UK violates privacy with DNA database: Europe court

Thu Dec 4, 2008 9:25am EST
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STRASBOURG, France (Reuters Life!) - 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 centered 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.   Continued...