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DNA database revision still breaks law, says watchdog

Warwick Ashford

The UK government's new proposals on rules for its DNA database still do not meet the requirements set by European authorities, says a human rights watchdog.

The government issued new proposals after the European Court of Human Rights found late last year that existing rules on the DNA database were unlawful.

But revised proposals to keep DNA profiles of innocent people questioned by the police for up to 12 years, or indefinitely if convicted of any offence, do not go far enough, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

These proposals do not meet the European court's requirement for the UK government to have clear, justifiable reasons for keeping DNA data of innocent people, the Commission said.

The organisation made several recommendations to bring the government's proposals in line with European requirements (see panel below).

The Commission called for an independent adjudicator to give innocent people a way of challenging the need to keep their DNA profile on record.

"We recognise that the DNA database is a vital tool in the fight against crime, but people have a right to have their privacy protected," said John Wadham, group director legal at the Commission.

The proposed changes to the national DNA database are a step in the right direction, but there is no reason why the police should be allowed to keep anyone's DNA profile indefinitely, he said.

The Commission urged the government to resolve these issues without delay to avoid expensive legal challenges in future.

"Britain is at the cutting edge of how this technology is used in fighting crime, but it must be used lawfully," said John Wadham.

Recommendations to bring UK DNA databases in line with European law

DNA profiles must be destroyed once a final decision has been made in a case.

A person's DNA profile should only be kept for a limited period if they have been convicted of a serious crime and where destroying that information is likely to pose a risk to the public.

There must be more of a balance between someone's right to privacy and the right of other people to be protected from a crime that might be committed.

The rules should also differentiate more between children and adults so DNA profiles of children arrested for minor offences are not kept for the same length of time as an adult.


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