DNA retention laws look set to change

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POLICE guidelines allowing forces to retain the fingerprints and DNA samples of innocent people are unlawful, a panel of leading British judges has ruled.

The ruling was made by the Supreme Court in London - nearly three years after the European Court of Human Rights reached a similar conclusion after two men from Sheffield complained that South Yorkshire Police had unfairly retained DNA samples taken when they were arrested but never charged.

The Supreme Court made the latest ruling in allowing appeals by two men who said police in London had unfairly retained their fingerprints and DNA samples.

Judges said police guidelines governing the retention of prints and DNA did not cover forces in Scotland, where samples could be kept only for a limited period and for certain crimes.

They said ministers were looking to create new laws to bring England and Wales into line with Scotland.

John Wadham, from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “There are more than a million people on the DNA system who have not been charged with a crime, let alone convicted.

“This puts innocent people at a disadvantage when they are vetted for jobs or if they were to come into contact with the criminal justice system again.

“There have to be clear and justifiable reasons for holding on to the DNA data from people who have not been convicted of a crime. Our view is that the current guidelines for the police are not in keeping with the law and the court has confirmed this.”