Council’s DNA recommendations endorsed by human rights ruling

In a landmark ruling, judges at the European Court of Human Rights have endorsed the Council’s recommendations against storing DNA profiles and samples of innocent people on the National DNA Database.

The Court of 17 judges unanimously ruled that keeping the samples and fingerprints of two UK men, who had been arrested but never convicted of any crime, constituted a breach of their human rights. The judgement was based solely on a violation of Article 8 – the right to respect for a private life.

The decision comes just one year after the Nuffield report The forensic use of bioinformation: ethical issues recommended a change to the current government policy in England and Wales of indefinitely storing all DNA samples taken when an individual is arrested, even if charges are never brought.

Citing the Council’s recommendations, the Court said “The report referred in particular to the lack of satisfactory empirical evidence to justify the present practice of retaining indefinitely fingerprints, samples and DNA profiles from all those arrested for a recordable offence, irrespective of whether they were subsequently charged or convicted.”

The Court also took note of the Council’s “particular concerns at the policy of permanently retaining the bioinformation of minors, having regard to the requirements of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” – concerns that were significant in this case as one of the two men was just 11 years old when he was arrested.

This ruling has significant consequences for the Government which now has an obligation to bring its own policies into line.

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