Fri, 30 Oct 2009

Ultimatum issued to the ACPO to change its guidance on the retention of DNA

Following the European Courth of Human Rights ruling in S and Marper v. UK, we suggested that to fulfil the obligation of cessation all that was required is a change of the current police guidance to keep adding and holding on to DNA profiles, fingerprints and palm prints of innocents. A legislative change is needed only to comply with the obligation of non-repetition to ensure that no guidelines similar to the current police guidance can be issued in the future.

Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) requested the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) confirmation within 28 days that it will withdraw its DNA retetention guidance to chief constables or face potential enforcement action. John Wadham, Group Director Legal at the EHRC said:

We outlined our concerns about the DNA database to Government and the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers earlier this year. We're pleased with the decision to drop the proposal to hold on to the DNA of innocent people for up to 12 years, as removing innocent people from the database was one of our recommendations.

We can see no reason now why Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) should not change its guidance on the retention of DNA. The Commission recognises that ACPO had been put in a difficult position by the government by this issue, which is why we are offering them the opportunity now to amend their advice and avert future legal action.

The police are at the forefront of the fight against crime. The importance of this fight cannot be underestimated but it should comply with the Government’s legal obligation to protect the privacy of innocent people, as outlined by the European Court.

As for the obligation of non-repetition, the government will announce its new proposals in the Queen's speech on 18th November, however the Daily Mail got hold of documents indicating that the Home Office is still keen on retaining DNA profiles of everyone:

Leaked emails reveal that Home Secretary Alan Johnson plans to defy the European Court of Human Rights by allowing police to keep swabs and fingerprints of those who are arrested but never convicted.

Even children cleared of any wrongdoing would have their DNA kept on a Government database for at least three years.

The emails also show that Mr Johnson is trying to recruit relatives of high-profile murder victims to help with the 'media handling' of the policy.

This month, the National DNA Database (NDNAD) grew to 5,910,172 subject profiles (estimated to be that of 5,094,568 individuals) thanks to the current 'blanket and indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offences'.

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