https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/06/17/home-office-in-the-media-blog-monday-17-june/

Home Office in the media blog: Monday 17 June

Home Office in the media

Today's leading stories include the Mail's splash on cannabis arrests and a warning over facial recognition technology from a surveillance watchdog.

Cannabis law

The Mail splashes on claims that nine in ten cannabis users and growers in some areas of England are being let off without a criminal charge.

The article says that despite warnings over the drug's harmful long-term effects, many are getting away with a simple “telling-off”.

It highlights that according to Home Office figures, an average of just 22% of possession offences led to a criminal charge last year – down from 27% in 2017 across England.

The article also claims that anti-drug campaigners say the figures show the drug is being "unofficially legalised" by police chiefs and brand the approach as an "encouragement to break the law".

A Home Office spokesperson said:

There is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities.

The police have a range of powers at their disposal to deal with drug-related offences in a way that is proportionate to the circumstances of the offender and the public interest. How police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for Chief Constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law.

Surveillance technology criticism

A surveillance watchdog has criticised the Government for the explosion of spy technology that is being used to monitor citizens, the Times reports.

Tony Porter, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, claims it is “unacceptable” that no legislation has been introduced to regulate technologies such as facial recognition and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).

He said the Home Office was remaining “silent” on its intentions to regulate. Mr Porter was speaking to the paper ahead of the IFSEC security conference in London net week.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

We support the police as they trial new technologies to protect the public, including facial recognition, which can help them identity criminals.

In doing so they must maintain public trust and act in accordance with the law, including the Human Rights, Data Protection, and Police and Criminal Evidence Acts, and the Surveillance Camera Code.

However, we support an open debate about the balance between public protection and privacy, and the Home Office is reviewing options to simplify and extend the current governance and oversight arrangements for biometrics.

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