Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

In the Queen’s Speech of May 2010, the government announced the introduction of legislation that would 'restore freedoms and civil liberties through the abolition of identity cards and unnecessary laws'.

Following this commitment, the Home Office introduced the Identity Documents Bill, which received Royal Assent in December 2010. Identity cards and the National Identity Register have now been abolished.

The Protection of Freedoms Act marked the next step in the government’s legislative programme to safeguard civil liberties and reduce the burden of government intrusion into the lives of individuals.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

  • provides for the destruction, retention, use and other regulation of certain evidential material;
  • imposes consent and other requirements in relation to certain processing of biometric information relating to children;
  • provides for a code of practice about surveillance camera systems and for the appointment and role of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner;
  • provides for the repeal or rewriting of powers of entry and associated powers and for codes of practice and other safeguards in relation to such powers;
  • makes provision about vehicles left on land;
  • amends the maximum detention period for terrorist suspects;
  • replaces certain stop and search powers and to provide for a related code of practice;
  • makes provision about the safeguarding of vulnerable groups and about criminal records including provision for the establishment of the Disclosure and Barring Service and the dissolution of the Independent Safeguarding Authority
  • disregards convictions and cautions for certain abolished offences; to make provision about the release and publication of data sets held by public authorities and to make other provision about freedom of information and the Information Commissioner (ICO);
  • make provisions about the trafficking of people for exploitation and about stalking;
  • repeals certain enactments

Main Provisions

  • DNA Database

DNA could be kept indefinitely by police, even if someone had been arrested but not charged or found not guilty. DNA profiles for those arrested or charged with a minor offence will be destroyed if they are not convicted. Most of the one million people on the DNA database who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime will be removed immediately.

Where someone has been charged with a serious crime but not convicted, their DNA profile will be held for three years with a possible two-year extension with court approval.

The DNA of those with previous 'recordable' offences will be retained indefinitely.

The DNA of people deemed to be a risk to national security will be kept, even if they have not been convicted of an offence.

  • Children's biometric information
Schools and academies must notify a parent before taking a child’s biometric information, for example fingerprints. The parent may object at any time to the processing.
The child can also object to the processing and it must not be carried out even if parental permission has been granted.
A child is anyone under 18 years old.
  • Detention without charge

Terrorist suspects could be held for a maximum of 28 days without charge. This period is permanently reduced to 14 days.

  • Vetting and Barring Scheme

The Vetting and Barring Scheme was criticised for being too bureaucratic. The Act scales back the scope of the work not open to barred individuals. The system for checking 4.5 million people who work closely and regularly with children or vulnerable adults is streamlined with the merger of the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority.

Teacher vetting will continue, but not for those who do occasional or supervised volunteer work.

Job applicants will also be able to see the results of their criminal record check before their prospective employer so mistakes can be corrected.

Criminal records checks between jobs will become portable to cut down on needless bureaucracy.

  •  CCTV

Protection of Freedoms Act

CCTV systems, including Automatic Number Plate Recognition (APNR) cameras were not subject to any special regulations specific to them or their use. However, the use of personal data captured by CCTV is subject to regulation as is the covert use of CCTV systems by local authorities.

The Home Office is now required to publish a code of conduct (section 29) on using CCTV and other surveillance cameras.

A new Surveillance Camera Commissioner will be appointed to monitor the operation of the code and must report annually to Parliament.

  • Council Powers

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) regulates public bodies, including councils, who can use covert powers of investigation. Many councils have been criticised for using the powers to investigate dog fouling and false claims over school catchment areas.

Local Councils will now need to justify their need to use these powers before a magistrates court.

  • Other Measures
Police stop and search powers will be restricted.
On Freedom of Information, public bodies will have to release electronic data in re-usable formats proactively and companies who are wholly owned by two or more public bodies will now be subject to FOI requests.
Those with historical convictions for consensual gay sex can apply to have them disregarded.
Private landowners will not be allowed to clamp vehicles on their land but they will be able to recover unpaid parking charges from vehicle owners.
Measures which allow serious fraud trials without a jury will be scrapped.
The timing restrictions on when marriages and civil partnerships can take place will be abolished.
The Secretary of State must prepare a code of practice containing guidance about the exercise of powers of entry and associated powers.

Supervision and enforcement

  • Home Office


Protection of Freedoms Act 2012



History of the Protection of Freedoms Bill

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