Commission criticises ACPO's advice to Chief Constables on the national DNA database
Commission says Police DNA advice breaks the law
15 September 2009
The Commission has criticised the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) advice to Chief Constables across England to continue adding DNA profiles of innocent people to the national DNA database.
The Commission believes this guidance does not meet the European Court of Human Rights requirement for there to be clear and justifiable reasons for holding onto the DNA data from people who have not been convicted of a crime.
The Commission has written to the Government, asking it to issue interim guidance to police forces in England and Wales that complies with the Convention. The Government has so far refused to do this and ACPO has advised Chief Constables to continue to apply existing retention policy pending new guidance from the Home Office, expected to be available in 2010.
This week, the Commission has also outlined its concerns to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. The Committee is meeting today [Tuesday] to consider action taken by the UK Government to execute the judgment in the case of S and Marper v United Kingdom. The Committee will consider whether the Government has done enough to ensure the judgment has been adopted in the UK and a fair balance struck between the need to retain DNA evidence and the need to respect a person’s private life.
John Wadham, Group Director Legal at the Commission said:
'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. The Government should take the opportunity to clarify the law now and avert future costly and time consuming legal action.'
For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.
Notes to Editors
- In the case of S and Marper v United Kingdom, (Dec 2008) the Court found that the 'blanket and indiscriminate' nature of the powers of retention of fingerprints, DNA samples and profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offences in England and Wales interferes with their right to respect for their private lives (Article 8). Such a retention regime is not proportionate and fails to strike a fair balance between the competing interests. The court emphasised the general principle that an interference with an individual's right to privacy will only be considered 'necessary in a democratic society' for a legitimate aim if it answers a 'pressing social need' and, in particular, if it is proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and if the reasons adduced to justify it are 'relevant and sufficient' (emphasis added).
- ACPO is an independent strategic body that works in partnership with Government and the Association of Police Authorities. It leads and coordinates the direction and development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.