frequently self-harmed.

"We are over the moon, my dad can't stop grinning,” his sister April said. "My dad hasn't grinned for years. I can't stop crying or smiling.

"James is not a risk to the public, he's only ever been a risk to himself, and with the right support we can get him there."

Last year, James wrote to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, stating: "Prison is not fit to accommodate people like me with mental health problems. It's made me worse. How can I change in a place like this? I wake up every morning scared of what the day may hold."

The IPP sentence, introduced by Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett, was abolished in 2012, but more than 3,000 people are still inside.
"I hope that IPP prisoners who are way over tariff can now also be released,” April added. “I don't like to think about what would have happened if they'd decided against letting [James] out. He had given up."

20m innocent faces on police photo database

Biometrics commissioner Paul Wiles has described police use of facial images as going far beyond their original custody purposes, with facial recognition software to identify individuals in public places like the Notting Hill carnival, according to the Guardian.

The official watchdog’s warning comes five years after courts ruled the inclusion of images of innocent people unlawful. Unlike DNA and fingerprints, images can be taken without the subject’s knowledge.

“Facial images are just the first in a new wave of biometrics. I am aware that the police are already experimenting with voice recognition technology and others such as iris, gait and vein analysis are commercially available,” Wiles says in his annual report. “The acceptance by the public of their use for crime control purposes may depend on the extent to which the governance arrangements provide assurance that their use will be in the public interest and intrusion into personal privacy is controlled and proportionate.”

A Home Office review ordered by Theresa May when she was home secretary was published this February, requiring the police to delete images but only on application from an individual “unconvicted person”.

“It is now almost five years since the court held that the police retention of facial images was unlawful, yet we still do not have a clear policy in operation to correct that situation,” the commissioner concludes.

“The Home Office should be investing in updating police IT systems to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of innocent people’s custody images and facial biometrics are deleted automatically as soon as they are released without charge, bringing them into line with DNA and fingerprints,” said Renate Samson, chief executive of the Big Brother Watch campaign group.

“There should be a presumption that police will remove it from their databases unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose, and there is an exceptional reason for it to be retained,” Home Office minister Baroness Williams responded. “I consider this strikes a reasonable balance between privacy and public protection.”

'Trial by social media' to be examined

Launching a review into how posts on social networks were affecting justice, Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC said the justice system must “catch up with the modern world” and “there may be a role” for companies to do more to protect against “trial by social media”.

“If you go back a few years, the only people capable of reaching a wide enough audience that there was a serious risk of prejudicing a jury were established media outlets,” he told the Daily Telegraph, “and they, broadly speaking, knew what the 1981 Contempt of Court Act said, they knew where the line was between what you could say and what you couldn't.

“Sometimes they transgressed, of course, but they at least broadly speaking as an entity, knew what the rules were. That's not true of members of the public, who don't understand what the Contempt of Court Act says, and probably don't realise what damage their piece of social media commentary or comment might do. So we are definitely in a different world and that's why this has to be thought about.

“We also have to contemplate the possibility that responsible jurors not trying to look for anything about a case might just stumble upon commentary if it's widespread enough in their normal social media usage, and that's the world in which we now live and the world we have to deal with.”

Last year the Court of Appeal called for an examination of the law after social media outrage stopped the trial of two teenage girls accused of killing Angela Wrightson in Hartlepool. The girls were subsequently convicted of her murder.

“I think it's too early to know whether there is a significant change to be required for social media companies because I don't know yet how widespread this issue is,” Wright added.