The ECHR deal a massive blow to Labour's 1984 plan for Britain.

Peter3hg

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DNA database 'breach of rights'

Two British men should not have had their DNA and fingerprints retained by police, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The men's information was held by South Yorkshire Police, although neither was convicted of any offence.

The judgement could have major implications on how DNA records are stored in the UK's national database.

The judges said keeping the information "could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society".

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was "disappointed" by the European Court of Human Rights' decision.

The database may now have to be scaled back following the unanimous judgement by 17 senior judges from across Europe.

Under present laws, the DNA profiles of everyone arrested for a recordable offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are kept on the database, regardless of whether they are charged or convicted.

Discriminatory

The details of about 4.5m people are held and one in five of them does not have a current criminal record.

Both men were awarded ?36,400 (42,000 Euros) in costs, less the money already paid in legal aid.

The court found that the police's actions were in violation of Article 8 - the right to respect for private and family life - of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It also said it was "struck by the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the power of retention in England and Wales".

The judges ruled the retention of the men's DNA "failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests," and that the UK government "had overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation in this regard".

The court also ruled "the retention in question constituted a disproportionate interference with the applicants' right to respect for private life and could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society".

'Privacy protection'

The home secretary said: "DNA and fingerprinting is vital to the fight against crime, providing the police with more than 3,500 matches a month.

"The government mounted a robust defence before the court and I strongly believe DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime and bringing people to justice.

"The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgement."

Solicitor Peter Mahy, who represented the men, said that the decision will have far-reaching implications.

"It will be very interesting to see how the UK government respond.

"The government should now start destroying the DNA records of those people who are currently on the DNA database and who are innocent of any crime."

Human rights group Liberty said it welcomed the court's decision.

Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "This is one of the most strongly worded judgements that Liberty has ever seen from the Court of Human Rights.

"That court has used human rights principles and common sense to deliver the privacy protection of innocent people that the British government has shamefully failed to deliver."

'Invasion of privacy'

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID group, which campaigns against identity cards, said: "'This is a victory for liberty and privacy.

"Though these judgements are always complicated and slow in coming, it is a vindication of what privacy campaigners have said all along.

"The principle that we need to follow is simple - when charges are dropped suspect samples are destroyed. No charge, no DNA."

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics reports on the ethical questions raised by recent advances in biological and medical research.

Its director, Hugh Whittall, said: "We agree wholeheartedly with this ruling. The DNA of innocent people should not be kept by police.

"People feel it is an invasion of their privacy, and there is no evidence that removing from the DNA database people who have not been charged or convicted will lead to serious crimes going undetected.

"The government now has an obligation to bring its own policies into line."

Rights breach claim

One of the men who sought the ruling in Strasbourg, Michael Marper, 45, was arrested in 2001.

He was charged with harassing his partner but the case was later dropped. He had no previous convictions.

The other man - a teenager identified as "S" - was arrested and charged with attempted robbery but later acquitted.

In both cases the police refused to destroy fingerprints and DNA samples taken when the men were taken in to custody.

The men went to the European Court of Human Rights after their cases were thrown out by the House of Lords.

They argued that retaining their DNA profiles is discriminatory and breaches their right to a private life.

The government claims the DNA profile from people who are not convicted may sometimes be linked to later offences, so storing the details on the database is a proportionate response to tackling crime.

Scotland already destroys DNA samples taken during criminal investigations from people who are not charged or who are later acquitted of alleged offences.

The Home Office has already set up a "contingency planning group" to look into the potential implications arising from a ruling in favour of the men.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7764069.stm
 

Dogbert

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Jacqui Smith needs to shut up and hire more illegal immigrants. I like how she's the only one "disappointed" by this, and that the only defense is "well, they could do something later". If that's the case, why don't you just get blood and fingerprints from everyone?
 

Blind_Io

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Damn, beat me to this one! Here's another article about it.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKTRE4B33XW20081204

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Europe's human rights court ruled on Thursday that Britain had violated two people's privacy by storing their DNA profiles, even though they had not been convicted of a crime.
The decision calls into question rules governing use of the DNA database under which police can take samples from anyone arrested for a recordable offence.
Civil liberties groups jumped on the ruling to demand a change in the law, which the government rejected.
The test case centred on a boy who was charged with attempted robbery aged 11 and later acquitted, and a man who was charged with harassing his partner before the case was formally discontinued.
Both applied for their fingerprints, DNA samples and profiles to be destroyed, but police kept the information.
The two individuals argued that this continued to cast suspicion on them after they had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
"The court was struck by the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the power of retention," said the European Court of Human Rights, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.
"The powers of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offences ... failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests," it said.
The 17 judges ruled unanimously that Britain had violated the right to respect for private life. They awarded the two people concerned 42,000 euros each (36,400 pounds) in expenses.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was disappointed by the ruling.
"DNA and fingerprinting is vital to the fight against crime, providing the police with more than 3,500 matches a month ... The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgement," she said.
But rights activists were jubilant.
"The DNA profiles of roughly 85,000 innocent people should be taken off the National DNA Database," campaign group Liberty said in a statement.
"The decision will require the UK government to reconsider its policies under which the DNA of innocent individuals ... is permanently retained by police."
Police defended their right to retain DNA profiles of people not convicted of any crime, saying the practice had helped identify many criminals.
"From May 2001 to December 2005, 200,000 DNA samples were retained on the National DNA Database which would previously have had to be removed as they were taken from people charged but not convicted of offences," said Chris Sims of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
"Of these, about 8,500 profiles of individuals have been linked with crime scene profiles involving nearly 14,000 offences," Sims said.
The Conservatives called for a parliamentary debate on the issue.

"This vindicates all that we have been saying about the government's wrong-headed approach to this issue which has caused so much resentment amongst the law abiding majority," said Dominic Grieve, the party's home affairs spokesman.
 

tigger

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Damned activist judges ... oh wait. At least someone is interested in protecting the rights of those in the UK. I see nothing wrong with keeping fingerprints and DNA information of those who are convicted, but to just do it for anyone who's charged is ridiculous.
 

Blind_Io

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Don't forget anyone going through customs. I think we had a thread about that one too.
 

tigger

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Don't forget anyone going through customs. I think we had a thread about that one too.
Wait, they were printing and taking DNA from people at customs? I remember the article on them snooping through peoples laptops and such.
 

Dogbert

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Wait, they were printing and taking DNA from people at customs? I remember the article on them snooping through peoples laptops and such.
I thought you guys were the Nanny State, not the Untrusting Mother State.
 

Blind_Io

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Wait, they were printing and taking DNA from people at customs? I remember the article on them snooping through peoples laptops and such.

Yes, there was a proposal (don't know if it was implemented, but I suspect it was) to take fingerprints and DNA from any non-nationals entering the UK.
 
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