Met chief in new plea for ID cards

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The Independent Online

Britain's most senior police officer has come to the rescue of ministers embarrassed by the Kamel Bourgass case.

Britain's most senior police officer has come to the rescue of ministers embarrassed by the Kamel Bourgass case.

In an interview broadcast today, Sir Ian Blair, head of the Metropolitan police, echoes government claims that Bourgass's murder of policeman Stephen Oakes supports the need for ID cards and new conspiracy laws.

Charles Clarke was forced to apologise last week after it emerged that Bourgass, an Algerian immigrant whose asylum claim had been rejected, could have been deported before he murdered DC Oake.

In an interview on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost today, the police chief repeats the claim that "al-Qai'da affiliates are targeting Britain".

The intervention prompted a tart rejoinder from civil liberties campaigners, however. "It is time for Blair the police commissioner to create some distance from his political namesake," said Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty. "Law enforcement and other vital services must remain politically neutral - especially during an election campaign."

Sir Ian, who has made a number of controversial interventions since his appointment last November, suggested that tougher anti-terrorism powers are needed.

He called for iris-recognition technology, which scans an individual's eyes, to be developed. He claimed that it would have helped to identify Bourgass, and other terror suspects in Belmarsh.

"We're going to have to look again to see whether there is some other legislation around acts preparatory to terrorism, or something of that nature - that's what we'll have to do."

Sir Ian called for "further consideration" of the ID cards Bill which was withdrawn before the election. "I wasn't particularly keen on ID cards until recently - until I began to understand the way in which identity theft is carried out.

"The documents being produced are identical to the real documents, they're just unauthorised. "We now have the technology, through iris recognition ... that would be very helpful."

However, Professor Alistair Hay, one of Britain's foremost toxicologists, contested the police claims that Bourgass could have produced poison weapons using ricin in his London flat.

He told The Independent on Sunday Bourgass's attempts were "incredibly amateurish and unlikely to succeed".

He added: "The recipes were very, very inefficient and I felt that in the hands of someone unskilled, the chances of getting something significant was very small."