Police will be able to fingerprint suspects using roadside scanners under new Bill

People suspected of crimes would be forced to give their fingerprints to police using roadside scanners under new rules planned by the Home Office.

Tiny electronic fingerprint scanners that are being adopted by the police can identify known criminals in minutes.

Anyone suspected of a crime and without good identification would have to place their forefingers on the devices, linking to the records of nearly six million offenders and suspects.

The new powers are contained in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill which is being debated in the House of Commons today.

The Bill, which also creates a new FBI-style police agency, is expected to become law later this year. A roadside fingerprint scanner, which is currently being piloted by Northamptonshire Police, should be available nationwide within 18 months.

The scanner, which is about the size and shape of a computer mouse, is fitted on the dashboard of a police car. It scans the fingerprints and compares the unique patterns with marks kept on the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

The central computer currently holds about 5,750,000 profiles of people who have been arrested, charged or convicted for an offence that could result in a prison sentence.

The scan and check takes about three minutes. The system is expected to be used to search fingerprints of unknown individuals who have left their marks at crime scenes.

Police presently need consent to take a fingerprint from a suspect who has not been arrested.

Under the Home Office proposals the police could force an individual to give fingerprints if they have reasonable grounds to suspect them of committing an offence or providing false identification, or if they have no identification.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "It will reduce the number of people arrested and taken into police detention because their identity is in doubt. It would also keep more police officers on the street and it will provide an increased opportunity to detect crime."

The Home Office stressed that fingerprints taken using the new equipment would not be retained or added to the national database.