December 4, 2008

STRASBOURG, France – Britain violated the privacy of two people by storing their DNA profiles, Europe’s human rights court ruled on Thursday, a decision that calls into question rules governing the use of the country’s DNA database.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

British groups campaigning for individual liberties immediately demanded a change in the law, which the government rejected.

The 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 on the basis of a law allowing them to keep it indefinitely.

The two individuals argued 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.

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