Police chief warns more criminals will get off

Chief Constable Med Hughes
Chief Constable Med Hughes
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MURDERERS, rapists, robbers and thieves could get away scot-free if the Government presses ahead with civil liberties plans to limit DNA and CCTV use, according to South Yorkshire’s highest-ranking policeman.

Chief Constable Med Hughes is the first top officer in the country to voice his fears over the Government’s Protection of Freedoms Bill.

He claims civil liberties are being put before crime-fighting - and warned the security of the country is at risk.

Chf Con Hughes said he is concerned that, if the Bill gets approved, thousands of fingerprints and DNA samples taken from people arrested but not charged will be deleted from police databases.

And he said he is “very worried” by suggestions put forward by politicians, including the introduction of a code of practice for CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition camera systems.

A new ‘Surveillance Camera Commissioner’ would oversee new rules and make it more difficult for CCTV and ANPR to be used.

But Chf Con Hughes warned the move would make life easier for criminals.

Speaking exclusively to The Star, Chf Con Hughes said: “I am very worried about some of the provision contained within the Freedoms Bill. I do wonder whether those writing these proposals have, perhaps, listened to civil rights lawyers rather than listening to what the public want.

“The proposals in respect of CCTV and ANPR will undoubtedly increase bureaucracy the police service will have to go through to use these important tools.

“Yet, as far as I know, there is no evidence of either of these valuable weapons against crime ever having been misused by the police.

“The new proposals seem to reduce the security of the public on the basis of a philosophy, rather than a practical understanding of the way we fight crime and terrorism in this country.”

He added: “Equally, I am concerned the proposal to stop our country holding the DNA of those arrested may well lead to murders and serious crimes being unsolved in the future.

“The proposals in the Freedoms Bill seem to me to tip the balance in favour of the criminal - and I don’t believe the public’s interests are being well served by these changes.”

Chf Con Hughes said he was “disappointed” the proposals had been put forward without politicians speaking to police chiefs first.

“The proposals are, I am told, being pushed through by the Lib Dem part of the coalition,” he said.

“I would invite their leader - Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, a local MP - to come and see me at any time, or perhaps discuss the impact these proposals could have.

“CCTV and ANPR are not just vital in murder inquiries, for example, but to ensure the public feel safe and secure the rest of the time.”

When Nick Clegg revealed details of the Bill he said “sweeping reforms will put an end to unwarranted local authority snooping and unnecessary scrutiny of individuals”.

He described the Bill as the coalition Government’s “commitment to restore hard-won British liberties”.

A Lib Dem spokeswoman said: “The Freedom Bill is about restoring centuries old British liberties.

“The police will always ask for more powers, but it is the role of government to find the right balance between the power of the state and the freedom of its citizens, and we believe the Labour government got this wrong.”