Creating a fairer Britain
22 June 2012
The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in a test case in which the High Court has ruled that the police cannot keep photographs of people without criminal records or those not found guilty.
The judges agreed with the Commission’s submission that unless someone has been charged with, or convicted of, a crime it is an unjustifiable breach of their right to a private life for the police to hold on to a photograph of them.
The court did not agree with the Metropolitan Police’s argument that keeping these photographs of those not convicted was necessary for preventing crime and disorder.
The court has ordered the Metropolitan Police to revise its guidelines within months. The police force is then very likely to have to destroy its photographs of anyone who is innocent of any crime.
The ruling is in keeping with other test cases that the Commission has been involved in where the courts also decided that the police could not retain people’s DNA and fingerprint data indiscriminately or indefinitely.
John Wadham, General Counsel, Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“Without the protection of our human right to a private life, the police would be able to hold onto your DNA, fingerprints, and photographs even if you’d done nothing wrong. There is no good reason why the police should hold onto information about people who have not committed any crime.
"However, we recognise the importance of retaining the identification of people who have been charged with or convicted of offences. But it is essential that the police use these powers appropriately, proportionately and fairly.”
For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818. For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission made a written intervention to the High Court as an independent third party -- not for or against RMC or the Metropolitan Police. Its submission set out how human rights law should protect people who may have been in police custody but not charged with any wrong doing. It made no intervention in the second case heard by the High Court at the same time – FJ vs The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – nor did it make any comment on the facts before the court in either case.
RMC is a middle-aged woman of good character who was arrested on suspicion of an assault occasioning actual bodily harm to a police community support officer who had stopped her riding a pedal cycle on the footway. She was interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed, and DNA samples were taken from her. The CPS decided not to prosecute. Her solicitors asked for her fingerprints, DNA samples and photographs to be destroyed, but were unsuccessful. She then brought a judicial review claim challenging the retention of all such data. Permission was granted only in respect of the retention of photographs as DNA and fingerprints had been considered in another legal case, R (GC) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
The Equality and Human Rights 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 reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.