Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fixing the DNA database

The Home Office consultation on the future of the UK's National DNA Database has just closed. You may recall that the indefinite retention of DNA from all those arrested was found last December by the European Court of Human Rights to be a "disproportionate interference" with privacy that "cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society." I wrote a consultation response with some FIPR colleagues that suggested that:
On the key issue — retention of profiles from unconvicted individuals — the proposals are an entirely inadequate response to the judgement. By retaining profiles of unconvicted individuals for 6 or 12 years, they would leave England, Wales and Northern Ireland greatly out of step with the vast majority of other Council of Europe members. The Court noted approvingly that Scotland retains profiles only of those suspected of violent or sexual offences, for a period of 3-5 years, and that "the strong consensus existing among the Contracting States in this respect is of considerable importance and narrows the margin of appreciation left to the respondent State." The proposals would continue to treat innocent individuals as suspects by retaining their DNA profile for much longer than those, for example, who voluntarily provide samples to rule themselves out of enquiries.

We have suggested that the Home Office should therefore plan a further consultation around primary legislation that more carefully considers the impact of retaining profiles of innocent individuals on both crime and human rights. It seems there is little alternative given that a legal opinion for the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the existing plans would still be in breach of the Convention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heads-up, Ian...

Would widespread availability of such technology, and with it the corresponding widespread ability to fabricate DNA evidence, not all but invalidate the entire premise of the DNA database?