In December 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled unanimously that the practice of storing DNA of persons arrested but not convicted of crimes is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was brought by two men from England, which together with Wales and Northern Ireland has one of the largest police DNA databases in the world. One of the men had been arrested but never charged and the other, 12 at the time of his arrest, had been acquitted.
At present, little has been done to bring the policies regarding DNA storage in the United Kingdom in line with the ECHR ruling. A handful of profiles have been removed but there has been no real change to the overall practice.
This is likely to change in the coming months, however.
Justice Minister David Ford announced last week that he is seeking reform to the practice of DNA storage, and that some 34,000 profiles could be removed as a result. This includes ‘samples from 228 people aged between 16 and 18, and 92 samples from children aged between 10 and 15’ according to the Belfast Telegraph, who were never convicted and released unconditionally.
Mr. Ford said he hoped to bring police practice in line with the European Court’s ruling while still allowing for effective and practical policing.
There has been no official response from the PSNI other than to say that their policies are in line with legislation ‘which presently allows DNA to be taken from everyone arrested for a recordable offence who is detained at a police station.’
What’s your take on DNA storage by police services? Do you agree with the European Court’s ruling, or do you think that everyone whose DNA is taken as part of a police action should be kept?
Read about the original 2008 ruling at The Guardian.