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Revised DNA proposals face further opposition

5 January 2010

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has attacked the government’s revised proposals on the retention of DNA records contained in the Crime and Security Bill.

The EHRC will tell the home affairs select committee this week that it does not support the indefinite retention of the DNA profiles of adults convicted of offences.

John Wadham, legal director at the commission, said that the severity of the crime should be taken into account in determining a limited retention period.

He said the reduction from 12 years to six for the retention of samples from those arrested but not convicted of recordable crimes did not go far enough.

“The ability to obtain and retain DNA samples is vital in the fight against crime,” Wadham said. “However, winning that fight must not come at the expense of the violation of the rights of innocent people.

“The European Court of Human Rights has made it incumbent on the government to strike the right balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the right of other people to be protected from a crime that might be committed.

“The commission will continue to press the government on the changes it believes are still necessary to ensure the protection of innocent people.”

The indefinite retention of DNA profiles from innocent people was introduced in 2001 under an amendment to section 64 of PACE. The European Court of Human Rights ruled at the end of 2008 in Marper v UK (30562/04 ECHR 1581) that this breached article 8.

The Law Society has argued that the profiles of innocent people should either be destroyed immediately or, in the case of sexual or violent offences, retained for only three years.

In a separate development, privacy campaigners claimed this week that the introduction of full body scanners at airports would breach child protection laws.

A year-long pilot scheme, which began at Manchester airport last month, exempted those aged under 18.

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