Britain changes rules on storing innocents' DNA

7th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The DNA of people arrested in Britain but then cleared of crimes will no longer be stored indefinitely.

LONDON – Britain said Thursday it would end the policy of indefinitely storing the DNA of people arrested but then cleared of crimes, following criticism from the European human rights court.

The Home Office said that under new proposals, DNA samples and fingerprints collected from people arrested on suspicion of minor offences and then cleared would be deleted from a central database after six years.

Samples taken from those arrested but not convicted of serious violent and sexual offences would be deleted after 12 years, it said.

However, civil liberties groups and political opponents said this was still too long and accused the government of dodging real reform.

The European court condemned Britain in a ruling last December for not destroying DNA samples of Michael Marper, a man accused but never charged of harassing his partner, and an unnamed 11-year-old acquitted of theft.

The Strasbourg court noted Britain was the only one of the 47 members of the Council of Europe to authorise the indefinite preservation of personal data logged in police files of anyone suspected of committing an offence.

It ruled "there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights".

British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said Thursday that the DNA database, which was set up in 1995 and holds data on about 4.5 million people, was a "vital tool" in fighting crime.

"These new proposals will ensure that the right people are on it, as well as considering where people should come off," she said.

But Shami Chakrabarti, head of civil liberties group Liberty, said: "Wholly innocent people – including children – will have their most intimate details stockpiled for years on a database that will remain massively out of step with the rest of the world."

AFP / Expatica

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