UK Supreme Court to hear DNA cases

By EDRi · February 9, 2011

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Deutsch: [Oberster Britischer Gerichtshof prüft DNS-Fälle |]

Following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the UK
Coalition Government has recently stated its intention to dramatically
reduce the retention period of DNA data. In 2008, the ECtHR ruled that a
blanket policy of retaining DNA samples of people who were not charged or
convicted of offences indefinitely was breaching human rights.

The UK Supreme Court has recently held hearings in two cases related to
the retention of DNA, fingerprints and other information by the Police of
Metropolis of two individuals, independently arrested by the police for
suspected offences but had no further action taken against them.

“It makes good sense to hold the DNA of dangerous convicts, but holding
intimate information on thousands of innocents is discriminatory as well as
intrusive. The high numbers of black men arrested and never charged explains
but doesn’t justify their over-representation on the database. In the
absence of long-trailed new law from Parliament, Britain’s highest court
must inject fairness into DNA retention practice,” stated Liberty’s legal
officer Anna Fairclough.

The Supreme Court will decide whether the respective data retention
violates the rights of the plaintiffs under Article 8 of the European
Convention on Human Rights. The decision will probably largely influence the
actions taken further on by the UK authorities.

The Coalition expressed the intention to introduce a similar policy to that
in Scotland where only the samples of people suspected of serious offences
are retained and only for a limited period of time. “The Government is
committed to adopting the protections of the Scottish model for DNA
retention. In particular, we are examining whether the provisions of section
23 of the Crime and Security Act 2010 should be brought into force. This
would empower the National DNA Database Strategy Board to issue binding
guidance to chief police officers on the types of case in which deletion
would be appropriate,” Home Office Minister James Brokenshire announced in
the Parliament.

For the time being, according to the statistics, one out of four people
whose DNA data are retained by the UK police forces are innocent and the
data are retained indefinitely.

In January 2011, Northern Ireland’s High Court of Justice ruled that the
retention of a 14-year-old boy’s DNA by the police was not illegal, stating
ECHR’s 2008 ruling could not be followed because it was not binding and it
was in conflict with the earlier ruling by the House of Lords.

“The lengthy, perhaps indefinite, retention by the police of the Applicant’s
photographic images seems incompatible with the broad and elastic
formulations of the scope of Article 8(1) (of the ECtHR),” said Mr Justice
McLoskey who added: “But for (the House of Lords) decision and our analysis
of it, we consider that there is substantial force in the view that the
retention of the Applicant’s photographic images by the Police Service for a
minimum period of seven years, which may be extended indefinitely,
unconnected in any concrete or rational way with any of the statutory
purposes, interferes with his right to respect for private life guaranteed
by Article 8(1).”

Innocent DNA retention to be challenged (31.01.2011)

Supreme Court to revisit DNA retention (30.01.2011)

Police DNA retention ruled lawful by NI High Court (21.01.2011)

EDRi-gram: ECHR decided against the UK DNA Database (17.12.2008)